It have been almost eight months since I have been living here and a half of my staying was fulfilled by the presence of my dog Molly, The Gipsy Princess. You might read her story and think it is not that extraordinary, and I would agree, but still like to share it.
It was February when I came here with suitcases full of hopes, expectations and dreams to work in a local dog shelter, independently of my project. Soon I realized that the life for dogs and cats here is not what I expected or wanted to face. I learned soon that beating accompanied with screaming instead of petting, being chained all day long, wandering around the streets abandoned are usual things which dogs in Bulgaria are facing in their daily life. The sad reality really shocked me and I was eager to help in a local dog shelter, which I soon realized it was not possible.
Somehow I wanted to change the situation or help as much as I could so when my boss asked me to take a dog from the village which was recently chained, for walks, I agreed without thinking twice. When I first met Molly in the second half of February, she was around 7 months old puppy, full of energy and potential to be a great dog, but she was missing somebody to understand her or give her attention and help her to get rid of the huge amount of energy she had. As I got there she went crazy as she basically did it with everybody who noticed her and came to her, started to jump and bite while playing and at the same time trying to get off the 2 meters long chain she was condemned to. The first walk with her was pretty short and extremely exhausting as she was pulling the chain and barking to all moving stuff around us. Obviously she suffered the lack of education and socialization which was very bed combination with the amount of accumulated energy she got during her two months on the chain. Maybe for somebody doesn't sound that bad (for me is unacceptable), but for her was the worst as she is a mix of a hunting dog with extra amount of energy and need to run in the forest and explore it.
The second walk happened in the forest and I immediately saw the difference in her behavior. Forest seemed to be her place, her shelter, she felt much calmer and as consequence more obedient. On the next walk I tried to release her from the chain to see what would happen and the result was shocking. She was literally following us like a shadow all way long. Maybe because she was not used to the area and she was afraid or she just felt freedom without a leash and no need to escape. I was pretty sure that this was what she needed. Freedom. That's why I decided to take her from her former family and took her to our place. We kept her inside for first two weeks and it seemed impossible to calm her down, she was jumping, biting and destroying everything. I didn't want to lose hope and I wanted to give her more time, but time was not on our side as our landlord decided that house is for humans and not for dogs (which is very common Bulgarian village mentality about pets). I had to put her outside, of course on the chain, because our garden doesn't have a fence and she would escape leaving her untied. This was shattering/destructive for her as I knew it would be. She needed not just freedom from chain but also a lot of attention, time dedicated to her education and feeling to belong. She had a strong wish and necessity of being in a human company but all these was very hard to achieve if she couldn't be inside with me. I also had to work every day till at least 17 o'clock, so she spent the majority of the days alone and abandoned like before. It was devastating for her and for me because I felt that I couldn't give her what she needed and I was getting stressed with every day more and sick of desire to find her a new, safe and kind home. The only thing I could give to her were two walks per day and regular meals which she was missing before. One of her "bad habits" was also greediness.
With time she got better of course, even the circumstances were not perfect. We always went for a walk to the forest as in the streets there were too many stressful things we could meet (people, other dogs and cars - she greeted all of them with very loud barking and jumping, desiring to run after them). In the forest she really felt relaxed, she was biting and jumping less, in general she was exploring, smelling and running after birds and other animals which showed on her very strong instinct corresponding to hunting dogs. I was happy that she progressed, I managed to teach her the basic things, like to seat down, to lay down, to wait for her food (it didn't really work) or to come to me when I called her. Of course it didn't always work, it depended on her concentration and distractions around her. We were like this for few months, I had ups and downs, I felt anxious and a bad person because I felt I wasn't giving her the most of me, I felt she needed me and somehow I was not there for her. Which was understandable, I couldn't because of work, I was also travelling which was another source of stress just thinking who will take care of her during the weekend. I was really stressed and sad about the situation and I think she felt my worries which of course influenced in her. I couldn't manage the situation anymore and I was thinking to give her to the dog shelter where I was pretty sure they would euthanize her (that’s why I really didn't want to do it).
Than the month of July came and I had some visits from Slovenia. A friend which already came in May and was thinking to take her, decided the last minute to do it in July when she came for the second time. Of course everything was last minute, we didn't have any documents or vaccinations or anything done, so it was a long and busy weekend. Somehow I managed to take care of everything (we bought the cage the day of the departure) and on the 26th of July Molly finally headed to her forever home (she didn't know back than that it will be forever as my friend wanted to try to find her another home).
She became a room-mate of two another dogs which she had to learn to tolerate and respect, I think she is almost there. Somehow she didn't really respect people's or dogs' comfort zone and she invaded it many times, which everybody were not happy about. She progressed a lot since then, just taking her off the chain and letting her being around people constantly, have led to a miracle. With the big effort and strong will of my friend she stopped to bark at the cars and people, she still has some issues with respecting the other dogs though. Now they are attending a training, so soon she will become a dog everybody would die for 🙂 I am dying of the desire to see her, but at the same time I am afraid that I will want to take her back. Here goes her facebook page where you can find crazy videos and proofs about her amazing progress.
This is a sad story with a very happy ending, but many dogs from here (Shipka or Bulgaria in general) don't have the luck, Molly had. Therefore is very important to spread the awareness about stories similar to this one and someday maybe people will open their eyes and see that dogs as cats or any other animals are living creatures which need and deserve respect, care and appropriate amount of time. If they are not wiling to give these things to the animal, they should really reconsider their decision of having one.