Up in Ilincica, the hills behind Tuzla, are some lovely walks and a restaurant. I've become quite friendly with the owner, who thinks that my daily walks up there with 2 small boys and a dog are quite bizarre but forgives us because we are English and therefore a bit odd.
As we parked up there the other day I noticed a bundle of fur by the side of the road and sure enough there were 3 bewildered rather frightened puppies. They were tiny, cannot have been more than 6 weeks or so old and certainly not old enough to be taken away from their mother. I asked the restaurateur where they had come from. 'A car came by about 5 minutes ago' he said 'they threw them out of the car'. I looked at the puppies again, a boy and 2 girls, one of whom had obviously got a broken leg.
I took my motley crew for a walk whilst I considered the options. Adam was very curious. Where did the puppies come from Mummy? Why don't they have a Mummy? Who is going to look after them? Why did the man throw them out of the car? I could feel myself getting angrier and angrier at the way in which some Bosnians treat their animals. How could they abandon these dogs like this? Luke was enchanted by them, and kept trying to return to them.
It became obvious - I couldn't leave them there. They would die, and slowly and painfully. I'd heard rumours that there was a dog home in Tuzla, something I didn't know about in previous episodes with abandoned puppies. We would take the puppies and we would find this dog home. It would be our afternoons adventure. The boys were thrilled.
When we got back to the car there were only 2 puppies. The restaurateur confirmed that the one with the broken leg had died, which I wasn't surprised about. So we found a box, put the puppies in the back, gave them some bread (all I had in the car), and set off. They were as good as gold. Not a whine, cry or whimper. Up the hills we went pursuing leads, on tracks which were definitely intended for a 4x4 and our Ford Mondeo estate was skidding around all over the place. I was rather scared (driving is not my forte) but in the end encouraged on by my 2 Lewis Hamiltons in the back, we crawled up a hill and there it was. The dog home for Tuzla. Battersea Dogs Home it was not. But it was a dog home and it was somewhere that these puppies might be cared for*.
I found the owner who was not keen. The home is for adult dogs only. For a moment I started to panic. I'd taken on these puppies, there was no way I could abandon them now. But they obviously had an element of German Shepherd in them and were going to be big dogs. Adopting 2 strays would not be a way to make my life easier. I have heard incidences of people adopting a Bosnian stray and for it to be a real success. But on the other hand a friend of mine took on a puppy from Sarajevo and he what could be termed a real handful, chases and kills chickens, sheep, cats, anything that moves. No, I really couldn't take on any more dogs.
With a combination of deliberate non-understanding of the I will not take these dogs phrases, consistent presenting of these two tiny, shivering, adorable pups and repeating the story that they had been thrown out of the car, as well as promises to get in touch with a journalist friend in Tuzla to see if we could get some more exposure for the shelter, I persuaded her to take them.
I'm going to head back up there on Sunday to take some food for the dogs. It will be a drop in the ocean, there are at least 350 dogs there, but every little helps. She told me she has very little help, very little money and doesn't know what to do. This being Bosnia I've heard other stories from other people including that she had a link with a Dutch organisation who gave money but it disappeared. Certainly, the shelter is a long way off the standards that would be required to call it humane. But it is there, and that is a whole lot better for these 350 dogs and 2 puppies than facing the hunters.
*Adam over at Balkan File had a post recently including some pictures about a similar dog home just outside of Belgrade in Serbia. There he gives a contact for anyone wanting to contribute towards the running of the home. I'd love to do something for this dogs home, but there is obviously some back story that I'm unaware of. If anyone has an idea about how to help please leave me a comment!