Cristina Avila Zesatti is journalist, general editor and creator of Corresponsal de Paz. She worked in CNN and NBC as producer and editor. She was chief of correspondents for NBC-Telemundo in Mexico and collaborator in Europe for written Mexican media. Since 2004 she works in social journalism and “peace journalism“. Nowadays she lives with her 14 cats and 2 dogs in her natal city, Zacatecas, México, where she manages the animalistic APAZ, willing to bring pacifism to animal lovers.
“My parents raised loving and protecting animals… I rescue street animals since I was a child.”
When did you began to rescue animals?
I was born and grown up in a house where there was always animals. They were part of our family. Living among dogs and cats was usual, but we also had turtles, squirrels, fish,…
Once my favourite uncle appeared with a monkey. Another day somebody gave a hen to my mother, to eat, but she was unable to kill her and we adopted her. One day my father found a wounded raccoon on the road and he brought it home, and Niky lived with us until it recovered.
What I want to say is that I was raised loving and caring for animals… I rescue animals from the streets since I was a child, and my parents always teach us to treat them as equals: they slept with us, they move freely in our home, they eat the same as us (not a healthy idea, but we did not know it by the time).
Our parents always allowed us to bring home dogs and cats that we found in the street. And when it was not possible to have them at home, they cheered us to feed them with bowls in our door.
Do you remember which was the first animal that you rescued?
They were lots, but I have an special thought for Blackie, a beautiful and black as night dog that I rescued near my primary school, and that was hit by a car shortly after.
I also remember Tania, a creole dog, that I fed during some days in the street and that finally ended at home as soon as my parents noticed that she was pregnant… in a week we had 7 puppies!
Or Libertad, a cat that I brought from the outside of my school too…
They were so many that it would take time to enumerate all of them, but all of them have a story. All of them with a sad start and not always a happy ending, but I know that we changed their fate for good in some way and finally met the best face of human beings.
Nowadays you live in Zacatecas, Mexico. Can you explain us how is a normal day in your life attending abandoned animals in this city?
I think that one can not plan to rescue animals. You simply have the idea in your heart and it is impossible to do nothing when you find animals in the street…
I always try to explain that I do not “think”. It’s not a brain action, it’s an impulse: first I rescue them, then I ask myself what will I do with them, or where will I bring them, or how will I feed them… There are not 2 equal days. Somedays I do not rescue any animals, somedays I rescue 3…
But I have a routine with “my” animals. I have 14 cats and 2 dogs, all adopted from street, and I feed 20 street cats daily.
I learned a lot in the way, because I know that it is impossible the have them all, at least not forever. I had to work impulse but also detachment. Now I have a waybill: every rescued animal goes to veterinary to check, they spend some days (or weeks if they are very injured) at home with me and finally they go to their new family.
I spend a lot of time walking, cleaning, medicating,… but above all I spend a lot of time giving them love and care, until they loose fear and mistrust.
“Sooner or later you have to accept that you can not rescue all of them, and that is a grief that you load forever.”
Did you encountered administrative or social difficulties for this type of work?
As society we have a lot to advance in this field… Very few governments and politicians in this world are “sensible” to animal’s cause. Public politics related to protection and animal wellness are few or nonexistent. And this is a vicious circle, since society is neither sensible nor conscious.
The way of the rescuers is a road full of difficulties.
It is difficult to find, for example, somebody who wants to rent you a house or apartment when you say the truth about the number of animals that you have, or you explain that you rescue street animals…
It is difficult find suitable locations for animals, and you always have to spend money to conditioning the place.
Paying veterinary bills, medicines and food is a huge task and sooner or later you have to accept that you can not rescue all of them, and that is a grief that you load forever.
People usually tags you like crazy. In the best of cases, they pat your back or “help” you alerting of an abandoned animal that they can not rescue. Undoubtedly, personal and social difficulties are a lot, but nothing (absolutely nothing) is comparable with the joy to see them sleeping quietly, playing safely and trusting again in humans.
What was your most satisfying experience helping animals?
Every rescued animal story is moving. Each one is different and every one is the same… I don’t know if I have a preference for some of the rescued ones… some of them have arrived severely injured by human beings, in an intentional way: stabbed, hit by an auto, amputated legs, knocked, scars by chains and even bullets… Other have wounds by abandonment: infections, chronic illnesses,… and all are ill by fear but willing to trust again, to love again, to play again too.
There are 2 stories that are close to me.
Canelo, that today is my dog, arrived home only for some days (or so I thought), but shortly after he arrived he showed symptoms of distemper, an usually deathly illness in dogs… I spend weeks with him, giving him his medicines, caring him… Even my cats cared and bathed him. Like a miracle, Canelo waked up and then I understood that he must stay with me.
Another story is the one of my cat Odette. I rescued her at the same time that Canelo. I heard a cry at dawn, and I went outside in pajamas… I found a kitten running scared, crossing the busy road once and again… I stopped the cars how I can, and I took her from under a taxi. What I took was not a cat, it was a piece of raw skin, the size of my hand. She was a baby, but she had been burned and someone had cut her tail. Odette spent 4 months isolated at home, stinky, as she developed a contagious infection in the skin… I couldn’t touch her, only feed her and care for her with patience. But finally she survived. Now she lives at home, tinny, squint and always crying, but she is playful and lives very well with my other cats… and she is one of Canelo’s favourites.
But I insist: every story is a story of transformation… every gaze converted from scare and pain to trust… I give a name to every new animal that I rescue, and I spend days repeating them their new name, assuring them that “the worst is past”.
They are all special for me, and when I finally find a new home, I always feel relief mixed with pain for parting with them.