I left Barcelona with my three dogs to a little mountain village over 500km away in La Rioja, the North of Spain, to have some quality time together. To be wild. To lose ourselves on those mountains. That was the end of March this year (2018).
Hiking is what we do during most of the day so it is always good when villagers tell you paths you didn’t know. That is how we ended where Opis and Mori lived.
The dogs and I had had a great hiking day and we were quite tired, when passing through an area new for us two dogs started barking like crazy. They were chained up at the door of a mountain hut where people used to keep their sheep or goats. I felt sorry for disturbing them and hurried my dogs and went home.
They could be working dogs and maybe they don’t have a great life but I have seen very happy healthy sheep dogs these days. They spend their days free on the mountain with the animals and then get chained up when the animals are locked away to protect them.
Next time we went through there they were chained there, and the next one, and the next one… “Something is weird” I thought. I moved closer to them, one desperate for some love and the other one didn’t let me get close at all. They were incredibly skinny. One had her chain inside her neck with an open wound; the other one had it so tight that couldn’t breath properly. They had a big bucket with water with mold and larvae in it. And such short chains that they could not even touch each other, of course to not get tangled. That was all.
The situation of those poor dogs was not ok so I started asking around for some information to the villagers, as I didn’t know anything in fact more than what I did see, and also try to find who the owners were.
I started feeding them, spending time there with them even reading to them. I knew I was going to get them out of there, it was just a matter of time, and being used to humans was going to increase their chance of a new life.
My worst nightmare became real. They belonged to an (very) old couple and they were their sheep dogs. They used to be wild on the mountains protecting the sheep from wild animals like wolves with the man, the shepherd. The couple sold the sheep years ago and kept the dogs. “You know, they were very good working dogs, helped us so much, I couldn’t kill them” said the old man to me. They were mother and daughter and their names were Opis and Mori.
I know it can be difficult for a lot to understand, but I realized the owners didn’t know better. These people survived on these mountains and that was a total win for them. And so were the dogs.
The dogs were not protecting anything anymore and had no more function for them, that was something good. I asked the old man to give me the dogs and they agreed to give me one because when the family comes to visit maybe they would like to spend some time with her, specially the granddaughter.
Of course I was not going to leave one there so it broke my heart but I knew I had to have patience and said no.
I messaged the granddaughter. She didn’t really care about the dogs and said the family was going to think about it and was going to get back to me with the decision.
I had to find a shelter for them, and do you know how difficult that is in Spain? Shelters here are already overloaded with dogs. In Spain, there are over 7 millions dogs registered. Can you image how many in total? Every year, there are over 150000 abandoned dogs. There is literally no space for all of them. I called to every shelter I knew, sent videos to friends to please help me, everything I could think of I did. All the shelters said NO that that was not their area, or they were too full. One said yes, but if they didn’t find a home in few weeks they were going to be put to sleep. Hell no! Thankfully, the amazing Protectora Bcn said yes, even though it was not their area they wanted to give them the chance they deserved.
We had space for them. Now it was patience time.
I had to return to Barcelona. That was the hardest thing ever. But I knew I was coming back for them at some point.
Over two months later, one Wednesday night (9th July) I received a message from the granddaughter. “We will give you the dogs” she said. I thought it was a real joke. Was it real? I called the shelter, went to collect muzzles, harnesses and leashes, went to buy some medications as I thought I was going to need for the wounds and some dog soap. Friday morning, 11th, we were driving to the mountains to get them.
I had such a bad feeling. I didn’t want to get too excited in case they were going to change their mind at last moment.
And, besides, how were we going to do it? We had to have them in our house, bath them, and put them car and drive for over 5 hours. All new for them and also the daughter never let me get close to her and always tried to bite me.
We had arranged to meet the old man and we arrived before time to the hut. So nervous. The old man came right on time. He unchained the two dogs and put them on the leashes I gave him.
The dogs started kissing each other frantically. The man kept saying one thing, “please look after them”. I promised him. We handed the dogs over and started walking away from the hut. Couldn’t believe it! It had happened! I had the dogs! I HAD THE DOGS!
We cut their ropes from around their neck, fed them and after some relaxing time together, they had to be always together, we bathed them. No problem at all. We did not use even once a muzzle on either of them. Can you believe it? The daughter changed the second the old man said bye to her. She trusted.
I knew they were not going to be on those mountains again so decided to go for a hike. When we arrived to my favorite spot I dropped the leashes off. As soon I did that I realized how crazy that was. But they didn’t move, not even 1m. They cuddled each other while I was sitting not far from them enjoying the sunset. Trying to keep that image in my heart forever. As soon the light started to disappear we hiked down.
Having them inside a house for 2 days was total crazy. Opis and Mori were in survivor mode. They jumped on the table, on the washing machine, ate raw pasta from the cover, even tried to eat my phone. They didn’t know how to go up the stairs or walk on the tiles and running scared at every noise. They just needed time.
The next day we drove to Barcelona. Their first time in a car, with strangers, and they slept the whole 5h. Together, of course.
We dropped them at the shelter, Protectora Bcn, and that was a hard time. Of course I knew for those dogs to live in the shelter was already a total win, but it was heartbreaking. Not knowing when they were going to be adopted? Also, they are not little dogs and in Barcelona we normally live in flats so the possibilities of them getting adopted together I knew was small. I had to really force myself to not think about it, and think they were going to need that time to recover from their muscular dystrophy both had for being chained too long, gaining weight, getting spayed…
“Have they been adopted?”, “Now?”, “What about now?”… and like this.
Around a month later, I received a call from the shelter. I here is when I cried. The best news, they had been adopted and together by a young couple who lived in Mallorca (so put them on a plane!!!) and when I heard about their new owners story, I knew they had given Opis and Mori the life they deserved. Beautiful house where they can run freely, with more dogs, full of love, allowed everywhere even on the couches. Can you believe it? Doesn’t it sound too awesome to be true?
Fairy tales exist. When you do your absolutely best, the universe gives it back, that is what I believe.
Just one person has so much power. The power to change a reality, the only thing that a person needs is to really believe it can be done. While my 2 months at the village, people kept saying to me “Why are you feeding the, they are not your problem”, or “Very nice what you are trying to do but you won’t change anything” or “Be careful you can put yourself in a very tricky situation”. I knew I could change their lives. That was all that mattered to me. I was not going to look away when there was another side that was more beautiful.
Watch this story life with the amazing video The Dodo made!
Hope it made your day brighter, share their amazing story to the world and follow us on @nomad.dog for more adventures and always love to everyone!