7 min read

Woman Fills Home With Cribs For Paralyzed Street Dogs

“It’s hard work, but it makes me happy.”

I’ve been chronicling the plight of street dogs for the past several years. It’s taken me to places as far-flung as Myanmar, Guatemala, Cuba, Puerto Rico and, most recently Lima, Peru, to photograph Milagros Perrunos — a small shelter I’d heard specialized in caring for disabled dogs.

Dog in wheelchair
Ralph Quinonez

Many of the dogs have suffered debilitating injuries or paralysis from being hit by a car or another injury. Without this shelter, they’d have nowhere to go.
 

Founded by Sara Moran, the shelter is safe haven to about 60 dogs, eight of whom are in wheelchairs. Many others are able to walk on their own but are either missing a leg or have some other injury.

Dogs who can move freely are also harbored at the shelter, and all have been rescued from the streets of Lima. 

Dog sanctuary
Ralph Quinonez
Dog in wheelchair
Ralph Quinonez

The shelter is actually a converted home located on a quiet residential street. It is a little hard to find, as there are no signs the home is a special place. Once I knocked on the front door, however, a cacophony of loud barking was immediately unleashed, and I knew I had reached the right place.

As I entered the shelter, Sara was busy fitting one of the paralyzed dogs into his wheelchair.  

Dog in diaper
Bruno was the first dog Sara rescued and brought to the shelter. | Ralph Quinonez

“I started the shelter eight years ago,” Sara told me, pointing to a paralyzed dog resting in his crib. “Bruno has been here for eight years — the first dog I rescued and brought to the shelter.”  

Dog sanctuary
The living room is lined with baby cribs where the paralyzed dogs sleep. | Ralph Quinonez

“We only have one female who is paralyzed in the shelter,” Sara told me. “Because when people report that a dog is run over, it’s usually a male, because males are more callejeros.” (Callejeros are street dogs.)  

Paralyzed dog
Simba, paralyzed and unable to use his hind legs, rests on the floor of the Milagros Perrunos shelter.   | Ralph Quinonez

As in many large cities in Latin America, Lima has an abundance of street dogs. Not all of the dogs are true strays, however, as many have homes but are left to roam about on their own throughout the day. Most of these dogs aren’t spayed or neutered, so they all reproduce and further contribute to the homeless population. The homeless street dogs are left to forage for food on their own and are subject to disease, injury and sometimes abuse.

Dog sanctuary
A group of dogs rushes toward Sara as she tosses out treats. | Ralph Quinonez

The shelter is mostly funded by donations, but Sara has one renter who helps pay some of the bills.

Dogs in wheelchairs
Ralph Quinonez

“Food is very expensive,” she explained. “I can’t run the air conditioner for very long; it’s too expensive.”  

Dogs in crib
Cabezon and Pecas, two paralyzed dogs, rest in their cribs at the shelter.   | Ralph Quinonez

As we toured the shelter, I was surprised by the number of dogs in the small, two-story house. The dogs were everywhere: sleeping on the floor, on the stairs, or otherwise just roaming around.

Dog in crib
Osito suffered paralysis after being hit by a car. He lay in the street for three months before being rescued and taken into the shelter.   | Ralph Quinonez

The dogs were very friendly and for the most part seemed to get along well.

Smiling dog in wheelchair
Huellitas takes a break from rolling around the shelter and playing with some of the other dogs.   | Ralph Quinonez

All of the dogs are also up for adoption.  

Dog sanctuary
Belen, an assistant at the shelter, is greeted by several of the rescued dogs as she performs her daily duties. | Ralph Quinonez

As I walked around, I watched Sara give special attention to each dog. 

Dog sanctuary
This dog was hit by a car and had to have a leg amputated. | Ralph Quinonez

A disabled dog she was petting had suffered severe injuries to his leg after being hit by a car. He had had to have it amputated. 

“You see, the dog’s life is much easier,” she said. “With something to eat and a place to sleep, they are happy. We always want more to be happy.”  

Dog in crib
Lupo peers out from his crib at the Milagros Perrunos shelter. | Ralph Quinonez

The paralyzed dogs have their diapers changed five times a day — it takes up a lot of time but Sara wouldn't have it any other way. 

Dog in crib
Pecas rests in his crib as his wheelchair hangs off the side.   | Ralph Quinonez

“It’s hard work, but it makes me happy,” Sara told me. “I’m here every day ... Christmas, New Year’s, Mother’s Day, birthdays, I’m always here.”

Sleeping dog
Ralph Quinonez

“In the beginning I would always cry,” Sara said. “For many years it was very hard. When the dogs get sick, they want to live, not like us. When we get hit in the head, we cry — the dogs, no, they are very strong. I feel like the dogs love to live.”

 

Dogs in crib
Sara helps Pecas get back in his crib. | Ralph Quinonez

“They teach me a lot,” Sara told me. “They help me.”

To learn more about the shelter, volunteer or make a donation, email Sara at
milagrosperrunos@hotmail.com. You can also follow the group on Facebook
Dog sanctuary
Ralph Quinonez