A happy tail

How a peaceful sanctuary rescues and rehabilitates ill-treated and abandoned dogs and donkeys thanks to the efforts of its volunteers and ongoing donations

Just over 20 years ago, the local circus almost led six innocent donkeys to a terrible fate.

‘’Nana’’ (the founder of the sanctuary) swooped in and saved the donkeys who were about to be barbarically fed to the lions. Thus, Associação Bamboo was born, named after a street dog that literally leapt into Nana’s arms whilst she was taking a stroll in Luz, where she lived.

In the year 2000, Nana bought the land for the sanctuary amidst rescuing the donkeys. Hereafter, other dogs and cats around the area started to appear, often tied to the fence or even thrown over. Currently, the sanctuary homes a content family of around 20 dogs, 13 donkeys and 1 mule.

When a new arrival appears, they are always named after something beginning with ‘B’ in tribute to Nana’s beloved dog. The volunteers have even started to invent new names as they refrain from using the same name twice and have rehomed so many dogs already.

“This was, and still is, my dream, to be the voice amongst the voiceless around us,” Nana explains in a video. She repeats the sayings of Gandhi who said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”, to which she modestly replied: “Within my little world, I try.”

When she arrived in the morning, ready to get her hands dirty, she questionably dressed all in white. Her ears weighed down with her extensive gold earring collection and she paired this with her staple red lipstick which she wore “for the donkeys”. She was down to earth and quite the character. Often declaring “anyone else would have done the same!”.

Nana sadly passed away in December 2017, but with the help of her son, his family and her loyal volunteers, the sanctuary lives on.

On arrival, you are welcomed with wagging tails and barks of joy as the dogs eagerly wait for the volunteers to enter the gates. The dogs have spacious homes (pens), equipped with their own mattresses and sofas. At maximum capacity, they can hold around 30 dogs and the premises are very secure; almost like a gated community.

Nana couldn’t bear the thought of the dogs being in cages as she very well pointed out, “these dogs are not prisoners”.

Donkeys are left to meander most of the time and have ample access to food, water and shelter. When the volunteers arrive, they are led into their yard for some of the best quality hay, lots of cuddles and, more importantly, some peace and quiet whilst the dogs are let loose.

Although most of these donkeys have been rescued, four were born at the shelter.

After all daily duties are complete, such as mucking out and general maintenance, the dogs are taken on their walk where they are set free, without leads, to scamper across the large landscape. During the walk, you reach their resident lake where the volunteers take a break, put the world to rights and watch the dogs frolic and swim. Mother Nature at her best.

Upon their return, the dogs go willingly back to their own pens and are fed. The donkeys stroll back out of their yard and are set free for another day. This is a true testament to how happy they are to live at the sanctuary. Although, the end goal is to rehome the dogs to a loving family, their demeanour in the meantime is very reassuring.

There are many ways in which people can help this fantastic sanctuary. For those with a few hours to spare in the morning, they may be eligible to volunteer, and this can be organised through the website. Though, volunteering needs to be in keeping with COVID regulations at the time. No matter how big or small, donations are greatly appreciated. They will go towards dog and donkey food, leads and collars, dog toys, power tools, gardening equipment, DIY equipment and any necessary vets’ bills.

Sponsoring a dog or donkey is another great method of support. In return for a small fee, sponsors receive updated reports and a photograph every three months for their selected animal. And of course, if you find yourself longing after a loyal and loving four-legged friend, there is also the option for adoption.

Although the Donkeys are not available for adoption, most dogs are. The requirement is an adoption fee of €125, which goes towards their vaccinations, sterilisation, microchipping, testing for heart worm and leishmaniasis. All homes will be assessed prior to adoption.

Despite the challenges that come with running a shelter like this, Associação Bamboo has successfully rehomed over 300 dogs. It seems the extraordinary ways of Nana run deep within the soil of this sanctuary and, with that, people can be rest assured that every animal who passes through this sanctuary will be endlessly loved.