In Bulgaria, it is common to see stray dogs on the street. There are so many, and sadly, so few who are willing to help them. Some Bulgarian people accept stray dogs as part of the culture, but others refuse. Their solutions are unthinkable to us, as dog lovers.
Sadly many street dogs do not survive. Most of them die as babies, either from starvation, or from diseases. The truth is, not everyone understands the responsibility of owning a pet. In some cases, the owner will desert its companion, leaving the dog mystified at why he or she has been left behind.
Lauren Kearney recently spent a day volunteering at a local shelter where she discovered that more and more Bulgarian people are genuinely trying to help and support animal shelters to aid the problem, but there are still many dogs living a life of misery, with only human hearts to rely on for hope.
Here’s her story...
After getting in touch with a dog shelter, Animal Friends Foundation Burgas, to enquire about voluntary work, I was offered the chance to visit the shelter itself. Helping animals in need was an appealing concept to me. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Set in the heart of a desolate village, surrounded by acres of grassy land, it was an ideal place for an animal shelter.
Lauren pictured above with Marucho
At first sight, I saw a crowd of dogs running towards me; tails wagging violently, jumping eagerly. In the midst of thirty or more largish dogs, I felt slightly on edge. I was new, therefore I attracted their curiosity. Sniffed, licked and jumped on, it was intense to begin with. It was, quite frankly, a warm welcome. Radost, a worker at the dog shelter, showed me the general premises. It was spacious, grassy and open. Three litters of puppies lived in separate enclosed shelters in which little wooden huts were located for shelter.
With their typical boundless energy, they squealed, ran around aimlessly, and tugged at each other’s tails. I spent the first half an hour admiring the puppies and the dogs, and their home. I arrived here not knowing what to expect but in many ways, it felt and looked better than I'd vaguely imagined. These dogs had freedom and space and, in many ways, were more fortunate than the chain restricted domestic dogs. But how long would it last? They were living on a time bomb. Funds were low. Donations were scarce. Radost and the others who worked here did a great job. Devoted and passionate, she wanted better for these dogs. I felt so compelled to act and help them.
A litter of puppies at the shelter
With hope in her voice, she said: 'In a year, I think we should have a new and better place for the dogs.' It would be a challenge seeing as funds were low. ‘Most of these dogs,’ she explained, ‘were either abandoned or abused. People are always bringing injured dogs to us and then we take them to the clinic for treatment.’ These dogs need homes. They deserve a home and a loving owner to look after them. Unfortunately, there are many more dogs brought to this shelter than there are adopters.
Next, it was feeding time. I was happy to get stuck in. The puppies devoured their generous dish of biscuits and were given fresh water in paint buckets. One tiny brown puppy took to using the water bowl as a bathing pool, sticking its two front feet in and then its hind legs. The dogs are fed daily but they devour their food with enthusiasm, never taking food for granted. Three of the dogs, I noticed, were shy, and they hid underneath a tree or under a bush timidly.
One of these dogs was Tiho, a born deaf dog that tugged at my heart strings straight away. Radost told me, ‘His name is Tihomir, which means silent in Bulgarian. He doesn’t understand a thing – he’s completely deaf’. Apparently, Tiho was found amongst busy traffic in a bustling city when he was just a baby. Despite Tiho being deaf to sound, he certainly is not deaf to love and attention. I stroked his head for a little while and he wouldn’t stop jumping up at me, begging me for more affection. With his pink-rimmed, innocent eyes staring up at me, I couldn't refuse.
Tiho, pictured above
Always a joy to work with, I got to hold the puppies whilst their photographs were taken. Then Radost tended to the three dogs in the shelter that were on medication. After all was taken care of, we were ready to leave.
At the end of the day, I felt lifted. I came to understand, as the afternoon came to a close, that these dogs craved love. After fondly stroking one single dog, I attracted a crowd of other dogs longing to be stroked. Remarkably, each dog had its own distinct personality. Some were shy, others were confident, some were hyper; others were calm. The one common trait all the dogs shared, however, was a deep sense of loyalty and compassion. Each dog put its full trust in us. Their love was contagious...
Regrettably, the dogs can’t live off love and compassion alone. And even though they are fed and looked after every day, this amazing organisation is low on funds. They urgently need donations in order to continue with their mission to help abandoned and homeless dogs.
Please help them today by visiting their website and making a small donation. Your donation will make a huge difference. Provided that they receive sufficient donations, this inspiring animal shelter can continue its mission in keeping dogs off the streets.