Everyone has an opportunity to make a difference in this world, and it just so happens that my opportunity came with four legs and a plastic ear-tag.
I'm Katie, and I was deployed to Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina, a few years ago. I noticed right away there was a prevalence of street dogs throughout the country. As an avid dog lover, this really left an impression on me.
I had no idea where to begin, but I knew I had to help somehow.
My colleagues mentioned there was a stray dog hanging around one of the offices outside of camp. They would feed her during the workweek, but there wasn't anyone to feed her during the weekend.
And that is how it all started. Now, my mission is to save as many of these street dogs as "pawsible," because they deserve a chance to bring a family as much joy as Tanzie has brought us.
A friend and I went to feed this pup one night, but at first we didn't see or hear anything. We were about to leave when I heard the faint pitter-patter of feet from the upper level of the building. I saw this sweet face come down the stairs and lay down right by my feet. She rolled over on her back, tucking her paws into her chest - an obvious invite for a belly rub.
I melted right then and there.
"PUPPY-GIRL" - TAG #384:
This dog didn't have a name, just a beige plastic tag pierced through her ear with the number "384." I started visiting every day, bringing food and toys. All she wanted was attention – a trait ordinarily unattributed to street dogs, who normally avoided people.
WATCH HOW TANZIE, AKA "PUPPY GIRL" WOULD GREET KATIE IN THE MORNINGS:
She gave me a sense of home during time away from family. We even sat together outside camp on Christmas Eve.
This dog, tag #384, was slowly stealing my heart. I couldn't imagine leaving her behind -- she had become my wingman.
Sure enough, she made her way into our hearts and home, and was no longer tag #384 - she was now Tanzie, and arrived in the USA January 2015!
TAKING IT TO THE STREETS
My mission to help Bosnia's strays didn't stop after Tanzie left Bosnia -- I still had a few months before returning home, so I started a small personal fundraiser to buy dog food for a group of local animal advocates. Through that effort, I met some amazing people, some of whom were caring for more than 200 dogs themselves through “pensions” (private shelters) or their own living spaces.
After seeing these pensions the scope of these advocates’ own personal rescue efforts firsthand, I knew that I had to help in an even larger capacity. With the help of The Puppy Rescue Mission, a U.S.-based animal rescue nonprofit, and fellow animal lovers, we were able to have 14 dogs rehomed to the U.S. in 2015 (Tanzie included).
Thanks to our donors, PRM, & other supporters, 32 former Bosnian street dogs have new lives in the USA, and more than 180 across Europe & Canada -- either in their forever homes or with foster families, enjoying the life a dog is supposed to enjoy, where fear and cruelty is replaced with happiness and love.
THE MISSION CONTINUES
Little did I know when I received my orders to Bosnia my mission would be two-fold. After all, forging friendships and partnerships across continents, oceans, and languages, all because of a stray dog, wasn't exactly in my reporting instructions!
I am so grateful Tanzie found me, half a world away from home, and decided to leave her paw prints on my heart.
Now, my mission is to save as many of these street dogs as "pawsible," because they deserve a chance to bring a family as much joy as Tanzie has brought us. <3
A FATEFUL SIGN
Right before I left Bosnia, I noticed the street sign on the road where I found her. I remember having to literally stop in my tracks and do a double-take. It took me a few minutes to process its significance.
The street was called "Ward’s Way."
Tanzie and I started this whole new crazy life together, all because I drove down that road. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say our path was mean to be.