- Associated Press - Sunday, March 8, 2015

MASHPEE, Mass. (AP) - Sox, a healthy 2-year-old mixed breed, tumbled around a play area at a Mashpee dog day-care center Friday afternoon, competing with other pups for the attention of employees and swooning visitors.

The “Cozimutt,” as his foster mother, Sheryl Kozens-Long calls him, was scheduled to be euthanized the day before in his home of Cozumel, Mexico, but instead he traveled almost 2,000 miles with three other dogs to Cape Cod, where he is now up for adoption.

More than a year ago, Humane Society of Cozumel employees found Sox knee-deep in a jungle swamp, where he was abandoned to be eaten by crocodiles. The mud covered his feet like pairs of socks. He remained in the care of the Humane Society until Kozens-Long loaded him on a plane and flew him to New England.

His foster sister, Frida, who is only a few months old and also up for adoption, was found nearly starved and covered in mange on one of the island’s beaches.

They were both at Talk to the Paws Doggy Daycare in Mashpee, their tails wagging as they snuggled up on the laps of guests.

Kozens-Long and her husband, Rick Long, have rescued dozens of dogs through the Cozumel Humane Society in the past five years, bringing them first to their house in Falmouth and then finding them “forever homes” in the New England area. Two of the four dogs that returned with them last week have already been spoken for.

“A lot of people kind of snub their nose to us bringing dogs over here because there are so many here already, but they don’t know what so many is until they see Cozumel,” Kozens-Long said. “We go every few months and bring a dog or two back with us.”

They became involved with the Humane Society in Cozumel by chance in 2009 while on a “mental health” vacation to heal after the passing of their 14-year-old German shepherd, Isabella.

They ran into a society employee who was walking a dog near a Cozumel market and learned about the treacherous conditions for strays on the island, she said.

Kozens-Long and her husband have since adopted that dog and three others and have found homes for at least 25 more.

She described the trips as difficult but rewarding, knowing that the dogs, who suffered a lot in their short lives, will have a chance at happiness after being born into a culture much different from that in the United States.

When an owner there doesn’t want the responsibility of caring for a dog anymore, little to no effort is put into finding the animal a new home, she said. Instead, the dogs are killed or left to die.

“The worst case we saw was six puppies in a drain pipe,” Kozens-Long said. “They had actually grown and the pipe had to be cut open. I brought half that litter home and they all have a story.”

After a dog is brought to Cozumel’s Humane Society, it is spayed or neutered, vaccinated and treated for any illnesses. The ones that come home with Kozens-Long are vetted again before they are granted the necessary travel documentation that shows they are free of all parasites and diseases.

It’s an expensive process to get the dogs to the states and to screen potential owners, but it brings the couple joy and fulfillment.

“When you do dog rescue, you don’t have a savings account,” Kozens-Long said.

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