San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Petfinder Founders Find Treasure on the Beach

It’s fun to dream of finding a treasure on the beach, something special and unexpected lying in the sand. But treasures are often hard to identify. A diamond or emerald tossed up by the tide looks like a stone or piece of glass, gritty with sand or dirt. It may take an expert to see the beauty under the grime.

Betsy and Jared Saul didn’t come to Costa Rica to look for treasures. The founders of, a U.S.-based Web site that matches rescued pets and people throughout the United States, Mexico and parts of Canada, the Sauls came here to help Frances Jones set up a Petfinder link for her Lighthouse Animal Rescue service, a project Jones brought from Florida when she moved here two years ago (TT, Feb. 24).

Once here, the Sauls decided to spend a week on the beaches of the Osa Peninsula, in southern Costa Rica, while escaping a New Jersey winter.

That’s how they met Jim Duke.He was sitting on a corner with the rest of the street dogs; when he saw the Sauls strolling by, he got up and with a sad and sorry gait shuffled over to them.

“He was begging for help,” Betsy said. He definitely did not look like a treasure, riddled as he was with a fungus infection, swollen feet, eye and ear infections and growths all over his body.He was also undernourished and defeated.

It’s not really strange that the dog picked out the Sauls, explained Jones, who has been rescuing animals most of her life (TT, July 15, 2005) and who helped in Jim Duke’s recovery.

“Dogs have a sixth sense,” Jones said. “They know whom to trust.”

Not wanting to be dognappers, the Sauls asked around the neighborhood for the owners and learned that this was a street dog that had been hanging around for a long time. Knowing that this was the dog’s only chance for survival and not sure if they could find a vet up to the challenge, they called Jones, who agreed to take the dog if they could get him from the Osa Peninsula to her home in Atenas, northwest of San José.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Sauls and Jim Duke arrived at Jones’ home late one night, and treatment began. Over the next seven weeks, it was salves, baths, vets, antibiotics, special food, injections and lots of loving attention for the rundown pup.

Day by day, he got better. His weight went from 48 pounds to 65. He shed his raggedy coat for one of ivory and orange fur.His paws improved. By the end of the seven weeks, he was frolicking like a puppy with the other canine members of the Jones family.

While the Sauls went back to New Jersey and Jim Duke recovered, Jones went to her dog breed books to see what kind of origins Jim Duke might have. To her surprise, she found that he matched exactly the picture and description of a porcelaine, a hunting dog that originated in France in the 1600s, with his off-white coat and orange markings. But how did a rare and special specimen like Jim Duke come to Costa Rica, and why was he abandoned in a beach town? Who would have guessed that this sad and tattered street dog had such an impressive genealogy?

The Sauls and the Joneses weren’t concerned about his family tree; they just wanted to help a creature in need. The Sauls gave him the name Jim, short for Jiménez, and Jones’ husband Bruce, perhaps suspecting the dog’s noble origins, named him Duke.When Jim Duke was well enough to travel, he flew, accompanied by Jones, to the Sauls’ home in New Jersey, where he now leads a treasured life. And when he entered the United States, he went as a documented legal immigrant with the name of Jim Duke Jiménez.

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