We have been working with homeless animals for a long time now. As we managed the very first humane and European dog shelter in Bulgaria, there was no one we could learn from.
From the shelters in Bulgaria we used to learn how NOT to do it and from the shelters abroad – what we must aim.
We had to learn by making mistakes. And we will never stop learning and improving, because we don’t want to have a good shelter for the stray dogs. We want to give them a home, where they could stay for a while, before their real home appears.
Step by step:
Have you ever wondered, what happens when a dog comes to us? Here is the answer – step by step:
Which dog to take in?
Every day we receive between 20 and 50 requests for admittance of a dog (or usually – a litter of dogs). We have 18 separated quarantine cubicles and an average stay in it of 30 days, it is more than obvious, that it is impossible to take all animals, we were asked to.
Most people, of course, do not understand that. This is, actually, the most difficult part of our job – interacting with angry, desperate and emotional people. They usually consider, that if they shout loud enough, if they threaten hard enough, or if they cry long enough, a miracle will happen and we’ll find a place for the dogs they found…
When one quarantine area gets free and available for a new dog, usually there are 100 dogs, waiting to take it. And they all are sick or injured.
50 is the average number of new dogs that we usually take each month. These numbers is not valid during the spring and the autumn, when the baby boom happens. At these seasons we usually have a litter of puppies in each one of our 18 cubicles and acceptance of injured animals is not possible.
The freed place in the clinic is immediately taken by the most urgent and worst case. Most often these are dogs, hit by cars (which is the reason for the big amount of orthopedic patients we have) or animals with skin conditions (because people are afraid of getting a disease and bald dogs are in a high risk).
Puppies are the biggest per cent of all new coming dogs. Usually we manage to persuade the people, who found the puppies, to keep them, while we vaccinate them (between 1 and a half and 2 months). In case we take fully vaccinated dogs, they can be placed directly in the shelter, not in the clinic. Let’s remind the waiting rate for one place in the clinic is 1 to 100. For the shelter this rate is 1 to 5, which is much more bearable.
When puppies are placed in the clinic and not in a foster home, their quarantine room is occupied for the next 45-60 days. Usually, after the first few weeks, they also must be separated in 2 or 3 cubicles, because of their growth.
Entering the clinic
So, the dog to be accepted in the clinic, is chosen. At arrival it goes through a full medical examination – blood samples are taken for a complete blood count and tests for vector and infectous diseases. It is microchipped and registered as owned by Animal Rescue Sofia and living at “The Farm”.
If the dog is injured, we take it to one of the clinics we work with, for X-rays and examination by an orthopeadist.
For the adult dogs that have lived outside, the tests for vectorborn diseases, are very often positive. So, after the test is made, a treatment is planned. For the most common ones – Anaplasmosis and Erlichiosis, the treatment takes a month and is relatively cheap; Heartworm takes between 3 and 6 months and costs around 500 Euro. The worst scenario is when the dogs comes out to be positive for Leishmaniosis. This, basically means, that this dog will stay ours forever and will cost a fortune to keep it relatively healthy.
According its condition, each dog gets an individual vaccination plan. Meanwhile, it is dewormed several times and microscope examines of the feces are made regularly, so that we are sure the dog is completely clean of parasites.
At the end, it is spayed or neutered and gets ready to leave the clinic.
Entering the shelter
Usually, after about 30 days in the clinic, the dog can be placed in the shelter and the search of adopters may start. Its place in the clinic will be taken immediately – tens of dogs have been waiting for it. It is time for us to choose the next one.
In the clinic, all dogs live alone. In the shelter, the kennels accommodate 2, 3 or 4 dogs, so we must find the best match for our dog.
During its stay in the clinic, we have learn a lot about its character, so we look for dogs it would get along with, on theory. On practice, though, it doesn’t work that easy.
In the best scenario, it takes us a few days, to find where to place a new dog.
First we “accidentally” meet them during a walk. If the new dog will be introduced to more dogs, we do it one by one. If all looks ok, they are taken to meet in a dog run. They meet in the dog run for a few days, every time for a longer time. If no problems appear, together they go in the kennel.
Sometimes we try a dog in many kennels, before we find the best match. Sometimes we cannot find it and the dog must stay alone in a kennel for 3.
Step 4: At home!
How long a dog stays with us, before it gets adopted, varies a lot. If it is considered as an attractive one – breed dogs and lapdogs mainly – soon after the quarantine is over, it gets adopted.
For breedless and large animals it is more difficult, but if they are social and friendly, after some months their person shows up. Puppies are adopted faster than adults.
If there is no interest for adoption for a few months, we send photos and description to our foreign partners, so that they start looking for an adopter as well.
We are often asked what happened, if no one adopts a dog. The answer is – nothing. It will stay at the shelter, walk with the volunteers, dewormed every month and vaccinated every year.
We are open for visitors every day of the week, so candidates are very welcome.
Candidates visit us a few times and if they bond with the chosen dog, they may fulfill a contract and adopt it.
The long journey home is completed. All “our” dogs do not only live in our shelter, but in our hearts as well. When we give them for adoption though, it isn’t a sad moment. The opposite – the more we love a dog, the more we dream to see it leaving and to GO HOME!
This journey is long, difficult and expensive. We couldn’t do it without your support!
But together, we have walked home more than 6 000 animals!
Stay with us, and we will continue saving the world – one dog at a time!