Written by Susie Alexander, WaHF adopter.
As a Wild at Heart adopter, I am huge believer in everything this amazing charity stands for. Ever since I adopted my little Luna from Bosnia in October 2015, I have wanted to do ‘more’ to help support the charity. It was on my daily commute to work that I decided to listen to my heart and to launch a fundraising campaign in aid of the Bosnian dog projects. It felt like a rather wild idea at first, but after speaking with the wonderful team at WaHF, it looked like this could really happen.
After many months of fundraising, I travelled to Bosnia in April for four days with the Wild at Heart Foundation. The aim of the trip was to experience firsthand the reality of life for dogs in Bosnia, to take on-board what we learned and to use our funds in the best way possible.
My trip to Bosnia was both emotionally and physically challenging, but I have learned a lot in terms of how the fostering and adoption process works, as well as coming to a greater understanding of the root causes of the street dog problem. Whilst in Mostar, we teamed up with one of the Wild at Heart Foundation's partner projects, Animals we Care Mostar. We visited some of the local foster homes where people with big hearts make space for dogs in need, providing them with shelter, a nutritious meal and helping them gain trust in people again. The importance of the foster homes cannot be underestimated and I was amazed at the generosity of the people involved. When a dog is in foster care, it is much easier for him to find his forever home and to come to the attention of charities like the Wild at Heart Foundation. Sadly, all of the foster homes we visited were almost full, resulting in many dogs having to fend for themselves on the dangerous streets. Lack of neutering and education, combined with a desperately sad disregard for animals and their welfare, was made particularly evident to me when we found a litter of six tiny puppies and their mother. They had been abandoned in a derelict building filled with garbage. The puppies were physically shaking and in urgent need of vaccinations and nutrition. This made me think of my own little dog, Luna who was abandoned during pregnancy. Luckily, Luna was cared for by a wonderful local girl called Maja who fostered Luna prior to adoption.
The following day, we drove three hours to Sarajevo and then a further 50km to the Praca public shelter which houses around 500 street dogs. For me, as a dog lover, the sights I saw here are hard to erase from my mind. I found it hard to describe to people back home the horrors of what we had seen. Dogs were living in housing blocks that conjured images of a concentration camp for dogs, where they lived in cages which were bare and dark. The dogs were living amongst faeces, were visibly distressed and showed signs of ill health with infections in their skin, eyes and ears. Some of the dogs approached us as we walked past their cages and leaned against the wire enclosures as we stroked them; others visibly cowered at our presence and would hide at the back of their cages. It broke my heart to spend time stroking a dog and then to have him start whining and crying when I moved away. It was the way they looked at me with their sad eyes that cast a lasting effect on my soul. It was equally harrowing to see the fear present in a lot of the dogs. As we approached, they visibly shrank back into the dark corners of their cages, quite obviously traumatised from their previous encounters with people. Thankfully, there are foster homes in Sarajevo and a visit to them was certainly welcome after my experience at the shelter. What continues to pain me, however, is the plight of those still in the shelter, some of whom were older souls, who just wanted someone to stroke them and talk to them. It's these dogs that continue to haunt me and live on in my mind and in my heart.
After what felt like such overwhelming despair, I have been uplifted by the hope and progress that has been made as a result of our trip. As many of you will know, Eve and Alicia are returning to the Praca shelter in June to help alleviate the suffering of each dog. To read the Wild at Heart Foundation’s Bosnia action plan gladdened my heart and I trust totally in its success.
It has been my privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside the Wild at Heart Foundation for a cause I am truly passionate about. I hope to make it a life long connection.
“Each time someone stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others… he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope.” – Robert Kennedy
"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness". – Desmond Tutu