August 26 is International Dog Day. The special day was started by rescue animal advocate Colleen Paige back in 2004 when she proposed the first National Dog Day in the US. Since then, it's taken off to become something many pet parents recognise around the world.
So, in honour of our canine buddies, we talk to some UAE residents who share the stories of how their rescue dogs changed their lives.
‘She stole our hearts the second we met her’
Letty was seemingly left to die. The young pup was rescued by Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain after being found at just two months old with open wounds on her head, most likely from having been beaten.
Due to the blunt force trauma to her head, Letty was diagnosed with vestibular syndrome which causes an imbalance in motor functions. This meant she could not walk very well and would fall over a lot. She is also deaf in one ear due to an untreated infection before she was found.
“We adopted Letty when she was four months old and she has truly thrived since then. Letty now absolutely loves to run around and make friends, and is much sturdier on her legs,” says Sabrina Seikaly. “She still falls over and bumps into things but is completely unbothered! She is so friendly and sweet, and seems to have no recollection of what happened to her, which is such a blessing. She has two parents who absolutely love her to bits and she stole our hearts from the second we met her.”
Even though she still has some problems with her disability, Seikaly has been to countless vets to try and get more insight into her brain damage.
“It is sadly going to be a long road to figuring it out. We recently even discovered that she can’t be spayed as she may not wake up from the anaesthesia. But we are absolutely determined to make her life as happy and special as she is,” she says.
Seikaly also mentions how inspiring Letty's journey has been. She and her partner followed her story on social media from the beginning.
“Letty is the light of our lives. She has shown us that no matter what you’ve gone through, you can overcome it and be happy. It has been amazing helping her grow from a frail, skinny puppy who couldn’t walk well to an adorable energetic thing that loves to run and chase her shadow. She’s the sweetest thing and she makes us happier every day.”
‘He gave more meaning to my life’
About four years ago, Kate Lindley adopted her German Shepherd, Swaidan, after he was rescued at six months old. He was five kilograms underweight and had a number of health issues when found including ehrlichia, giardia, and demodex. He also had urine burns on his stomach, his feet had hocks and he had almost no muscle in his back legs.
Swaidan was helped by Fatima Alz from the rescue organisation Para after they learnt that he was being kept in a crate that was too small for him on a farm where he was fed only on bread and rice.
"I cried the first time I saw him – he was in an awful state," Lindley says. However, she adds that over time he began to recover from and she was able to see a positive change in his behaviour: "He's more confident and happy – surprisingly he's always been a happy dog."
“He’s my world. He’s one of the reasons I fell in love with Shepherds and started Shepherd Rescue Arabia. He literally gave more meaning to my life,” she says.
‘They are family to me’
Sarah Brooks adopted her first dachshund Melong from Abu Dhabi's Cloud 9 Pet Hotel in 2015. He was rescued from a pet shop in Dubai and because of the amount of time he spent in a small cage, he suffered from a number of health issues.
“He has skeletal deformities to his feet, front legs and rib cage, along with skin issues from a pressure pad on his chest,” she says. “He had no muscle strength to walk. His feet are flat like paddles so he would scuff the top of his nails as he moved. His nails grew straight out not curved down so the nerve and blood is to the end which is another issue we have been dealing with.”
However, despite all the complications, she decided to adopt him anyway. She recalls how remarkably well he adjusted to a new life in a loving home.
“He fitted into home life very quickly and well, even living with cats harmoniously. The only challenges we have had is potty training as he never had it as a pup but it’s something we are still working on and I'm okay with that. We have good weeks and bad days."
She also later adopted a second rescue dachshund named Millie who was found dumped on the streets. Luckily, she didn't have as many health issues as Melong and the two currently get along wonderfully.
As for Brooks, she's grateful for all they joy they've brought into her life as well.
“I’m a single person living here, not into nights out so they give me companionship. I have had cats for a number of years and always wanted a dog. It’s a different kind of relationship. They understand your emotions and what's going on in the home, so they are supportive and caring when you need them,” she says.
“I have met different people and made friends through them and the Dachshund Group. I guess they also fill a maternal-type need for me. They are family to me.”
‘Having them makes life more positive’
After going on volunteer dog walks at the Stray Dogs Centre in Umm Al Quwain, Chardone Montgomery realised she wanted to adopt her own animal. She was looking forward to taking in a tri-pod dog (a dog with three legs), but there weren’t any left when she inquired. Instead, she asked for a puppy and picked out Loukita.
Loukita was rescued with her siblings and mother in a dangerous area. They lived behind a shack at a construction site where large trucks drove around. Even though there was an initial adjustment period, once she was in a home, Montgomery noted the changes she saw in Loukita's behaviour.
"She is the sweetest little girl ever. She used to bite everything in the house and eat everything she could find for the first few days. She has now stopped biting the things in our home and also absolutely loves her toys," Montgomery says. "She never really wanted to socialise with other doggies, only wanted her mummy (me), until we adopted our second dog."
After giving a home to Loukita, Montgomery went to visit the RAK Animal Shelter Centre. She went there and asked them for the dog that had been waiting the longest for a home and was presented with Bailey, who had been in the shelter for about six months. The moment she saw her, Bailey came running straight towards her and sat on her lap and that’s how Montgomery knew she was the one for her.
“She was so scared and stressed she didn't trust anyone here so we worked on her for couple of months until she became fine,” she said. “They both mean to world to me, honestly. I would not be the person I am today if it was not for them. Having them makes life more positive.”
She also has some advice for those looking to add a pet to the family.
“I would highly recommend everyone to adopt rather than shop. You’ll never get that experience of adopting a dog before you actually do adopt one. It’s amazing, taking a dog that’s been on the streets for six months, one year, two years – that feeling in your heart when you leave and you take them, it’s amazing.”
‘We all love him very much’
Husband and wife Craig and Ainslie Andrews adopted Wilson back in October 2017. The English Cocker Spaniel was found on a beach in Abu Dhabi by a kind man who wasn’t too sure of dogs. Wilson was later dropped to a rescue vet and Ainslie contacted and offered a foster home as they already had another English Cocker Spaniel.
It’s likely that Wilson had been dumped. The vet said he had probably been left there for more than a week since he was covered in ticks and his fur was matted. He was also extremely thin and needed to gain weight quickly.
“When we brought Wilson home, he was mute for more than weeks. He was very, very shy but also wanted to be close,” says Ainslie.
After taking him in, the couple slowly noticed how he started to open up.
“Now he is the most playful, confident and loving little dog, and the best little brother to Dug, the English Cocker Spaniel who was already a part of our family. His bark is extremely cute and very high pitched. It’s great to hear after thinking he was going to be quiet forever,” she says.
“Wilson is a cuddle monster and has to be the centre of attention at all times. In fact, he now howls when his brother gets attention instead of him. He’s incredible and we all love him very much.”
‘This baby dog became my newest housemate’
Back in March, just four days after stay-home measures started in Dubai, and two days after she was meant to fly to Thailand for six weeks, Kiera Doherty found herself driving to Ajman to rescue a puppy living on a date farm, where he’d been living outside for several weeks and crying throughout the night.
“At the time I was utterly convinced this was only temporary and I was just helping a charity out. My ideal foster candidate was an older dog looking for sofa naps and evening strolls,” she says. “Instead this three-month-old baby dog became my newest housemate. The other thing I knew for a fact: I absolutely did not want a dog long-term.”
However, five months later, she now has a new permanent housemate in Pepsi, who also shares the home with a bird, tortoise and rescue cat. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy getting him adjusted to a new life but he eventually settled himself.
"The first few weeks were certainly tough. Pepsi was used to being awake at night, and all night, and living outside. There were a lot of 3ams spent half sleeping on the sofa willing him to fall asleep. Despite being an outdoor pup, Pepsi settled in surprisingly quickly, very much enjoying the multiple beds, treats and toys I found myself buying, and lapping up attention from friends and family."
These days, she appreciates all that he's brought into her life even if she wasn't originally expecting it.
"Pepsi has fit into my life really well. In addition to being an incredible lockdown companion, I love being outdoors, hiking, walking, the beach, the desert, and he loves it too. If anything, I actually get to enjoy those things more and I can't wait for the weather to get better so we can carry on having adventures in the UAE."
'We can’t imagine life without her'
Belle was adopted by Lauren Wilson and her family from Al Mayya K9 rescue organisation in Fujairah in January. The animal organisation saved her and other dogs from abroad. Belle’s life started in a puppy mill, and she had to spend three months of recovery at the rescue organisation before she was well enough for adoption.
Initially, Belle was incredibly timid with humans, would cower and was too afraid to even take a treat from their hands. However, she was always comfortable with other dogs and seemed to fall in love with Wilson's dog Bonnie straight away and seemingly, the feeling was mutual.
"It took a lot of patience for us to earn her trust, we committed to the process of taking everything at her pace, and we feel Bonnie’s confidence around us showed Belle she had nothing to fear," Wilson says. "It took over two months for her to take a treat from my hand – it was such an amazing feeling! Now she is such an affectionate dog. It’s like she is making up for lost time. We make sure her life is full of fun and adventure and freedom to explore the UAE, which is the country that gave her her second chance."
These days, Wilson says her family are beyond grateful for getting a chance to adopt Belle.
"We can’t imagine life without her. We knew we wanted to get a second dog at some point, and volunteering at the ‘Big Adopt’ at Unleashed dog park that day really felt like fate, as soon as we saw her we just knew! She has completed our family – although never say never about rescuing more dogs."
'I quit my job to take care of her'
Kylie Durwood fell in love thanks on Instagram. She saw a post by Dr Omer Kutubi of Village Vet Veterinary Clinic in Ras Al Khaimah about a female chow chow that had been surrendered by her owner and was in poor health. The dog had been severely neglected and was underweight. She was also covered in mange and had a few open wounds.
Despite living in Dubai, Durwood was quick to drive to Ras Al Khaimah to meet the chow chow. Even though she had other rescue animals at home (including another dog and seven cats), she knew there was room for another. Naming her Charlee Boo Boo, she says it took about three months for her to adjust to being in their home.
“She didn’t know what toys were and there was lots of trips to the vet as she had very bad skin,” she says.
Despite initial hiccups, Charlee was able to settle in nicely. Durwood says she even quit her job to help look after her.
“Charlee has brought us so much joy, laughs and unconditional love,” she says. “She is our furchild who went from being very sad and scared to being a complete affectionate love bug who just loves her toys."