Dogs Spent Four Years Stuck On Filthy Second-Floor Balcony

"Dogs like this are often kept as status symbols in Mexico."

Ramona and her companion lived on a tiny, filthy patio that was littered with loose bricks. Both St. Bernard dogs were skeletal, although this was hard to see this underneath their thick, matted coats.

They were about 4 years old, and, according to the people who rescued them, they'd lived on that dirty patio in Juarez, Mexico, for their entire lives. The patio was actually on the second floor of a house, so they couldn't get away.

St. Bernard dogs trapped on a patio in Mexico
Ramona and her companion on the patio in Mexico | Compassion Without Borders

The dogs could have continued living in those horrible conditions for years if a local person hadn't noticed that one of the dogs had a broken foot and could no longer walk. This person contacted Compassion Without Borders (CWOB), an animal rescue group that helps animals in Mexico, and asked for its help.

When the CWOB volunteers went to investigate, they were shocked at what they saw.

"The patio was tiny, and it was covered in excrement," Christi Camblor, a cofounder of CWOB, told The Dodo. "They were super, super skinny, and the male couldn't put any weight on one of his legs."

Dog shortly after being rescued in Mexico
Ramona shortly after her rescue in Mexico | Compassion Without Borders

The CWOB volunteers talked to the dogs' owner, and convinced him to surrender the animals. While it's not clear why the owner was keeping them in the first place, Camblor thinks he might have been breeding them and selling the puppies for a lot of money.

"Dogs like this are often kept as status symbols in Mexico," Camblor said.

The CWOB volunteers rushed the dogs to a local vet clinic in Juarez. But tragedy struck. Unfortunately, neither of the dogs had gotten any vaccinations, and the male dog - who'd been Ramona's constant companion for so many years - contracted distemper at the clinic and died.

"There's no nice way of putting it," Camblor said. "It was really sad."

Dog shortly after being rescued in Mexico
Ramona shortly after her rescue in Mexico | Compassion Without Borders

The CWOB team moved Ramona to the safety of the CWOB clinic in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Then they asked for volunteers to transfer Ramona (as well as another dog) across the border into the United States, where Ramona could start a new life.

A Californian woman named Lynn Bowers and her daughter, Janelle, volunteered to get the dogs.

"CWOB rented us a cargo van, gave us enough money for gas and lodging, and coordinated a driver to meet us at the border," Bowers told The Dodo. "We went 650 miles! We met a wonderful man in Calexico and made the transfer."

The moment Bowers met Ramona, she was smitten. She quickly decided that she was going to do more than transport Ramona - she was going to adopt her.

Ramona the dog at her new home in the United States
Lynn Bowers

"I instantly fell in love," Bowers said. "Even though she was dirty, stinky, emaciated and sick, I found her to be beautiful. "

Bowers already had another St. Bernard, and she thought that Ramona would be a good companion for him.

But even though Ramona finally had a real home, she had a lot of medical issues to overcome - she was still malnourished, and she suffered from an ear infection, a respiratory infection and dental disease.

St. Bernard dog and her new family in the United States
Lynn Bowers

"She took some time to recover," Bowers said. "But every day that passed I would see her become curious, playful and more active."

Once Ramona regained her health, she started acting like the puppy she probably never got to be.

St. Bernard dog at her new home in the United States
Lynn Bowers

"She loves to initiate play with her toys," Bowers said. "With her chosen toy in her mouth, she'll approach with her head down low and will begin her deep-sounding 'woooo' by raising her head high then dropping the toy."

Like all dogs, Ramona also loves walks and exploring the outdoors. And of course, she loves sleeping on the couch.

St. Bernard dog sleeping on the couch in her new home
Lynn Bowers

"What's so interesting about these dogs is that they've never had any of these creature comforts, but they certainly get used to them quite quickly, and become some of the most wonderful pets because, you know, they've had to get by on the streets, so they're very smart, they're very appreciative, and they do really well in homes," Camblor said.

"We are so thankful to CWOB for giving us the opportunity to save our sweet Ramona," Bowers said. "There isn't a moment we don't love and cherish her. Our home is complete with her in it."

St. Bernard dog at her new home in the United States
Lynn Bowers

Ramona was lucky to be rescued and rehomed in the United States, but thousands of other dogs in Mexico need help. To help Compassion Without Borders save as many street dogs as possible, you can make a donation.