'Standing in a muddy field, covered from head to toe in mud, cold and wet…what am I doing here?'
Last year I was introduced to one of our regular clients, Jovana Ivastanin. She set up a dog rescue charity, ‘Serbia’s Forgotten Paws’. Over the past few years I have seen many of her rescue dogs in the surgery and have always wondered what the story is behind these beautiful dogs. In September this year, with my suitcase crammed full of dog food, I went off to see what the charity is all about.
What can I say? 380 barking dogs, going crazy to say “hello” to the new people arriving at the gates. Dogs everywhere, crying for attention. We were taken to the roof of the house to see the extent of kennels and land. Dogs all around, it was definitely a shock to the system. Day one was just a haze. What to do? What to see? Where have all these dogs come from? Unfortunately, most of the dogs were abandoned by their owners due to illness or financial difficulties. Puppies are dumped in boxes, too young to be away from their mothers, many ill and not surviving,
We were at the kennels for just under a week, I learnt about the great work the charity has done to provide better living conditions for the dogs in the winter (as I write, the temperature in ‘NIS” Serbia is minus 14). They provide wooden pallets and shingle to keep the dogs off the mud, and now buy better quality food to feed all the hungry mouths. Previously, when the charity started, the dogs only received stale bread as their main diet.
Many dogs died during the winter due to the cold and poor diet. With lots of fundraising and donations from generous people, the charity has provided a better life for the animals. €2,000 has been raised to provide a run for the dogs, which means they can leave their enclosures for a run and can socialize with other dogs.
The charity provides paid work for 4 local people to help feed and clean the dogs. This is simply not enough due to the sheer number of dogs left at the shelter. During our short visit another large dog was abandoned overnight, unwanted by his owner, another hungry mouth to feed. The monthly average costs to feed the dogs are €400, 100 kg of dog food per day. During the winter month the food bill increases due to the amount of food needed to keep the dogs warm and not to lose weight for the harsh winter ahead. Donations of food, given by the supporters, are taken out to help with this mammoth bill.
On our last night it dawned on me that this was not going to be my last visit. This cause has sparked something inside me to help these poor, suffering dogs.
“Lets go back in December,” I said. “You must be mad! Do you know how cold Serbia is in December?” was the response I received.
On December 5th, along with two friends and the charity, I flew back to Serbia.
'So, standing in the muddy field, covered from head to toe in mud, cold and wet…I know why I am here!'
You can help Serbia's Forgotten Paws by donations, by fostering or adopting a dog
By Gillian Fenge
Manager/ Roehampton Veterinary Clinic