Lassie's journey

Published in About Animals

A little dog wandering around the centre of Jelsa, lost, bewildered and frightened, had no way of knowing how her luck was about to turn.

Gentle, appealing eyes Gentle, appealing eyes Photo: Vivian Grisogono

When a dog is abandoned in or near human settlements, there is no guarantee of what its ultimate fate will be. Will it survive and find a new, better life? That is our aim when we engage in dog rescue operations. There are procedures for helping stray and unwanted dogs, but the information is not widely publicized, except through organisations like ours.

Internet: Appeal for help

Wandering around Jelsa, a sorry sight.

A pitiful little waif was left to roam in Jelsa in April 2024, but few people who saw her knew what to do. The dog was in a very bad way. Skin and bones, with stunted, deformed hind legs, very nervous and very lost. She had obviously been badly neglected, most probably cruelly mistreated.

Stunted, bandy hind legs. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Saved by kindness

After a few days, a kindhearted lady took pity on her and moved the dog to a safe place. Zlatka had no real experience of dogs and indeed has a certain fear of them, but the state of this dog was not a sight she could bear. She asked for help via social media, before finding the details of Eco Hvar and contacting us on Thursday 18th April. We advised her that the first priority was to check whether the dog was microchipped, for which the Town Warden (Komunalni redar) has a chip reader. When it turned out that the dog had no chip, the official asked Zlatka if she could keep her overnight and she would be transferred to the dog shelter the following day.

Very hungry! Photo: Vivian Grisogono

What the law says

Later on Thursday we checked with the Bestie Animalis Centrum Shelter to see if the necessary arrangements had been made. This rescue shelter in Kaštel Sućurac operates to the highest standards and is the only registered shelter in the Split-Dalmatian County. Jelsa Municipality, like Stari Grad and Hvar Town, has an annual contract with the Bestie Foundation, in accordance with the Animal Protection Law, which states that every regional authority is bound by law to establish an animal rescue shelter housing at least 50 animals on its territory, and to participate in the shelter's running costs, with the participation of all the local authorities (Article 62, items 2 and 3 of the Animal Protection Law - Zakon o zaštiti životinja, NN 102/17, 32/19).

Wondering what happens next. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Unexpected hitches

Having discovered that no arrangements had been made, we contacted the Jelsa Town Warden on the Friday morning, to be told that the local vet had just read the dog's chip and found its owner. A quick call to Zlatka revealed that 'her' rescue dog had been with her all the time and had not been seen by the vet. Clearly a second dog had confused the issue! This second dog's story was rather strange: it had run off, and someone had tied it to a tree in a field, where it was found, after which the vet was able to restore it to its owner in a happy outcome.

Now it was time to organise the transfer of Zlatka's waif to the rescue shelter. We obtained a commitment from the Jelsa Municipality Administrator Ivica Keršić that the Council would pay for placing the dog in the shelter, subject to the Mayor's approval. To defray part of the cost, we agreed to take care of the travel costs and to transfer the dog personally. This is our normal procedure. The placement currently costs 550€ per dog. If that sounds expensive, just spare a moment to consider what that fee has to cover: you can get an idea from item 9 in our explanation Twelve good reasons for helping the Bestie Foundation. For orientation, sterilizations are mandatory: on Hvar prices start from 200€ - 250€ depending on the size of the dog, so the placement fee does not go far in a No-Kill shelter where dogs might stay for months or even years! As fewer than half the local authorities in the Split-Dalmatian County fulfil their legal obligation o support the Bestie Foundation financially, it is not surprising that covering costs for the shelter is a constant struggle.

What's going on? Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Weekend delay, a further complication

By the time all the necessary steps were completed, the earliest date for transferring the waif was the following Monday. As Zlatka was due to go away for the weekend, an alternative safe place had to be found for the waif. A temporary shelter in Stari Grad was only available until Sunday morning, so on Sunday afternoon, April 21st, she was transferred to Pitve. There, the next day, she met several new friends, Sara, Toma, Susanne and Hans, who all helped to take her to the car for the start of her journey to Split. Toma decided that her name should be Lassie and was delighted to learn that in Scottish parlance that means 'young girl', so it was a perfect fit.

Walking but limping. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Benefit from delay

It was overall a good thing that Lassie spent a few days on Hvar before embarking on the next stage of her journey. She made visible progress physically through receiving regular, good quality meals. From being fearful of humans at first, she quickly learned that the people around her now wished her well and were intent on helping her. She responded to each new contact with evident trust and warmth. At the same time, changing places and meeting different people meant that she did not become too attached to a single person, which would probably have caused her grief when she had to leave.

Asleep on the ferry. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Journey to Split

As expected, Lassie was a perfect passenger on the back seat of the car, and good as gold on the ferry ride to Split, sleeping peacefully almost all the way.

Perfect car passenger. Photo: Zvonimir Filipović

In Split harbour we were met by Zvonimir Filipović from the Bestie Foundation, who gave Lassie a typically warm Bestie welcome of cuddles and kisses!

Zvonimir's warm welcome for Lassie. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Although she was able to walk, Zvonimir carried her gently to his car, as she was scared of being led on a leash. Then they went on their way to the Bestie Foundation, where Lassie's initial days were spent in medical checks to ascertain her state of health. Our suspicion that she had leishmaniasis was quickly confirmed through testing. It is a fairly common problem on Hvar, with one factor being the widespread use of pesticides, especially herbicides, which impair the immune system in dogs as in humans. Fortunately, the disease can be controlled with appropriate treatment. The Bestie Foundation is working on a detailed instruction sheet for people who are prepared to home dogs which are positive for leishmaniasis.

Lassie at the Bestie Foundation. Photo: Zvonimir Filipović

Heartfelt thanks owed to many people

On Monday 22nd April, Jelsa's Mayor Nikša Peronja kindly confirmed that the Jelsa Municipality would pay for the placement in the shelter. We at Eco Hvar are extremely grateful to all the good people who helped to save Lassie from uncertainty and probable further suffering. We are quietly confident that she will improve physically and find the good loving home she deserves. There is no doubt that her transfer to the Bestie Foundation has given her the best possible chance. Kindness and caring are the hallmarks of the shelter's work with the animals they take in.

Photo: Zvonimir Filipović

Moving on

The point was quickly proven: Lassie attracted widespread sympathy when she was introduced to the animal lovers who follow the Bestie Foundation information outlets on the internet. Very quickly, she was lucky enough to be offered a good, stable home in Zagreb, so entering a new phase in her life's journey. Her future is looking good!

Lassie in Zagreb

Lassie arrived in Zagreb on May 1st, where she was introduced to her new home and her new companion Poppy. Her blood sample meanwhile was sent to the Veterinary Faculty in Zagreb who will provide Lassie with the best possible treatment protocol based on the titre testing results. Judging by the photographs taken on the day of her arrival, she immediately settled in well.

Lassie and her new friend Poppy
Lassie's new home comforts
A warm bed to snuggle in
New friends bonding

Zagreb report, May 5th 2024.

Wonderful news: Lassie, now known as Lele for short, has definitely fallen (lightly) on her feet! Her new human carers are clearly doing everything right. "She isn't house trained, but we're making a little progress here as well. It doesn't seem any different to how things were with Poppy when we first got her. She's still having the occasional accident, but I'm taking her outside to the park nice and regularly and congratulating her when she pees or poops there. So far, this morning, she's doing well on that front... Walking on the lead has also been nice. On the first day it was difficult, she just didn't really understand it. Taking her out at the same time with Poppy has been useful because Lele follows Poppy.

Learning leadwalking with Poppy

Importantly, her legs seem to be improving. In the mornings she is a little stiff, but after a good stretch she can walk around perfectly well. In fact we've walked quite a long way and she is fine, so, without pushing her too much, I think it's just a case of building up her muscles. I have some lovely videos of them walking around together outside. Quite a few people have already stoppd us while we are out to ask about her and say how pretty she is. We've been to the dog park here and Lele had a great time - running around, playing, jumping up on other dogs, chasing them!

Poppy is the boss!
Lele is so loving - she comes to cuddle up with me on the sofa and bed and she either lays at my feet or sits on my lap while I'm at work. She likes this physical contact, but I'm surprised how quickly she has established an accepting bond with us given everything she's been through in life - I wouldn't have blamed her if she was a little less trusting to begin with.
Poppy with Lele
She's also very playful - stealing slippers already seems like her favourite mischief. It's funny how Poppy is clearly the boss, but Lele loves to charge around, running and jumping all over her. She acts a lot like a puppy, so I wonder whether she's maybe younger than we initially thought. I would guess that she's only about 6 months old. In short, we're absolutely thrilled with her and in love with her so you can rest assured that she'll be living like a little princess from now on."
Lele's first picnic

On May 13th there was a further report confirming Lele's happiness: "just a little update so that you can see that Lele is getting on really well. She's very sociable and loving, enjoying people's company and playing with other dogs. In the last few days she's been to the vets, gone for her first picnic, had some really long walks (now walking very well on the lead), visited friends' houses (usually falling asleep on the sofa).... right now I think she couldn't be happier."

Joy outdoors
Just over a week later came the report of even more happiness in Lele's development: "Great news is that her legs are back to normal now - she walks really well on the lead and charges around the park, playing with Poppy and the other dogs. We've been on some long walks and even managed to go for a 5km jog together. She loves going out and if she sees me putting my shoes on she waits by the door so that she won't get left behind.
Lele's legs have straightened!
She's well behaved in company, so I've taken her to friends' houses for dinner - she explores and greets everybody but is relaxed and doesn't beg for food. Eveybody loves her and says she is welcome back again. She loves us stroking her, especially on her tummy, and often makes contented little grumbling noises.
Her general health seems so much better than when she arrived - she's less fragile now. She takes her allupurinol each day and we'll soon begin with milteforan. Her fur is better with less dry skin, but could still improve on her tail."
 
 
Lele has such an endearing nature that it is not surprising that she touches the heart of everyone who comes into contact with her. That she found her ideal home so quickly is no more than she  deserves, but it still seems like a miracle! How did she find her miracle hom? "We found out about her through Bestie's Intagram page - they had her photo there and I thought how similar she looked to Poppy and how it was unfair that Poppy had such luck while she was homeless and how I wouldn't ever want such a fate for Poppy, so we had to take her. And it's great how well she's fitted in, she's lovely."

Bestie help: essential for successful dog rescues

Lassie - Lele is the fifth dog we have placed in the Animalis Centrum Shelter this year. The other four were unwanted dogs for which Eco Hvar funded the placements, due to their special circumstances. The Local Authority is only responsible for strays. We are glad to be able to help in these situations, which otherwise might have unhappy outcomes for the dogs. We are eternally grateful to the dedicated people responsible for the Bestie Foundation, without which our dog rescue work would be impossible!

© Vivian Grisogono, April-May 2024.

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