A Rose in Niger
This story has everything: a dog, heroes and heroines, a heartwarming rescue, international intrigue, suspense, drama, comedy, and more. I rate it 5 stars!
Last year July 4, I woke up to a message from Sandra (our AKI partner in Tanzania, Mbwa wa Africa); she had received a phone call from an American in Niger. Sandra wrote, "It was about a dog of course, I didn’t fully understand the whole story – first I’m German, second the connection was breaking up all the time – but what I got was that a dog is living with them since quite some time and now the dog is threatened to be shot because of fear of rabies......" The American had told Sandra that his heart goes out to this super friendly female dog. Her name is Rosie.
Sandra continued, "I hope you don’t mind, I told him to contact you because you of all persons I could think of, you would be the one with the best knowledge and connections about this matter. It really touched my heart that he is getting out of his way to save this dog and he claims to be not an ’animal person’ but he didn’t want to see her get shot. We talked for 20 minutes on the phone!"
The American turned out to be a non-commissioned officer in the US Armed Forces, a Sergeant, stationed in Niger. We'll call him Don.
Within minutes of Sandra's message, Don found me on Facebook and we had a very long conversation that day, July 4 (July 5 in Niger). He told me more about Rosie:
I'm not an animal lover but since Americans landed here, they conditioned and nurtured this dog when they knew it was wrong to feed. When I arrived she was an unofficial mascot. A comfort dog for all the military members away from friends and family. Her days included regular feedings, selfies with people, and hugs. I never took part in any of that as I knew it just made her more dependent.
And then, on July 4, because of the fear of rabies and because none of the dogs that lived around the base were vaccinated, the command decided they were a health risk. The plan was to shoot them.
To save the dogs, I put 2 males into a vehicle to be driven to an oasis about 15 miles away. The males didn't return to base as I think they were young and bold enough to find new territory once dropped off. For Rosie's experience, it was a lot more traumatic. I stayed with her, comforting her until it was her time to be loaded into the truck. She was tied to the machine gun at the center of the truck bed with around 10 soldiers in back. In my life, I have never seen a dog so frozen with fear. Her tail between her legs and her mouth was just dripping with saliva.
At that point, I had no control and just prayed she'd safely make it to the oasis. Rosie was driven away from the camp around 3 PM and came back at midnight - coming straight to me as I was finishing work. She was limping horribly, but wagging her tail and crying in relief as if she felt she made it home from a horrible adventure.
It's wrong that one day someone gets to make the decision to kill the dog after it's our fault that she is like she is. This dog is better behaved than most house dogs.
It was midnight, but I had no choice, I pleaded with one of our interpreters (who had the same attitude as everyone else in that region: that wild dogs just die and they have no value). I don't know why, but he agreed to take her away from the base to his home. And so this journey for all of us started: the reaching out, calls, and emails.
Rosie is a survivor. She was poisoned years back from another regime who tried to get rid of the wild dogs. This is such a bad area to try and get assistance with a situation like this.
At this point, still July 4/July 5, Don was thinking that it would be best to send Rosie to South Africa.
Don had--amazingly--found a vet to give her a rabies shot and a shot record (1st photo below, Rosie is traveling to the vet for her rabies shot) and had a crate built for her-one that he hoped would be acceptable to the airlines.
Within 24 hours, Sandra had found out that to get a dog from Niger to Tanzania, all that was needed is shots-rabies and DHLP and an import permit, which Sandra said, Mbwa wa Africa's vet could do if they get name, owner, date of travel. It sounded a lot easier to get from Niger to Tanzania than from Niger to South Africa.
And then, on July 5, with 1 Facebook post, I found Traci, who was going to be returning to Niamey, Niger in mid-August and agreed to facilitate Rosie's transport, including a short stay at Traci's house, if needed.
We had made great progress in just 24 hours! I asked Don if he could manage to keep Rosie safe for about 1 1/2 months, until Traci was scheduled to arrive in Niger. Don answered,
I'll try my best. She keeps escaping from the translator and comes right back here. And now when she sees the translator, she knows that he's going to be taking her back. She's extremely intelligent. The last escape she dug a hole under the fence. She came back yesterday during a thunder storm. Covered in mud, the dog was shaking and crying because of the rain.
Rosie certainly found her hero!
During the next 1 1/2 months, we were all busy looking into flights from Niger to Tanzania, and just in case we needed an alternative, to the US and to South Africa, trying to figure out exactly what the requirements were to transport a dog to various locations, including dealing with layovers. Don ordered a Sky Kennel (we decided the locally built crate was probably not acceptable to airlines) and a microchip in preparation for her departure.
We were all so excited when mid-August arrived and Traci would be back in Niger. It looked like Rosie would soon be flying to Sandra and Jens at our AKI partner, Mbwa wa Africa in Arusha, Tanzania. Little did we realize how difficult it would be to get Rosie to Niamey. Overland was too dangerous (a 2 day trip), flights were rare.
Around September 20, Don thought he had found a way to get Rosie to Niamey. She was scheduled to arrive there on September 30.
And then, Don wrote to us: "At the last minute, the trip has unfortunately changed. The driver had to lend his car to someone and they tried to take her by bus but they wouldn't accept animals. We're working on the next option, getting her moved in 3 days with a friend with a car."
The plan was that the translator, who still had Rosie, would call or message Traci when he had concrete details.
And then Don gave us news that threw a real glitch into our plans: "I will be leaving Niger on October 8, so I will do everything I can to make this happen before I leave."
Then our hopes shot up again on October 2, when Traci wrote, "I heard from the interpreter that Rosie will be here on Friday!" [October 6]
But our spirits plunged when we found out that Rosie didn't arrive that Friday. And on October 13, Traci wrote, "No, she has not arrived. I wrote the translator yesterday, and he said the truck she had been in had broken down and they had to return home. She has to get here by next Friday [October 20], or I won't have time to get her rabies titer results in time to put her on a plane before I leave. Otherwise, I can't take her until mid-December when I return. I've tried to find someone else here willing to help, but I'm not having any luck. The translator knows, so hopefully, he'll find a way to get her to Niamey."
Rosie didn't make it in time, and at the end of October, Traci left Niger for several weeks. All of us held our breath until mid-December when Traci would be back in Niger and could follow up. During those weeks, the translator was supposed to be caring for Rosie and we all hoped that he was following through, but we couldn't be sure.
On December 20, I checked in with Traci to see if she was ready to re-start this process of saving Rosie. Who knew where Rosie might be by now. We were so happy to find that Traci was still hopeful and keen to continue to help Rosie.
That same day, Traci wrote, "Things are still unclear. I'm back in Niamey, and I texted the translator when I returned. He's been silent. While I was gone, though, one of my colleagues was on a work trip and found the translator, who said he still has Rosie and is trying to get her to Niamey. So right now, I'm waiting for Rosie and hoping the translator finds a way to get her here.
We were thrilled when we heard from Traci on January 3. She wrote, "I found transport for Rosie from [her current location] to Niamey this Friday [January 5] on a flight with a humanitarian group. I've texted and called the translator, and he's not responding."
On January 4, Traci wrote, "I heard from the translator. He had lost his phone. He claims to still have Rosie, but says he can't reach the pilot. I've texted the pilot and the coordinator who helped me arrange this. It still could happen."
Meanwhile, Don had also been trying to reach the translator and wrote to us, "Got ahold of him. He will be at the plane tomorrow."
On January 5 (night of January 4 US Mountain Time), Traci wrote, "The translator has been texting all morning. He says the dog is on the plane, but I won't know anything for another 5-6 hours."
The translator had sent pictures to Traci (below) and just to be sure, we compared them to pictures Don had sent us of Rosie (We were a little worried that Rosie may have escaped and a substitute dog was being sent). Yes! It really was Rosie on that plane! Our spirits soared!
I could barely sleep on the night of January 4 and ran to my laptop the next morning. On January 5 at 7:33 AM (US Mountain Time), Traci sent me a message, "I have Rosie!!!" I forwarded the message to Sandra and Jens in Tanzania. Don had already gotten the news from Traci, and all of us cried!
As Traci drove Rosie to her new temporary home (2 photos below), Traci told us, "She's so calm. She's asleep and snoring in my back seat right now."
While Rosie seemed to have no worries, for five us, there were six months of worry, some long days of emails, texts, Facebook messaging, several high points and many disappointments, and it was all so worth it-for one Rose in Niger.
Rosie had arrived safely in Niamey thanks to a pilot (who has to remain anonymous); a US serviceman (who also has to remain anonymous), who claimed he wasn't an animal person; a translator, who probably considered Rosie to be like any other wild dog in Niger, but still took the best care of her; Traci, who went to all lengths (and still is, since she continues to be Rosie's caretaker until transport onward to Tanzania can be arranged); and Sandra and Jens, who agreed to receive and care for her.
On January 5, Jens wrote to me, "Traci just called after giving Rosie a bath and she said, "She is such a wonderful dog, well behaved and trusting. I am so glad we saved her."
After her bath, she snuggled up in a soft blanket in her kennel. Traci said, "She hasn't barked, but grunts and whines a little to communicate. So docile. She spends most of her time snuggled in her blanket in her crate, wagging."
We all wanted to hear about every move, noise, wag that Rosie made, every morsel she ate. Rosie had no idea how many people around the world were rooting for her new life.
Rosies's story isn't yet over.
On January 8, Traci wrote that we had a small setback: "The vet came today. She got a rabies vaccination in July from serum that expired in August. With poor storage and frequent power outages, the vet says it's unlikely she's protected. To be safe, we're doing the rabies vaccination again, along with all the other vaccinations she needs tomorrow, and we're implanting the chip. We gave her the de-worming meds and the vet signed the health certificate."
Traci continued, "Which brings me to the second small setback. Ethiopian Airlines says they don't ship cargo from here to Kilimanjaro, and pets must be accompanied. Jens, if I buy the ticket, could you or anyone from Mbwa wa Africa fly to Niamey to accompany Rosie back? They can stay here if an overnight is required."
And then, amazingly, Traci found someone to accompany Rosie to Tanzania! As of today, Rosie and Devin are scheduled to arrive in Tanzania on January 20.
One of Don's messages says it best, "So that's Rosie's story condensed or as much as I can tell since I have been with her. I just wanted you to know a little about her journey. She deserves the most love a dog can get....Along the way, the small triumphs we collected helped give us hope and believe there was a chance....getting a wild dog vaccinated. I honestly do not know how a veterinarian was even found in Niger, but it happened and that opened the door to preparing her for air transport. Other triumphs included reaching out and finding concerned people, such as you [Traci], Sandra, and Karen."
Don thinks that Rosie is an Azawakh (picture above is from a website about the Azawakh breed), "probably not a purebred, but maybe 80%." He said, "she displays all the behaviors of an Azawakh. She was always smaller than the other dogs though and she is not as streamlined. But she is a sighthound."
From http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/azawakh/: The Azawakh is an African sighthound of Afro-Asiatic type, which appeared in Europe towards 1970 and, comes from the Nigerian middle basin, among others, from the Valley of the Azawakh. For hundreds of years, he has been the companion of the nomads of the southern Sahara. Particularly leggy and elegant, the Azawakh gives a general impression of great fineness. His bone structure and musculature are transparent beneath fine and lean skin. This sighthound presents itself as a rangy dog whose body fits into a rectangle with its longer sides in a vertical position.
We'll keep you updated on Rosie's rosy future!