#DogHeroes – The Association for Abandoned Animals, Malta

#DogHeroes is back again, this time focusing on a place much closer to home.

Last weekend was my second visit to the Association for Abandoned Animals in Marsa (otherwise known as the AAA). I went to volunteer, and I was at first struck by the shabbiness of the place. It’s old, tired, and in much need of TLC. Thankfully, a brand new state-of-the-art premises is only one month away.

What appealed to me about this place was the generosity and humility of the staff and other volunteers. There are no airs and graces, but there is politeness and genuine gratitude. Of the 80+ dogs currently in their care, they know them all by name and character.

The facilities may be basic, but the animals seem happy. In fact, a large number of the dogs are free to roam a fairly spacious yard and essentially have the run of the sanctuary, which I think is important for socialisation, as well as exercise. Unfortunately the current location is surrounded by construction, so taking the dogs for regular walks is simply not an option.

From hosing down cages and sifting through dirty bedding and being harassed by very boisterous puppies, I found the whole experience very rewarding, and urge anyone if they can, go and volunteer. Go and give something back.

But there was one moment that truly struck me about this place. It wasn’t the staff’s openness to share their experiences or the hard truths of what they do, it wasn’t even seven beautifully adorable pointer puppies. It was Andrew. The most docile, sweet and good natured dog I’ve ever seen. He’s old, you can tell from his lumbering gate, tired eyes and cracked nose, and in his eyes, there’s a kind of sadness. I don’t know anything of his history, and he knows nothing of me but what his nose tells him. Yet instantly, his tail wagged, his ears went up and he plodded over for all the cuddles he could wish for. If that’s not rewarding, I don’t know what is. He’s a true #DogHero.

Please pop over to their Facebook Page to Like, Share and make a Donation.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://lovinmalta.com/lifestyle/pets/maltas-adorable-abandoned-animals-have-found-a-new-sanctuary-but-theres-a-heartbreaking-catch

https://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20171221/community/help-gorg-get-better-this-christmas.666192

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#DogHeroes – Four-Legged Heroes

#DogHeroes is back for another addition, and this one’s a little bit different. This time, I’m going to share some of my favourite four-legged heroes.

From service dogs for the blind, the deaf, the disabled to bomb-sniffers, drug-busters, cancer seeking dogs and everything in between, dogs are more than just man’s best friend. Their intelligence and human intuition is second to none, and is the reason that dogs are able to take on such diverse roles far beyond that of the family pet.

The 9/11 Heroes

Of the almost 10,000 emergency service and rescue personnel that rushed to the aid of the World Trade Center attacks, 300 of them were dogs. Alongside their tireless handlers, Bretagne, Riley, Coby, Guinness, Apollo, Thunder and others went far beyond their normal line of duty, searching for both the deceased and survivors, working 12 hour shifts and pushing themselves to the absolute limit. Sadly, the last four-legged 9/11 hero Bretagne passed away in 2016, after enjoying her retirement until age 17.

Dog Hero 9/11 Dog
Image: smithsonianmag.com

Lucy – Better Than Lab Tests

Lucy simply wasn’t cut out for guide dog school, as her Labrador-Irish Water Spaniel drive to smell got in her way. Excitable and curious, her nose led her to distraction and eventually to the end of her guide dog career. However, her owners didn’t give up, and knew that they could put her skills to good use. Lucy became part of Medical Detection Dogs,  and for 7 years she trained, sniffing out various types of cancer from bladder cancer to kidney and prostate cancer. Her success rate is measured to be around 95% accurate, which is considered equal or better than many of the best laboratory tests. Way to go, Lucy.
Kelsey Wouldn’t Leave Her Owner’s Side

A trip to go and get firewood nearly ended in tragedy for Bob from Michigan. It was a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when he popped out to collect some logs, but fell and broke his neck, falling into the snow. With his nearest neighbour almost a kilometre away, Bob’s cries for help were pretty futile. But his Golden Retriever Kelsey found him, curled up on top of him and kept him warm overnight, licking him so he didn’t fall unconscious, and barking until help finally arrived. Bob and Kelsey are both now doing just fine.

Veterans

Dogs have probably been used in combat ever since we domesticated them. From sentries to scouts, dogs have been documented since 7th Century BC as leading the way in cavalry charges and battles. Dogs are known for their fearlesslness, and no doubt their close connection to humans made them highly suited for their role of leiutenant.

In the 16th Century the Conquistadors used the bulky breeds such as mastiffs to intimidate and subdue the native Americans.

In the First World War, the role of dogs was of critical importance, and canines were enlisted to carry messages across enemy lines (along with carrier pigeons) and struggle through the desperate front lines. It’s estimated that over 1 million dogs died alongside the human casualties, but their bravery and assistance was greatly revered.

More recently, a Belgian Malinois was on the team of Operation Neptune Spear, that successfully assassinated Osama bin Laden.

Image result for dogs in war
Image: theatlantic.com

Whether it is ethical to use dogs in warfare is another matter, and one I won’t go in to here. The use of millions of dogs, horses, pigeons, donkeys and others was vital in ending (and probably starting) many of history’s great wars. Perhaps with improvements in Drones and other technology, such use of animals will be in decline.

What Is #DogHeroes?

#DogHeroes – highlighting the tireless work of dedicated individuals, groups and charities who rescue and rehabilitate dogs, and showcasing the difference that they make, very often relying on their own pocket and the donations of animal lovers like ourselves. Be aware, read the stories, if you see an abandoned or injured dog, pick it up, and if you can’t, give it what you can and pick up the phone. More importantly, understand that even the smallest donation can go a long way.

You can also help by sharing your own #DogHeroes. Use the hashtag, please! Share this blog, nominate your own heroes in the comments, and feel free to talk about this on social media. If you know a worthy cause, shout about it. If you adopted a senior dog, share your story. And stay tuned for the next blog where I’ll introduce the next #DogHero.

Additional reading:

https://edition.cnn.com/2015/11/20/health/cancer-smelling-dogs/index.html

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/15/hero-dog-saves-life-freezing-owner-broke-neck-fall/