She Has 800 Dogs— and They All Have Names

Lya Battle keeps hundreds of strays on her Costa Rica farm, with its own dark history
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 24, 2017 1:13 PM CST
Meet the 'Mother Teresa of Mutts'
File photo. Costa Rica is where you'll find the savior of mutts.   (Getty Images/horkins)

Outside Magazine calls Lya Battle the "lady of strays," and for good reason: Visit her farm in the Central Valley of Costa Rica and you'll be surrounded by hundreds of dogs. Bob Shacochis travels to the Central American nation to dive deeper into the story and the animal sanctuary of the woman he describes as looking like a "petite, auburn-haired heroine on Game of Thrones"—and also "perhaps the most promiscuous woman on Earth." Instead of human paramours, however, Battle's figurative lovers are "panting, downtrodden" zaguates, the mongrel pups that Battle keeps at the Territorio de Zaguate. At any given time, there can be up to 800 of these strays roaming the property, though Battle—dubbed the "Mother Teresa of Mutts"—admits it's difficult to keep an exact count. About 10 of the farm's 142 acres are dedicated to them.

The dogs are everywhere, Shacochis found on his visit, peeking out from bushes, foxholes, supply shelves in the main building. "Incredibly, every dog has a name," he notes. Battle also attempts to get all of her charges neutered and vaccinated. Even more incredible is the tale behind the farm, starting with Battle's overly optimistic father and a mother "who only saw the dark side of everyone and everything"—a dichotomy that eventually led to tragedy. "And one day there comes a time when a kind man has finally had enough—Dad just shot her," Battle says in revealing her mother's 2000 demise. That day was also a turning point for Battle, who ended up acquiring the family farm and, starting with one stray dog, growing it into the dog sanctuary it is today. More on Battle's canine kingdom here. (Dallas could use a Lya Battle.)

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