Diary of a rescue!

By By Isobel Costa

Every year the Refúgio dos Burros Donkey Sanctuary sets up a stall at the Fatacil 10-day fair in Lagoa to explain about their work and to receive donations from the public. Volunteers rally round to talk to the visitors and our young donkey Juliette also helps by allowing children to sit on her back for €1 for parents to take a memorable photograph.

The Refúgio has existed since 1991 to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome animals, and the associationis currently running a campaign to raise funds to buy the Refúgio land from the owner so that we can guarantee its continuity.

The Refúgio is completely full, mostly with dogs, cats, donkeys and horses, and cannot take any more animals despite daily telephone calls for help – it is so difficult to turn people away. However, last week there was one dog we could not ignore.

On Saturday, the second day of Fatacil, we were told there were three abandoned dogs outside the Fatacil gates, the youngest one with a terrible injury to her right front paw.

We were horrified by what we saw. The paw was a flattened mass with all the toe bones broken off and protruding. The young dog was scared when we approached her and for the next hour armed with just a lead and some dog biscuits we tried to catch her, but it was impossible as she limped away crying out in pain. We had to give up.

On the Sunday, we searched for her during the day and night but she could not be found.

On Monday, when I left work opposite Fatacil at 4pm, I was both delighted and apprehensive to see the three dogs lying in the shade!I spent the next hour sitting on the pavement with a couple of sausages (I was prepared with them in my car!) and managed to gain the dogs’ trust.

Covered in hundreds of little ticks, all three dogs were friendly but our injured one was very timid. She would stare at the sausage in my hand and you could almost see her thinking “I really want that but I am scared to take it”.

Nearly an hour later all three dogs were eating gently out of my hand, but alone I could not attempt any rescue. Many people walked past or stood by watching and giving ‘advice’ but nobody offered to help!

Later that night, back on duty on the Fatacil stall, we were informed the dogs were in the new Intermarché car park, so three of us set off armed with bowls, tinned food and leads.

The traffic during this time is very dangerous, with people and cars everywhere, but the car park was relatively empty. We enticed the dogs to a more secluded corner and put food in the bowls hoping to catch the injured one as she ate.

Joined by a friend of the Refúgio who had been shopping, three times we lunged but each time the dog escaped, the last time wedging herself under a parked car. We were not going to let her escape now!

The poor dog yelped and cried each time we tried to entice her out, yet despite being terrified and in obvious pain she never once bit us. In desperation, we went to ask the Bombeiros if they had any equipment to help, and armed with a blanket, Bombeiros Filipa and Paulo came out to assist.

For the next hour, all of us lay on the floor talking to the poor dog, calling, trying to feed her, trying to grab her, all to no avail.

Eventually, with the blanket and by surrounding the car on all sides we managed to ‘drag’ the terrified animal out and pinned her under a supermarket trolley whilst we went to get a dog cage to transport her to the Refúgio. She has been named Bo Peep!

On Tuesday, Bo Peep was operated on and had to have her leg amputated. Usually vets remove the whole leg rather than just the paw to avoid the spread of infection, and because it is easier for them to learn to walk without a stump.

Bo Peep is still nervous but can be petted and is a quiet dog. She currently needs daily care and will be sterilised, and then she will be available for adoption.

A three-legged dog can lead a normal life and will still love to go for walks and play! We now have five three-legged dogs waiting for adoption!

We made a poster for Fatacil with Bo Peep’s story to ask for help to pay her vet bills and the response was extraordinary. She raised more than enough funds at Fatacil and from our Facebook appeal to cover all her vet’s bills.

One of the most touching stories was from a lady who works on her feet all day and needs to have regular pedicures. She decided that this week Bo Peep needed the money more than she needed her own treatment! Thank you to everyone who contributed to Bo Peep’s fund and especially to the Bombeiros whose help was invaluable.

It now seems appropriate to make Bo Peep the face of our campaign to raise funds to buy the Refúgio land owned by the original founder Peter.

Due to his declining health, he is unable to continue to live at the Refúgio and will be better off selling the land to the association so that the work to which he dedicated the last 20 years can continue.

More than half our animals cannot be adopted because they are too old, disabled or need constant veterinary care. Our monthly bills are over €2,000!

We need to raise €150,000 to buy the land to ensure that these animals have a permanent home at the Sanctuary for the rest of their natural lives, but also so that future animals like Bo Peep can also have a happy ending to their stories.

Please help with a donation via Pay Pal or to our bank account below or by donating goods to one of our charity shops in Lagoa, Carvoeiro and Ferragudo.

For bank transfers: NIB 000703610001091000074 or IBAN PT50000703610001091000074

paypal: [email protected]or visit our facebook page Refúgio dos Burros.