Dog News

The American Dream for a Street Dog

by Katherine

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We know that any shelter or stray animal’s dream is to find a forever loving home, some dogs are very lucky and their dreams come true, other dogs that have zero chances of getting adopted or finding love have their dreams come true in a very especial way. This is the case with Nikko, the 3-year-old street mutt from Cartagena, Colombia.

Nikko the street dog from Cartagena, Colombia. Photo Credit: Vanda Hale
Nikko the street dog from Cartagena, Colombia. Photo Credit: Vanda Hale

Nikko is a black dog from the historic tropical city, who probably was born on the streets, and has never known what a roof over his head, a bath, a soft bed or a daily meal means. His life as a stray came to and end when Vanda Hale, from Arizona, traveled to the South American country and fell in love with the mutt.

“I went to Colombia for the holidays with my friend Alma. We both love to salsa dance so that was our reason for going to Colombia,” said Hale. “We are both animal lovers, especially dogs.  We arrived to Cartagena late afternoon on Dec. 19, 2013, and stayed in a wonderful hotel in the historic area of Cartagena.”

As the American friends spent the days sightseeing, they came across the canine and Hale immediately was drawn to the dog.

“I called the sweet puppy over to me and immediately Alma and I stated we had to get him some food,” said Hale.

The tourists ran into Nikko every day, and every time they did, they scrambled throughout the city buying him food from any local shop they could find.

“The third time we saw him, I called him over and he got very excited. He put his front paws down and [his] rear was up in the air, and he was whining. That’s what got to me. He remembered me and I thought I wish I could help him,” remembers Hale. “On our last day in Cartagena, as we were walking around we looked for him but never saw him again.  I could not get him out of my mind so when I got home Jan. 3rd, I thought to myself I want to find him and bring him back here to be with me and my two Great Pyrenees rescue dogs.”

Vanda Hall feeding her soon-to-be new pet. Photo Credit: Vanda Hale
Vanda Hall feeding her soon-to-be new pet. Photo Credit: Vanda Hale


Hale did not stop thinking about her four-legged Colombian friend since her arrival to Arizona. She decided to search the web and contact an organization in Colombia that could look after Nikko until she arranged transportation to get him in the United Stated.

With the help of FRAD Cartagena (Fundacion Rescate para Animales Desamparados) Nikko’s unimaginable dream to live the American Dream was set in motion.

On Jan. 31, 2013, Hale emailed FRAD asking if there was anyone in the organization willing to help her locate her beloved street dog.

Nikko once rescued by FRAD. Photo Credit: FRAD/Facebook
Nikko once rescued by FRAD. Photo Credit: FRAD/Facebook

The email read:
I was in Cartagena over Christmas (in the old walled section) and came across a stray dog. He was so sweet and my friend and I looked for him every day and fed him. I would like to rescue this dog and bring him back to Arizona. I have the girl at the hotel looking for him…however no sightings yet. The dog will need medical attention and a place where I can board him until he is healthy enough to travel. This is the first site I have seen that helps rescue animals so if I am able to find the dog, can he stay with you until he is healthy enough to travel or is there any veterinarians I can contact and places to board animals. I certainly will provide a donation to your organization and the cost to care for the dog.

On Feb 4, 2013, FRAD enlisted the help of the community on their Facebook wall and fortunately enough, Nikko was found and brought to the shelter just a day later.

“Two volunteers, Jennifer Camacho and Leandro Arias, went out that night around 8 p.m. to look for the dog,” said Paola Marrugo, FRAD volunteer. “They found him at 9 p.m. next to a street fruit vendor. The poor dog was extremely tired and was sleeping against the vendor’s fruit stand’s wheels. By 11 p.m. that same night the stray was at our shelter.”

FRAD’s head veterinarian Dr. Ingrid Hernandez Soto will be in charge of getting Nikko ready for his transport. The dog will be vaccinated and neuter prior to his travel arrangements. If everything goes well with his health examination, Nikko will be ready to become and American resident this spring.

For now Hale is researching airlines and getting all paper work ready to welcome her new family pet. She is anxious to have Nikko with her in Arizona.

“I’m anticipating that once Nikko has his surgery to neuter him and is well, it will be approximately late March, early April, when I fly to go and bring him to his forever home,” said Hale.

Nikko, we look forward to your new life as a spoiled and loved American dog. Your new mom and your soon to be Great Pyrenees fur-siblings are looking forward to the day the three of your romp around on American soil.

Read Part 2 and Part 3 of this amazing story.