Ricardo Pimentel of Mexico didn’t forget the stray animals in his neighborhood when the dangerous Hurricane Delta closed in on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The animal lover welcomed about 300 dogs and other animals into his home hours before the hurricane hit. Dozens of cats took shelter in his son’s room, while his daughter’s room became a sanctuary for chicks, bunnies, and a hedgehog. Meanwhile, a flock of sheep gathered on their patio.
The house started developing a terrible smell with all the animals there, but Ricardo says he didn’t mind. The only thing that mattered to him at the time was for all of them to survive the storm.
“It doesn’t matter if the house is dirty, it can be cleaned,” he says. “The things they broke can be fixed or bought again, but what’s beautiful is to see them happy, healthy and safe, without wounds and with the possibility of being adopted.”
On October 6, Ricardo said they are boarding up windows at the Tierra de Animales—the shelter he founded nearly 10 years ago—to prepare for the impending storm.
He warned that the hurricane will be powerful, and he worried that stores might remain closed after the storm. This may cause dog food shortage, so he asked for donations from his friends.
“If I lived with just 10 or 20 dogs, I wouldn’t worry much, but here we have hundreds of animals and we can’t afford the luxury of not having enough food,” he said.
To keep the animals safe, he led them inside his home. It wasn’t easy leading dogs indoors by a leash one by one, and by the time he was done, a few hours had already passed.
Ricardo then shared photos of the dogs crowded together inside his house. The post eventually went viral and made news all over the world.
And he was right about his prediction. The hurricane downed trees, knocked out electricity, and forced thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate.
Ricardo was so busy during the storm, he didn’t know that his post had gone viral. Nevertheless, he felt the generosity of people from all over the world who donated thousands of dollars to his cause. He said it was the biggest fundraising moment since he found the rescue.
The local residents also helped him clean up the mess and damage in the shelter.
Animals have always had a special place in Ricardo’s heart. When he dropped out of college, he spent years fixing motorcycles and adopting strays before fulfilling his childhood dream of opening his own shelter in 2011. Today, the rescue houses about 500 animals on nearly 10 acres of land.
Some pups in the shelter were rescued from dogfighting rings or were left badly injured after being severely beaten. Over the years, many families from Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. have adopted dogs from Tierra de Animales.
Luckily for Ricardo, he doesn’t have to do the work alone. He gets help from workers, volunteers, and his own family, including his 20-year-old daughter Luna, who’s studying to become a veterinarian.
Whenever he feels overwhelmed by all the things he needs to do, Ricardo just looks at the pictures of rescue dogs who have been adopted. That gives him enough motivation to continue his mission.
And as for the people who read his story, Ricardo only has one wish.
“We would like to think that thanks to all this attention, somebody would like to be part of the story and say: ‘I adopted a dog saved from that famous Hurricane Delta.'”
Watch the video below to learn more about this touching story.