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Dogs In Brazil

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Our Story

                                       Our Story

There are many reasons why a person becomes a dog rescuer. For me it was a necessity and even though I rescued many dogs I never considered my self a rescuer until recently. It was a way of life without a label it was something that just had to be done. It all started with a German shepherd dog called Harry in Copacabana Brazil in 2002. Harry was the real founder of Dogs in Brazil and he lives on through our work. We traversed a long and difficult road to reach the crossroads where we now stand. We are on the verge of getting Charity status and hoping to expand our mission to help so many more animals. (We received charity status in 2012).

We do not believe that animals should be killed because they are homeless and never will. We want everyone to see that humans have lost their way and forgotten that each and every life is precious and that all non kill rescue groups who engage in rescue at grass roots level with hands on experience should be supported, not just the larger well known charities some of whom do not have non kill policies.

We moved from the city to a rural area and could not help but notice the appallingly, sad conditions that many of the strays were in. Many were dying and abused, so we began to help where we could.  I found it impossible to walk past a dying dog like so many of the population here. There are so many street dogs that to many people they are as significant as a tree or parked car. They mean nothing to so many because those many don’t bother to get to know them, feed them, or spare them a moment to pet them. To a dog these things count and they don’t forget. Each dog would tell you if he could, that we are all different. That I have my own personality, I suffer when I am hungry, sad, and sick. I laugh when I am happy and I love without condition. The expressions on their faces and their body language tell you all of this, if you bother to look.

As each dog came in we built a new kennel and had quite a few living in the house. I now have thirteen in the house and twenty one outside at the moment. There have been times when we have had more. We saved many from death and felt an extreme self satisfaction when we did. We spent a decade doing this as word got around people would come to the gate with sick and dying dogs, puppies would be abandoned in cardboard boxes outside for us to find. We never ever turned a dog away from our door. The puppies we would clean up feed and vaccinate and then look for people to adopt them, sometimes locally and sometimes in Rio itself.

Then suddenly on January 12th 2011 our lives changed forever and our emotions and strength were stretched to the limit. Brazil was hit by the biggest ever natural disaster right where we lived. We woke up and watched the scene unfold as though it were a TV show. It all seemed so unreal. Just like a news report except that we were now positioned in the middle of the disaster.  It had been raining heavily for days, which was quite normal during the rainy season. Then we had twenty four hours of the heaviest rain I had seen in my life. It made a humming sound as it battered the roof and ground. Houses started to fall off hillsides and the river filled to bursting point. I took pictures of the river the night before little knowing the scale of the tragedy that was about to occur.

It didn't stop and that morning when we saw the devastation I immediately began contacting International Aid agencies for help with all the displaced and wounded animals. I had a blog and still do at http://www.janeiro-emmy.blogspot.com  I put out an SOS to the world as we all waited for help to arrive. We heard about communities that were marooned and had no way out except by helicopter some waited days and days besides the buried bodies of love ones for assistance to arrive. Late on the second day helicopters appeared and began circling overhead. By then we were already on the road armed with dog food and anything we thought might be useful.

We saw animals caked in mud, dogs, cats and even a tiny piglet as we tried to navigate around the landscape that had been torn apart and changed forever. Most bridges were broken or swept away completely. We made our way to a place called Agua Claras and saw devastation; houses destroyed completely with the corpses still there buried in the mud. We heard what we thought was a dog crying in one house that was only half 


The smell of putrid flesh was strong as the sun beamed down cruelly onto the broken lives of so many. We searched and searched, but couldn't find anything.  The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming as we saw the debris of people’s lives. I even saw someone’s I.D card and wallet still with credit cards and money strewn in the wreckage amid personal items. The inhabitants had all died, swept away in a torrent of water and obviously someone was still dead under the rubble. Many dogs died as they were chained and couldn't escape perhaps it was a dead dog we could smell. I guess we will never know.  The house below had two dogs dead under it. They were chained.

This particular disaster killed in three cruel ways drowning by water, crushed by landslides, or drowning and crushed by mud. Nature had shown no mercy to humans or animals. We saw bodies being dug out of the mud and being loaded into waiting cars. We wanted to get to Sao Jose where we knew a vet was rescuing animals and needed food badly. All the shops had lost their stock due to the flooding, so dog and cat food were in short supply in the entire area as was human food. Our local supermarket had suffered with over a meter of water damaging almost all of the goods. Transport trucks could not enter the area due to the roads being blocked still. It was utter chaos and the bodies were appearing everywhere as the water level diminished. I saw dead horses, dogs, and humans, all wearing the mud colored cloak of death.  These images stay imprinted into your memory forever. We crossed a broken bridge and detoured miles to get into Sao Jose with the dog food that we were carrying in our small pick up.

When we arrived at Sao Jose we found an organized animal rescue operation going on. There were several sad cases, but in general everything was under control. The next day we went to another town nearby called Teresopolis. Here we found chaos as there were so many animal victims. We reported back to the International Animal disaster agencies and sent photos of the tragic position there. The animals were hurt, sick, some had e maggot infested wounds as they had been a few days without treatment.  The weather was scorching hot and they were extremely stressed in the warehouse that had been rapidly filled with the victims. As I entered I began to shake. It was an incomprehensible sight. I held back tears as we spoke to the lady trying her best to help all these animals. There were many more still out there and many still stuck in mud unable to free themselves. Many horses and larger animals died I this manner. My husband assisted with search and rescue.

We immediately volunteered to help and urged the International agencies to get there as fast as they could. Unfortunately it took five weeks for aid to arrive for animals due to visa problems for the volunteers.   The first weeks after the disaster were profound. My husband did search and rescue and I helped as much as I could even though we had our own shelter and animals to look after as well. We were lucky. Physically our dogs and our property escaped harm. The water never reached us and the landslides missed us. We subsequently lost our business due to the cancellation of the tourist season, which was just about to start. Nobody would be visiting the area for fun. There were mass burials going on and huge machines digging out mud for the next few months. The entire infra structure of the area had taken a pounding and was unable to function as normal. We closed our business, which relied heavily on the tourist trade and subsequently went broke. Unable to pay the loan taken to open our business we also lost our house to the bank. We now live in rented accommodation. 

We never really thought much about our financial situation whilst the rescue attempts were going on. We just marched on doing what we could. Somehow in these situations you go into auto pilot and act like a machine doing what you have to. There is no place for crying or emotional outbursts. You just have to keep going. We saw a dog with half a face, the other half eaten by maggots including his eye. As he was being bathed to clean off the mud he wagged his tail. We saw another dog whose tail dropped off and one whose leg dropped off. We helped inside the disaster victim shelter and many dogs and puppies with pneumonia, distemper, and injuries as they died. More and more arrived daily. I managed to get a vet to help out four days a week in the shelter. We travelled there daily for quite a while until the worst was over. We adopted an old and crippled dog who had lost her entire human family in the disaster she too was found buried in mud.

Nicki looks stressed and sad here.  You can tell a human what happened but you cannot explain to a dog. They were shocked and stressed and many missing their owners and wondering why they were there. Nicki had a terrible look of stress on her face. Up until today she can’t stand thunder, lightning or rain.  Nowadays she is a different dog. She is happy and relaxed. I don’t know if she ever thinks about her dead family, but she has bonded well and gives me enthusiastic kisses.

The activity gradually came to an end several months later and we went back to concentrating on our own rescue shelter, which by this time was full. We had puppies and twenty 21 adult dogs at the time and not a cent in the world. We became dependent on animal lovers globally and decided that we were so far involved with rescue that the time was right to forget everything else and just follow our hearts and dedicate ourselves to rescue full time. We decided to become a registered charity. There was never any question of returning to my native country and abandoning the dogs I had saved here. I couldn't do it. During the whole disaster and all of my years in rescue not one dog has ever been euthanized just because it didn't have a home. No Kill is the only way to go for shelters. The problem of over population has to be resolved in some other way.
I think support should be given by foundations and organizations to all those that can prove they are doing the job. It is costly and time consuming to set up a registered charity and we only managed it because of the kindness of a donor who believed in us. We don’t know yet what kind of difference it will make. Hopefully we will be able to make an impact on the homeless and abandoned dogs and animals in the area. Hopefully we will be able to educate the young to respect all living creatures and more importantly we hope to alleviate suffering and diminish the street dog populations humanely by spay and neuter methods.

When I look at all the thirty five little faces in our home I know that we chose the right road. If, the disaster had not happened and we had our business then rescue would be something we always did, but not on a large scale. Dogs in Brazil as a registered charity rose out of the debris of Brazil’s greatest natural disaster. It’s time to act and it’s time to plan. We will be making a big difference to many more lives in the future.

Links featuring Dogs in Brazil.
Our Blogspot.  http://www.janeiro-emmy.blogspot.com

Care2 link for the story of an old dog we rescued just before the disaster

Kinship Circle Disaster Aid Notes. I took many of the pictures for them and Nicki’s story is down at the bottom. You will find several references to us here.

This is the link to a film made about the small group of people including myself and husband who helped save over two thousand dogs and other animals. The film has won several awards here. We both appear in the film as does Nicki our flood victim dog.

Interview with journalist

This is a rescue story of a puppy I found dying.

Article from the Examiner.

Another rescue  http://animalrescuechase.com/rescue_showcase/story.php?id=892

February 2015 update on "Our Story" We now have a permanent shelter. No more renting thanks to global animal lovers. We have 55 dogs here at the moment and adoption rate is rising.