Written by Janice Cabral of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Everybody in Araras knew Guga the big brown street dog. He was a wily old soul and had been on the streets for years. We don’t know how he gained the name Guga, but we continued calling him Guga because he definitely knew it was his name. He was famous for fighting and stealing food. When we asked around about him, one caretaker of a large house knew him well and recounted his story to us. He was a puppy in 1998, when the caretaker worked for his owners. Guga’s owner decided to throw him out because he was damaging the garden and shortly after that moved away and no doubt never gave Guga a second thought. Since 1999, Guga roamed the streets and fended for himself. Only his intelligence, his immunity to many diseases and his pure brute strength got him by. The average life of a street dog in Brazil, so I have been told, is around 1 to 2 years if they are lucky, so Guga was one lucky dog.
Our Bakery Friend
In 2010, we bought a bakery and Guga became a regular visitor. My husband always gave him some bread because he was so thin. He once ate eleven bread rolls in one go. We started feeding him rations from home along with a band of four or five other street dogs. We watched him for weeks and fed him. He had a bad case of mange so my husband injected him in the street and cured this for him. He became attached to us.
It broke our hearts to see the poor old guy watching us leave at night and he was there early every morning wagging his tail. If you stroked him, he made little cries of pleasure. The rainy season was starting and he would be waiting for us to arrive soaked to the skin. He was too old for all this.
He had been sleeping at a Posto de Saude (a medical center) when we met him but they changed the gate so prevent him from sleeping there. We had to act quickly before he got ill.
We decided we would rescue him and keep him so that he could live the rest of his life with dignity and comfort. One problem was that we did not have a spare kennel for him. We already had many street dogs we had previously rescued. We decided to put him in with another little dog called ‘Mini’, who didn’t really get on well with other dogs, as a temporary measure. We also didn’t have a house for him and would have to improvise as funds were very stretched at this point. Guga made the 40 mile trip to our house.
We Took Him in For Treatment
We took him straight to the vet as he had several problems and some cysts. The vet examined him and said he was in good shape for his age. He had an abscess in his prostate and we had to neuter him and treat this — he had to be neutered because the testosterone was making the abscess worse. He had to have an ultrasound to see if it was cancer or not.
He had hardly any teeth and had a gash on his nose from fighting. He was beginning to lose fights because of his lack of teeth and would soon take a beating and get a bad wound. The vet said to us, ‘This dog has just won the Megasena,” which is the Brazilian lottery. We took him home and he didn’t really like living with Mini and she felt the same way about him.
We decided to bring him into the house where we had four dogs living at the time and see if he settled in. We had just lost our first rescue dog, a German Shepherd called ‘Harry,’ who died of a heart attack. All the other dogs in the house were female, so we thought they probably would accept him. They did and he loved it. He has his own bed. He is affectionate, clever, obedient and never messed in the house ever. It was just as though he had been there all his life.
He still steals food if you give him a chance. Years on the street taught him that. He won the Megasena in more ways than one because just twelve days later (in January of last year) Brazil suffered the biggest ever natural disaster in the region where we lived. More than 1,000 humans died, along with many dogs and other animals. Many were displaced and lost. Thankfully, our property was safe and so was he.
If he had been out there when the mudslides and flooding hit, he probably would have died. He is a very lucky dog. We closed the bakery because it relied on the tourist trade and there would be no tourist season for 2011. We subsequently went broke, but Guga is still with us and we have been supported by animal lovers globally since then. We have 21 dogs under our care and will soon be a registered charity. We have a blog where you can read and see more about Guga and a Facebook page.
Help is on the Way for the Dogs
The Harmony Fund has made a donation to help in the care of Guga and the other street dogs receiving care. Nearly all of them were taken in after the mudslides when they had nowhere else to go, and even though Janice and her husband were in desperate straights, they opened their home to the dogs. We’re hoping to make a second grant this month to help with the costs of healthy food and veterinary care for the dogs. Not a day goes by that we don’t give thanks for all the Care2 readers who support our work to help small rescue teams like this one all over the world. You are transforming the lives of animals all across this great big planet of ours.
Please visit our World’s Biggest Baby Shower for Animals to join in.