An ordinary heroine

By: Jennifer Maldonado

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Alejandra Zapata Torres with a rescued puppy named Gia.

      When we think about Wonder Woman, we imagine a movie star or a cartoon character but the reality is that there are many wonder women around us.

      Her unconditional love for the most defenseless beings like animals has led her to be the Wonder Woman, the heroine of those beings who depend on us to be heard.

      Alejandra Zapata Torres, 24, from Ponce, is a very kind person who thinks of others first. Her childhood friend, Lilliana Muñoz, describes her as sincere, humble, persevering, friendly, charismatic, intelligent and with a unique personality.

      But, what makes this woman a hero? This master’s student at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras and animal lover has given her adult life to help abandoned animals, specifically dogs and cats, from the streets of Puerto Rico.

      She leaves home everyday in fear of seeing an animal in need and being unable to help due to lack of space, afraid to see the bodies of dead animals in the pavement, afraid to see the reality of this never- ending tale. Alejandra is one of the fighters who live every day looking for a better future for these animals.

      According to the organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the number of dogs and cats that are born every hour in the United States is about 2,500 kittens and puppies, more than those that can be adopted or can find a good home. While many unwanted animals are abandoned on the streets exposed to diseases, hunger, cold and abuse by humans, others are simply taken to shelters or are euthanized. In Puerto Rico “the number of abandoned animals is from 100,000 to 150,.000 which is a creepy figure,” said Alejandra.

      “The abandoned animals represent an irresponsible and insensitive society with their pets. An abandoned animal is nothing more than an example of what we all seek, compassion, love and be loved.”

       Philip K. Dick said, “reality is that, even if you stop believing in it still exists and will not go away.” This problem has affected the life of Alejandra, affectionately called Aya, negatively as going for a walk in the streets of our beautiful Puerto Rico is not so beautiful anymore. “It’s a daily struggle, I see no end to it and sometimes it is frustrating. Around every corner I see an abandoned animal, I go out to clear my mind and there I’ll see an abandoned animal. This problem seems to haunt me everywhere I want to go. “

      Currently, Alejandra lives with seven dogs, two cats and several more animals that she offers temporary home to and she does everything that is possible to continue to help more abandoned animals.

      However, Aya does not fight alone; she has many heroes and heroines who give the battle along with her in the organization We Love Satos.

      “We Love Satos is a nonprofit organization that arises from the current situation in Puerto Rico about the overpopulation of homeless animals in the streets. Our primary mission is to relieve pain and suffering of abandoned and abused animals on the streets, providing necessary medical care and later a home where they respect the integrity of the animal. “

      Just as suffering the abandonment of animals in Puerto Rico changed her life, so did joining We Love Satos.

      ” I now feel I have a purpose in life and I truly found my passion. When I help a rescued animal and accompany its progress until it is finally adopted I’m filled with happiness. Yet, the reality is that not all animals can be saved and often that frustrates me. “

      As her exhausted face revealed rescuing abandoned animals is not an easy mission. The hardest part for Aya has been dealing with the reality of not being able to rescue all the abandoned animals and also deal with the ignorance of many people in terms of lack of education.

      ” I have thought of  giving up the fight and my mission when I have faced difficult cases that after so much effort and so much faith that they will go forward they get worse. But when I see the happy faces of each rescued animal… that recharges my energies,” she added with a smile.

       This constant fight to save the lives of homeless dogs and cats in the streets, have many stories to tell, hard times filled with tears, pain and anger, moments of happiness and joy and emotions of those that can not be expressed in words such as the many stories that Aya remembers.

      “One of the stories that I would like to share is a case of abuse where seven dogs were removed from a house and all were taken to the shelter. Of those seven we took only three and only one survived distemper and that meant a lot to us. Also, the person responsible for the abuse got seven years in prison for each dog under his custody for a total of 49 years.”

      “We can’t help everyone but everyone can help one. The problem of animal overpopulation is about everyone and we can all help:rescue, spay and adopt,”Aya adds.

       Finally Alejandra share to the community the quoted German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Compassion for animals is intimately connected with goodness of character and we can say with certainty, that who is cruel to animals can not be a good man.”

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