Winter brings terror to the Rowles family who sleeps under a sagging antique roof blanketed in several hundred pounds of snow. Diane cannot rest. She is tangled in worry for the safety of her four children, her husband and the 150 dogs and cats sleeping blissfully around them. When morning comes, and the Rowles start their 6:30am morning routine, they notice something has changed in the landscape outside. The neighbors’ roof has indeed caved in. And they all wonder in silent dread, if they will be next.
“I don’t think I could put into words just how scary it was last winter, hearing the roof creaking under the weight of the snow and seeing it bowing, thinking any minute it was going to come crashing down on all the dogs and cats.” Diane said.
This all began in August 2007, when the Rowles family – Diane and Tony Rowles and their four children, four dogs and two cats decided to make the move to Bulgaria to have a more peaceful life from the busy lifestyle in the UK. They bought a property on the outskirts of Rudozem.
Upon arrival in Bulgaria, the family saw many suffering street dogs and started feeding them. They were shocked by the locals’ reactions and abuse towards the dogs, and dismayed to see dogs spat on, kicked and stoned.
Within a month, their youngest son Luke befriended a street dog named Ranger and the dog started following him. Ranger became the family’s first rescue dog the day a man began shooting at him right before their eyes.
This rescue was the beginning of an amazing journey that has taken the Rowles family away from their vision of a quiet countryside life and into an all-out mission to change the welfare of the animals around them.
And So It Begins…
Just a few days before Christmas in 2010, the Rowles family had raised enough funds to purchase land and a building for a dog shelter and their official role as the Rudozem Street Dog Rescue charity began. RSDR’s mission is to raise enough funds to renovate the animal shelter (starting with the roof of course) and to save many more street dogs, start a neuter/spay program and to integrate local humane education.
More than 250 dogs have been adopted to overseas families since the Rowles began their special work here.
“The majority of the street dogs are not dangerous,” Diane says. “Many of them are terrified of people. They are scared you are going to hurt them. It takes many weeks and months to gain the trust of these animals.” Many puppies here are born on the streets and, in the winter months, they do freeze to death.
“It is easy to say we can’t take any more dogs but when you are knelt over a tiny pup that has no chance of surviving on the streets or a dog that has been so badly starved and abused that it can’t stand, then it is another matter,” Diane says passionately.
At first this new role was hard for the boys. There were days when Diane was conflicted, wondering if they should flee back to the safety of the UK. Was she doing the right thing for her children she wondered?
“One of the proudest moments as a mother was when my son came to me and said, ‘Mum, we can’t move can we? If we go, there will be no one who will look out for the dogs.”
An Opportunity for the Care2 Audience
The Harmony Fund is attempting to pay for the roof repairs here in Bulgaria and to manage a massive winter preparedness effort for 25 separate rescue squads, scattered across the planet, including a shelter in Russia as we just received word that they will have no heat for the dogs when the freezing weather arrives in just 10 weeks. Every Care2 reader with a Facebook account can help for free today and vote for a $250,000 grant for the animals. Or simply click here to learn more about the situation in Bulgaria.