Annette Thompson’s story is one that many people dream of: retiring early, leaving behind the daily grind of work, and pursuing a passion. For Annette, that passion was animal rescue. After retiring early at the age of 51, Annette and her husband Mike moved from College Station, Texas to Ajijic, Mexico, on the shores of beautiful Lake Chapala. Never being one to overlook a need, Annette noticed the many homeless dogs and puppies and decided to rescue dogs.
Annette’s journey to retirement and dog rescue began when she was a young girl. She grew up in Texas, Ohio, and Alberta, Canada since her dad was a chemical engineer who started and managed plastics manufacturing plants every few years. Annette grew up having to leave behind her human friends with each move but what her relationships with her pet cats and dogs provided the love and stability she needed.
Annette attended Texas A&M University where she met Mike and after graduating, she pursued a career in online nonprofit management and started and managed orphanages in Ethiopia, Kenya and Haiti and doing international adoptions of children through her first website, adoption.com. During that time Annette and Mike also adopted 6 children themselves, 3 from Ethiopia and 3 from the US foster care system. Once Mike’s job as an engineer started requiring extensive travel, Annette stopped working in international adoption and became an ESL and GED teacher in the local school system. She then started an English teacher recruiting company for schools in China.
In 2019, at the age of 51, Annette and Mike decided it was time to retire. Mike had put in 30 years with the same company and had diligently followed the financial principles of Dave Ramsey so the couple had enough in their 401k to retire early. Annette already knew she enjoyed traveling and experiencing different cultures, and she knew that retirement was the perfect opportunity to do so. However, she didn’t want to spend her retirement lounging on a beach or sightseeing – she wanted to make a difference in the world.
Mike and Annette decided to retire to Ajijic, Mexico where the cost of living was lower and the weather was cooler than Texas. Ajijic, the largest American and Canadian expat community in the world, has been an artists colony since the 1950s and nowadays has 10,000-15,000 expats living in the Lake Chapala area depending on the time of the year. Ajijic is 5000 feet above sea level like Denver, resulting in a temperate climate year round..
Annette and Mike found out about Ajijic though YouTube and knew from their first visit that it was the place for them. Annette’s parents, George and Kay Williams, lived near the couple in College Station, Texas, so they invited them to move with them. Annette’s mom had a stroke in 2017 and was developing dementia so Mike and Annette knew that leaving them behind in Texas was not an option. They bought a large home with a lovely guest house which provided the perfect mix of privacy and shared living. The low cost of in-home nursing care in Mexico enabled Annette’s mom to obtain 24-hour in home care for just $5 USD per hour.
Even before moving to Mexico, Annette was struck by the dire situation facing dogs in Mexico where street dogs are a common sight. Many of these dogs are abandoned by their owners or born on the streets, and they often suffer from malnutrition, disease, and abuse. Annette knew that she had to do something to help these animals, and that’s when she decided to make that her volunteer job for retirement. An added benefit was that volunteering provided a wonderful way to develop friendships with like minded people.
Annette started off by volunteering with Cari LeClair, Director of Bone Voyage Dog Rescue in Ajijic. Bone Voyage was different than other rescues because rather than placing the dogs locally, they flew dogs to adoptive families in the US and Canada. As the organization grew in the number of volunteers involved and dogs saved, Cari decided to move to Puerto Vallarta and asked Annette to take over as Director of Bone Voyage. How could Annette say no? Every day she saw dogs with severe injuries and illnesses, many of whom were on the brink of death. But she also saw the incredible resilience and spirit of these animals. A bequest by Annette’s aunt, Patricia Mackey, enabled her to invest the money needed to start a shelter.
Annette’s work has had a profound impact on the lives of countless dogs in Mexico. Bone Voyage has rescued over 4000 dogs since Annette moved to Ajijic, and she continues to work tirelessly to help these animals. But Annette’s work is far from over. She knows that there are still so many dogs in Mexico who are suffering and in need of help. She plans to continue her rescue efforts for as long as she is able, and she hopes that others will be inspired to join her in the fight against animal cruelty and neglect.
Annette’s story is a testament to the power of following your passions and making a difference in the world. She saw a need, and she decided to take action. Her dedication to animal rescue has not only helped countless dogs in Mexico but has also inspired others to get involved and make a difference. Annette’s work also highlights the importance of animal rescue and the need for more resources to support these organizations.
In many parts of the world like Mexico, animal rescue organizations such as Bone Voyage Dog Rescue rely solely on the generosity of volunteers and donations to keep their operations running. There is no government funding. This means that they are often underfunded and overworked, making it difficult to provide the care and support that animals in need require.
If you’re interested in supporting animal rescue, there are many ways to get involved. Donating money, volunteering your time, and adopting rescue animals are all great ways to make a difference. You can also help by spreading awareness about the importance of animal rescue and advocating for stronger animal protection laws in your community.
Annette’s story is a powerful reminder that it’s never too late to pursue your passions and make a difference in the world. By following her heart and moving to Mexico to rescue dogs, Annette has shown that retirement is just a beginning. Her work has not only saved the lives of countless dogs but has also inspired others to take action and make the world a better place for animals.