Sauvons nos Animaux in Bukavu, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, became an AKI Partner Organization in January 2022 (after receiving an Africa-Based Animal Welfare Organization Grant in 2020 and 2021). From this AKI Blog post, I think you'll see just how difficult it is to run a shelter in Bukavu--and how important and even heroic-their work is (and how heartwarming it can be).
In the June 2022 AKI Blog update about SnA, I had mentioned that many of the dogs at the shelter were too thin and undernourished to be spayed. Between then and October, when I actually saw Sauvons nos Animaux's shelter with my own eyes, Paterne felt that he had to do something -fairly drastic-- to save the shelter dogs (the cats were in better shape).
As hard as Paterne had tried, there just wasn't any money to buy food--the shelter workers weren't even getting paid, SnA had no money in the bank (at about US$70/day to feed the shelter cats and dogs, money goes fast!) AKI's 1st disbursement in 2022 to SnA covered close to 2 months of food (and also much-needed meds and other vet supplies). But that took them only through February, and now it was June.
Paterne approached restaurants to see if he could get leftovers. He was told that the workers take all the leftovers home.
So Paterne did what he had to do, he found foster homes for many of the dogs (those already s/n'd, so he could concentrate on getting the others healthier and fed and then s/n'd). Foster homes were found thanks to help from local vets and through previous adopters. The foster locations are regularly monitored, and they are aware that SnA will take any animal back if the foster family is no longer able to care for the dog. This gave SnA some "breathing room."
So when I arrived in Bukavu in October, there were fewer dogs at the shelter, making it much more manageable. But still some of them were so skinny, mainly the ones who had recently arrived. And Paterne was having a difficult time getting these fattened up since food was still in short supply.
One of the 1st things we did was buy food. We bought the only 4 bags of dog food available (high quality, imported from Germany), rice, meat, and for the cats, fish (to mix with rice).
I was surprised when we returned to the shelter to find that the dogs loved the "kibble," the dry dog food. It was such a joy to feed these dogs (more joyful than giving treats to my own gluttonous dogs!)
That made things easier (if a bit more expensive). Meat is expensive and it just doesn't go far, it's difficult to prepare at the SnA shelter, and mixing homemade dog food is a little tricky. You don't know if you're giving the dogs all the nutrients they need, and in the shape these dogs were in, they need good nutrition.
I promised Paterne we would raise money so that he wouldn't have to worry about how he'd feed the SnA shelter cats and dogs. And then, AKI's 1st donor (back in 2007!), came through for the SnA cats and dogs, and we established the Shirlee Christensen Memorial Pet Food Fund in Shirlee's memory (the donor's mother). Shirlee was a life long animal lover; what better way to honor her memory.
The other major issue when I arrived in Bukavu was that the five SnA staff members hadn't been paid since May and they were threatening to go on strike. Paterne begged them to be patient. It seemed very unfair, no one should work-and work as hard as they do-and not get paid. But what choice did Paterne have?
I also promised that AKI would raise money so Paterne could pay salaries-and we did! We sent SnA enough money to cover salaries for October (back pay), November, and December. We hope their Christmas will be a happy one!
Your donations covered salaries for these SnA staff:
(From right to left, with Paterne at the far left and me 3rd from right)
-Olivier Balekembaka: In charge of awareness, responsible for the youth club and is also a field rescue officer. Olivier is the 1st person to approach Paterne about helping at the shelter and became SnA's 1st volunteer. He's even spent the night at the shelter to make sure the animals are safe.
-Arstide Matata : Veterinary doctor, trained at the University of the Cinquantenaire and specialized in dogs and chimpanzees. AKI's 2nd grant to SnA (2021) covered Dr. Arstide's salary for 6 months.
-Mugoli Mudekereza: She is a product of SnA's youth club. She loved visiting and petting the cats at the shelter. Eventually SnA employed her to take care of the cattery.
-Aganze Balike and Aganze Namahanga: They were among the young people in the local community who mistreated dogs. SnA invited them to come to the shelter, where they discovered that dogs can be our best friends. They started by volunteering and then were hired when two other employees resigned.
Our work doesn't end here. We remain committed to helping SnA as long as they need our help!
These are some of the animals rescued since the June 2022 update.
Olivier rescued this dog on his way to work one day at the end of July:
Paterne described him as "the skinniest puppy we've ever seen at our door. He literally weighs nothing and there is almost no muscle left on his bones! Apparently without an owner (or at least without someone who cares). He was alone on the street. He seems like a super friendly dog." He didn't want to eat, but he did drink water. It didn't appear that anything was wrong with him, just that he was slowly starving to death.
But soon he grew stronger, gaining weight little by little:
In the June AKI Blog update, we wrote about this dog, but at the time, we didn't know if he would survive:
On a Saturday night in June, Paterne was alerted by people who know of his work, that a dog was beaten to death and thrown in a ditch. Paterne immediately headed to the site, and from what he saw, he thought the dog was dead. Paterne said, "I had to bury him with dignity. When I took the animal out of the hole, I saw that it was still breathing a little, I took it to the shelter and we tried to resuscitate it."
"The animal was making movements, unconscious, but he is stabilizing. The vet is doing what he can."
And then, "We still have to believe, a miracle happened. I didn't know that he was going to survive, he still eats with difficulty because of the wounds in his mouth, because he had dreamt of being hit on the muzzle. When I rescued him, his muzzle was swollen because of the blows."
No one thought he would survive, but here he is, with Paterne:
On July, 9 this dog was rescued from Bukavu's streets. He had trouble using his rear legs:
Slowly, he regained use of them and is able to walk with no problem now.
In early September, Paterne received a call about this dog-really in need of rescue, certainly not used to living on the street, where he was found:
He had some injuries and at the shelter, Arstide treated them. SnA put the word out that this dog was at their shelter, and the owner came forward (with a satisfactory explanation of why the dog was loose, and with proof that the dog was theirs).
Just today, we received this message from Paterne: "Two more lives saved thanks to the children of our youth club who alerted Olivier, the youth club supervisor. These two puppies were going to be sold to a dog meat dealer who was operating illegally in the city."
Although dog meat selling and eating isn't illegal according to any DRC or local law, it is prohibited by local tribes. Still, like all prohibited activities, it does happen.
On December 5, we were so sad to have to say goodbye to Gaia, a much loved SnA dog, who had been at the shelter since 2018. Here's her story, according to Paterne:
"Gaia is no more since this morning I can't find the right words to express my sadness, but also the right words to express the love we had for her and she for us, how grateful we are to have known and spent her last years together with all the feelings of happiness, sadness, fear and joy she brought us. How exceptional life with her was and how much we will miss her.
Gaia had been rescued by me on a certain morning of April 6, 2018 with her puppy whose life was in very grave danger. When I arrived on the scene I found the horror, 3 puppies of Gaia had already been killed, only a very small terrorized one was left that I was able to take with his mom. It is only at the beginning of 2022 that Gaia started to develop diseases such as loss of hair, infinite abscesses, emaciation, it was really in a terrible state. But she left us very good memories and that made us love her even more and over the years she learned to show her loving and affectionate side at least to some people.
During the last months she gradually lost strength, but we made her last days as happy as possible, we spent a lot of time with her and we spoiled her with kibble provided by Animal-Kind International. When I came to see her last night, it was like she was waiting for me to say goodbye. She came and laid down next to me and this morning she flew away peacefully. After more than 4 years at the shelter, our legendary Gaia has peacefully escaped surrounded by her favorite people, but what can I say: a legend never dies! Thank you so much to the sponsors who made it possible for Gaia to live happily at the shelter, and I offer our condolences."
Here's how Sauvons nos Animaux spent your 2022 donations to AKI: