You’re probably already a dog lover if you’re reading this page and won’t need much convincing as to the healing powers of our canine friends. Their loyalty, affection and capacity to have fun and live in the moment make them one of nature’s great antidepressants. SO dogs can make us feel better, but can they help heal troubled animals and, an even bigger ask, can a dog that’s been badly abused itself become a healer? The story of Alma, an incredible dog found on the streets of Romania, and the family that adopted her, will be sure to melt your heart and may answer the question.
Love at first sight
Harriet and her family weren’t really looking for a dog when, as she put it, ‘Alma popped up on her screen’. They took one look at the fluffy, grey mongrel on 1 Dog at a Time Rescue’s Facebook page and they were hooked. They immediately contacted the charity and were delighted to discover that Alma was very friendly and good with children and cats – all important tick boxes for Harriet and her family. A home visit followed, to check that they would be a good match for Alma, and then the missing pieces of the puzzle started to come together as Harriet explains:
“1 Dog at a Time Rescue didn’t know too much about Alma’s past and so they recommended that we contact a lady called Salvati Cateli, who with an elderly aunt had been looking after Alma in a chicken coop in the garden – of all things.”
1 Dog against all the odds
Slowly and quietly Salvati told Harriet that Alma and her little friend Smarty, a smaller, male dog, were well known in Bistrita as they had been living in the mountains around the town and came down most nights to try and find food. Some residents felt sorry for the two gentle souls as they made their regular visits and left out food to help them in their constant struggle for survival. Others were less charitable and, in one particularly barbaric act of cruelty, both dogs were viciously beaten, Smarty ending up with a fractured skull and Alma left badly injured and tied up with barbed wire.
The story could so easily have ended tragically there with Alma bloody and broken by the side of her little friend’s inert body, if Salvati and her elderly aunt hadn’t taken her into the chicken coop.
Alma’s broken body was gradually fixed but the puppies, that they discovered she was carrying, had sadly died due to the beating and had to be removed. Not even allowed a chance at life. Salvati and her aunt had helped to mend Alma’s body and the team at 1 Dog at a Time Rescue had found her a new home, but how could she possibly recover from the emotional scars of what had happened?
A chance for a new life
Alma arrived on 1 Dog at a Time’s Freedom Bus and was met by Harriet and her excited family. Slowly but surely over the ensuing months she recovered her strength and started to adjust to family life.
“Given her tragic circumstances, I can’t believe how well she’s settling in,” continues Harriet. “She’s gradually coming out of her shell and gets on well with everyone, but is particularly fond of the children. On a couple of walks we’ve come across some fairly aggressive dogs and Alma never responds with aggression, but deliberately positions herself between the children and them.”
“Even more surprising is that she’s proving invaluable in my business helping me treat dogs and horses with behavioural problems. It’s her gentle, calm demeanour that shines through and even fairly troubled animals seem to respect her, and react positively to her quiet, calming influence. But it’s not just animals, she’s also helping a friend of mine overcome her phobia of dogs….. Alma is truly remarkable.”
So it looks like the answer to the original question is a resounding yes. It is possible for a dog, albeit a very special one, to overcome unimaginable cruelty to become a healer – whether it’s helping to heal humans or animals.
And what of Alma’s little friend Smarty with the fractured skull? Well, we believe that he was adopted by a family in Germany, which proves that kindness really can cross borders and that we can all right terrible wrongs – regardless of where we live.
1 Dog at a Time Rescue UK
Dedicated to saving abandoned Romanian dogs and finding them loving homes
1 Dog at a Time Rescue is a UK registered charity (number 1167007)