Guest Blogger, Ada Valencic (Bosnia’s Strays)
I don’t have a name. I am only one of those that no one cares about. One of those who belong to everyone and no one. One of those who never see a collar, leash or a fence, one of those who are never left home alone waiting for the owners to come from work. People say we are free, but this freedom comes with a high price. Our lives are tough and our freedom stories almost always end up tragically and too soon, either we get hit by a car or we fall asleep forever due to disease, exhaustion and hunger. I am one of those rare few that even gets this far.
I am 8 months old…
This is the beginning of a story I have written years back and won a first prize at a local short story competition. It is a story about my first rescue, a German Shepherd mix that way back in 2003 I brought home with me from my vacation in Sicily. I was 19 years old at the time and that was the first time I realized I could no longer just look away hoping there would be someone else to help her. There was nobody else. I was her only chance of life.
She has been with me through good and bad for the past 12 years. She has traveled half of Europe with me and while traveling through Bosnia, Serbia, Albania, Greece, Macedonia and seeing the horror there that I admit I had to look away countless times. Not for the lack of caring though but for fear of losing my own sanity. I wanted to do more than just save one life so 5 years back I rescued another German Shepherd mix from a local shelter. Still though, is this enough? Can I go to Greece on my annual vacation for the next 20, 30 years and just look away? I thought so, until about 6 months ago Beban came along and changed my life forever…
I was going through a local magazine when I stumbled upon a picture of a 4 months old puppy from Balkans. The photo was small, yet you could see something horrible has happened to him, his skin was missing on many parts of his body and his terrified eyes spoke volumes. I went on to read his story and was horrified. He was tied up by 4 drunk men, beaten by them, then they cut off all his fur and poured acid on him. His small body and all 4 paws were severely burned with acid and there was little chance for him to survive, let alone walk again.
I logged into Facebook for the first time in my life to find contacts on how to help him. After that it just went downhill for me. One link led to another and I found stories of dogs hanged by 11 year old kids, dogs dragged behind cars, dogs killed or mutilated with fire crackers, beaten to death, starved to death, dogs frozen to death. What have I been doing for the past 15 years? Where were my eyes during all those travels through western balkans? How in the world can I go on living seeing those horrible pictures, reading those horrible stories?
I fell into some sort of depression and no matter how hard I tried I didn’t see a way out. I felt disgusted with humans, with life, with myself and everyone around me. I have had my share of problems to deal with before but for the first time in my life I thought it’s all just meaningless. I really didn’t want to live anymore. Not with such pain and desperation I felt. It was the feeling of being completely powerless that was killing me. That fear of losing my own sanity proved to be right on the spot. I have lost it, it took me 3 weeks of crying, self hatred and solitude to be at a stage where I didn’t burst into tears every 2 hours. I went to seek help and understanding with rescuers who all had similar experiences and knew what I was going through. If it wouldn’t be for them I really am not sure where I would be at this time.
Since then I have read hundreds of sad and happy stories. I still cry, I still suffer. And I always will. But what doesn’t kill you truly does make you stronger. Despite occasional tears and depression and more or less constant pain and compassion I feel for all these poor abandoned dog souls…I am okay and I now know I will never turn away again for as long as I live.
I have educated myself regarding the situations in Balkans and dedicated my time to help a small but devoted group of local volunteers in Bosnia. To one of them I would trust with my life so I have no doubt my help and effort goes to the right person. This is my humble attempt to try and change something. I may not save the world but if I save a life of one dog that is the world to him.
What is our mission? Although it is proving to be difficult, we are trying to get to the bottom of the problem and focus on spay/neuter projects which in the long run is the only thing that can help resolve the terrible situation with stray dogs in Bosnia. I try to travel there English translation in Comments. We do however struggle with donations. Sometimes it’s hard to even get 25€ / month that we need to pay the rent for the land. Please do visit their Facebook page, have a look at our work and invite friends.
I saved the best for last. Remember Beban, the puppy with acid burns? He recovered completely and is happily adopted in my hometown. It is stories like this that despite all the horror keep me going.
– Ada Valencic
Dedicated to helping the strays of Bosnia with the help of donations and local volunteers