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Dogs in Brazil: Pluto the Ugly Puppy

April is Prevention to Cruelty to Animals Month. This seemed the ideal time to reflect on the subject with this first person essay about the Dogs in Brazil from our guest author, Janice Cabral. Her story below shares with us how her compassion for animals, trumps her desire for a leisurely new life in warm South America. She demonstrates clearly how to give fearlessly. I hope you will be inspired by her story and sweet Pluto, the ugly puppy.

In November of 2001 my husband and I left London, England to live in Brazil. We spent many cold and rainy English days imagining our new life lazing by the pool sipping ice cold Caipirinhas [Brazil's national cocktail] in the sun. Of course, nothing ever turns out the way we plan it. We are still here today. We have seventeen abandoned dogs, no swimming pool and we are financially crippled. Life is still very satisfying though and perhaps this desired vision of life was always a bit superficial to say the least.

We started off by adopting a German Shepherd that some friends of ours found wandering amid the traffic in Copacabana. We called him 'Harry'. He arrived very thin, almost bald with mange and too weak to lift his leg to pee. We soon got him better. Then we decided he needed a female friend, along came 'Misty', a traumatized street puppy who still suffers from all sorts of problems until today. Three veterinarians advised me to euthanize her because she could become dangerous. I obstinately refused and she has never bitten us.

We intended to close our little family there. Mom, Dad and two ‘children’ seemed perfect. There was one problem though; we had eyes. I often wish there were blinkers for humans because when I see a hopeless dying animal it is impossible for me to turn my back. I have even brought animals home to die with dignity. Knowing I could not save them. I have also euthanized dogs I have found in the streets suffering to the limit. One was a poisoned dog that convulsed all the way to the vet clinic and bit his tongue off in the back of my car. There was absolutely no hope. You never forget each case, and each face, and all the different ways they suffer.

"Ugly" puppy Pluto 'Pluto' was one little Puppy that I brought home to die. I was returning from the vet clinic with a brown Labrador, she is still here with us, when I saw what looked like a dead rat as I drove across a speed hump. The body was limp and its head was quite near the traffic flow. I had just collected 'Cassie' the brown Labrador from her surgery for dysplasia. I stopped the car mostly out of curiosity never imagining this could be a dog. To my horror it was a tiny dog and he was not able to move or walk. He moved his little eyes, so I picked him up. He was covered in slime as though he had fallen into a sewer and he smelt the same way. He was limp but alive.

As I started to examine him on the side walk an old man told me that the rest of his family were dead in a bin liner nearby. I looked in and saw them all dead including the mother. Somehow this one survived and crawled out to the edge of the sidewalk just before he collapsed. Hundreds of people walked by that day, but nobody cared. All too caught up in their own lives.

I returned to the veterinarian with him. The veterinarian examined him. He had: many bald patches, a huge edema under his throat, and he had lost the use of his back legs all due to the effects of malnutrition. He had sickness and diarrhoea, worms, and to top it all he was so young he did not have any teeth. His body temperature was very low and the vet’s conclusion was that he was in the process of dying. He did not even charge me for the consultation that day because it seemed such a hopeless case.

I have always been a fighter, so I took him home and thought well, if he dies he will die warm, if not then where the hell am I going to put another dog and how can I tell my husband there is one more mouth to feed? I nursed him kept him warm with bottles and lamps, I fed him with a syringe, I gave him salt, sugar, and water in a bottle, for three days he just slept, pooped, and vomited. After three days he was still with us. He still smelt terrible but he was showing signs of improvement. He vomited worms and had to be de-wormed seven times before he was cured of worms. After a week he rose to his feet and squeaked. It was a bit like a resurrection something coming back from the dead. He was one of the ugliest puppies I have ever seen. This picture was taken about a month after he arrived his hair had begun to grow.

Happy Pluto A few weeks later he had his teeth and his hair had begun to grow back. He began to look like a dog again. The edema diminished and he started to do puppy things. It was one of the most rewarding experiences during my rescue years. He is still here with us and lives with a black female mix called ‘Gracie’. He is one of the most affectionate and accident prone dogs here. That’s another story though.

There have been a lot of happy and rewarding rescues and some terribly sad ones. Pluto is one of my favourites. We now have seventeen rescue dogs here and we are in the process of forming an ONG which is a non profit charity here. We are working with Dr Bruno our vet, who volunteered during the floods along with us, for weeks saving animal’s lives. He will be our technical director.

We have been trying to raise funds recently but have found it difficult as we are not any kind of registered charity. This month alone we have two males to neuter, two cases of Ehrlichiosis, three or four cysts for biopsy and quite a few dogs with dental needs. Kennels are now nearly ten years old and need maintenance and we also need to build two new kennels. We think that as a registered charity we may be able to raise more money.

We actually, unlike large shelters, have virtually no administration costs. Our biggest expense is paying our mortgage on the property, then vet bills, food etc. Occasionally I pay somebody if nobody can help here and I have to go out. All the dogs in kennels here come out to play in the garden at least three times a day. Five dogs live in the house as well. They are all loved like family pets and respond to that love. You open a kennel door and they leap up and lick your face. This is my reward in life. He grew into a very handsome fellow. He always appears to be wearing a white tie.

My name is Janice Cabral and I have lived in Brazil ten years. I am originally English. I have spent most of this time rescuing, feeding and treating street dogs around where I live. I just cannot resist the sad empty eyes of a distressed dog waiting to be illuminated with love. When you save them they form such a very special bond. I believe they can spot a dog rescuer from miles off.

CALL TO ACTION:  You can help Janice in her quest to change the lives of the dogs in Brazil. Given the governmental paperwork, Janice's non-profit will likely be official sometime this summer. Check back with her in July.  In the meantime, go to her website Dogs in Brazil or use the ChipIn widget below. Please show her some support through your words, actions and resources.

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