“Some women met in an online forum” may be the opening scene for a number of Bulgarian initiatives and organizations. The one that we are talking about here is about a few girls and a lot, really and truly a lot, of dogs. This is a story about the beginning and the end of the dog shelter in Bogrov. A tale about love, hope, bravery, kindness and of course – the dogs.
Once upon a time there were three girls. They happened to meet in an Internet dog lovers discussion board. Although completely different, they had a couple of things in common – the love of dogs and clear understanding that a lot of work is required to ease the pain and suffering of the stray dogs living on the streets of Sofia.
At the beginning they all had jobs and devoted their free time to tend to the dogs in the municipal dog shelter of Seslavtsi – finding people to take care of the dogs temporarily here in Bulgaria, looking for suitable adopters in the Netherlands, organizing transport and sending them off to a new life. Other members of the discussion board tried to help as much as they could and slowly a supportive group of working dog lovers emerged and started changing the world around them. One dog at a time.
It happened that one day the girls got the golden opportunity not given to everyone in life – to fulfill their dream, if only they can muster the courage to do it. It was 2010 and the city council were looking for someone to work for 3 years in the biggest, at the time, dog shelter – supporting up to 500 poor souls. Our three heroines thought about it, fretted over the decision, then took a deep breath and jumped in. This is how the adventure called Animal Rescue Sofia started.
A lot has passed since then, our girls grew up to be the crazy dog ladies that always lurked somewhere in them. They don’t have the security of the regular work hours and good salary now, but how inspiring it is to know that everything depends on you? I know it, because I am one of them – the crazy ones, the ones that believe the stray dogs’ problems can be solved only by people who care. We have laws, we have methodology, the only thing that is left is to put the work in. And there is a lot of work to be done.
For the three years Bogrov dog shelter is functioning we managed to find homes to 2300 dogs from the streets of Sofia and to neuter 5400 more. Written down these numbers seems unreal, but try to count to 2300 and you’ll see – we’ve taken care and cared for thousands, each having their place in our hearts. So many doomed and unloved strays now have their own family in Bulgaria, Austria, Germany or the Netherlands.
You may be wondering how we pay for all this without the help of the government, EU support initiatives or an international charities. Believe it or not, the whole shelter is funded by only private donations, people who know us and believe that everything they donate will be used in the best way to save animals, slimming down the number of strays on the streets and bettering our city. And those people are not rich – our highest donation is 130 euro, with the bulk of them being between 5 and 20 levs (3-10 euros). The secret is in the community spirit – everyone gives within their means, so we can all help our little silent friends.
Whether because we believed and continue to believe that Bulgarians have big hearts and we can solve our own problems, or because enthusiasm is contagious when it yields results, but somehow we can reach people. The shelter is open 365 days a year and in addition to the doctors and carers a lot of volunteers give their time to work here. I dare think this kind of self-driven community spirit is the civil society that we wish for in Bulgaria.
But enough said from the human perspective. I thought long and hard whether, like many of my colleagues, to tell some deeply upsetting and heartbreaking stories that will touch your soul and leave a mark. Like the one of the little baby Mook – a puppy, that got two of its legs cut off by some mindless maniac – now a loved companion in a wonderful home in Canada. Or the one of Zoran, the malamute, who we got from the police cut in pieces, confused and angry, who is now enjoying life in his new home in Sofia. Or Mecho and Missy, now “citizens” of Germany, who had suffered someone incredibly evil pouring acid in their ears. Or the one about Tihomir – the living skeleton… And hundreds upon hundreds of abused, beaten, tortured, sick, broken, agonizing dogs that had came to us on the brink of death, who now live a second life in a new home, with no memories of their past misfortunes.
But no. I am not going to emotionally blackmail you. We decided to be the people who take care of the unwanted and unloved and we will continue doing it. Now, three years after we started our journey, when we have proven our ability to deliver results, the end of our contract with Municipality of Sofia is near. We have to leave the shelter by December and are left with no place to continue our work. There is no point in whining about all the hurdles we had to overcome to get the land for the Bogrov shelter. Our time is running out, there are 2 months left to fix a new deal and we know that the only way for something to happen is if we do it ourselves.
Our little story can end here – without the happy ending, however anyone who cares can help us change this. We have found a property that is perfect for our needs and we can continue our work there – a big unused dairy farm. The only thing left is to find the money to buy it. The price is 210 000 euro – as much as a big apartment in the city, but still more than we can afford.
I believe that we can find more people with big hearts. I believe that this home for the unwanted can continue to exist. I believe, no matter how hard and un-achievable it seems, that “some girls” can find the funds and give shelter to the most miserable inhabitants of the city streets. I believe, because I can see the impossible happening every day. No one can help the whole world, but everyone can help a bit – today, here and now. Because there is no one else to do it for us and their fate is in our hands.
Stella Raycheva, “Women today” magazine, October 2013
How to help us?
Even if we are not rich, we have the numbers. If you think that ARS needs to continue forward, you can help. Every bit counts and even a small donation is of real importance – a matter of life and death for hundreds, no, thousands poor homeless souls.
CLICK HERE for online donations through ePay.bg and PayPal.com
Bank details of The Farm of Dreams:
FIRST INVESTMENT BANK BIC: FINVBGSF
IBAN (EU) – BG50FINV91501215999956
IBAN (BGN) – BG07FINV91501215999954
ACCOUNT HOLDER: “A R Sofia Foundation”