Written by Louise Harley
On June 3rd, 50-year-old Brian Grove – and the 42 dogs, two puppies and two cats in his care – will be homeless. His refuge, or ‘home,’ now in Escobar, Argentina, near Buenos Aires, has sheltered unwanted, ‘unadoptable’, elderly, ill and dying animals for the last nine years, giving them the only love and care they have ever known. The land where the refuge stands has been sold and Brian has 30 days to find new land, build a refuge and relocate; otherwise all the animals face an unthinkable fate. All the local shelters are full. In Argentina, nine out of ten dogs are homeless and their life expectancy is three years at most, when they die of hunger and disease or are poisoned, beaten to death or run over.
When Brian and his wife, Sheila, arrived in Argentina in 2003 with a collection of waifs and strays from Spain, Sheila began to help out at a large refuge. It is here that the story of ‘Rescued Doggies Animal Refuge’ really began. Sheila started to bring home the oldest and weakest dogs, so they could die loved and in comfort; taking pity on the most frightened and vulnerable and those rejected by other shelters, she brought home more and more. Brian always remembers Christmas 2005 in La Reja, spent quietly with 20 animal ‘friends,’ when Sheila turned to him and said it was her best Christmas ever.
Then the Unthinkable Happened
Sheila and Brian were forced to move in March 2006 due to a rent increase. They were lifting one of the big dog boxes when Sheila suddenly collapsed without warning. She was rushed to the hospital and, after two further attacks, spent the next eight days unconscious in Intensive Care. A scan revealed a major brain hemorrhage. Brian commuted six hours every day to be by her side, returning each night to care for the animals. Tragically, Sheila never regained consciousness and died on March 15, 2006.
While Sheila was unconscious, Brian had to move with the dogs. Unable to find the will to continue, Brian closed his business, became very depressed and resolved not to take in any more rescues. But when he found four tiny kittens thrown away like rubbish and a desperate dog in a terrible state that refused to leave his gate, like Sheila, he couldn’t turn them away.
Although Brian continued to struggle with depression, things looked up in May 2008 when he was offered to rent a house in Escobar at a good price. He built a basic shelter and one of the first dogs to arrive was Rosita, a gorgeous Dogo. She came to die as she had huge tumors and was apparently ‘dangerously aggressive.’ However, soon the only threat she posed was that she wouldn’t let you leave without tickling her tummy.
Brian quickly established a reputation for accepting the unwanted ‘difficult’ dogs, gradually earning their trust and socialising them. Where possible, he arranges adoptions, but many are too old or ill. He depends on donations for everything from dog food to vaccines and his own clothes.
Now Losing Their Home
Brian knew that his landowner was planning to sell in 2013/2014, but the land has suddenly been sold. His rental contract ends on June 3 and he is desperately searching for a new site. All local shelters are full and they face the terrible prospect of having nowhere to go. Brian urgently needs money and land (donated, loaned or for rent) so he can move and rebuild the refuge with strong fences and secure cover from the violent storms and cold winter nights.
The clock is ticking to keep Sheila’s legacy alive – the ‘Crazy English Woman with the dogs,’ who didn’t have the heart to say no.
Here’s What Brian Is Doing to Save the Dogs
“Any money raised will go to get materials for building a refuge and a small house,” Brian explains. “The older or weak dogs and also mothers giving birth or with young puppies will live inside the house, especially with winter coming.”
“Because it is really impossible to do everything at once, initial installation will probably be small fenced areas with some parts covered by corrugated iron roofs to keep the rain from the torrential storms off. In the following months, that needs to be improved drastically so that each group of dogs have somewhere decent inside, especially to spend the nights, and larger areas outside to run.
Depending on the layout of the land and what there is already there in terms of buildings, my intention is to create somewhere so that each group of dogs have somewhere inside an enlarged ‘house’ combined with a large area outside where I will put some of the kennels for those that prefer to sleep outside. The kennels also need refurbishing as they now let in water.”
Though he is able to meet the daily costs of feeding and caring for the dogs, Brian needs support to re-establish the sanctuary. For those who wish to help, there is a chip-in here and if anyone in the Escobar area has a lead on a sanctuary site, please contact Brian at Brian@rescueddoggies.com.