It was September 2015 and we were on holiday, staying in Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal. One evening Hayley wanted to go sightseeing to Cape St. Vincent lighthouse near Sagres to watch the sunset, this is known as the southwestern most point in Portugal and was meant to be the place to go for a lovely sunset.
As we were driving along the long road leading up to the Lighthouse, it was quite bizarre as I said to Hayley ‘we are going to come across a dog with a broken leg’, she laughed and told me not to be so silly and more importantly not to jinx our holiday as she wanted a rest from anything animal related! We soon arrived and parked near the Lighthouse which was a very busy tourist spot as you can imagine, everyone there wanting to see the beautiful sunset from the top of the cliffs. Then out the corner of our eyes we saw 2 little dogs one limping badly and both badly covered in mange, and it was at this moment that our hearts melted. We knew instantly that we needed to help these 2 dogs so we bought a sausage or two from one of the burger vans to give to the dogs, which we decided to call Bill and Ben. As we approach them they back away but we could still see the state of their skin and poor Bill the older looking one with the broken leg had no hair on his tail, it was so red and looked so sore, he also had bare sore patches on his shoulder and on his back and to be honest he looked very pitiful and forlorn. We tried to get some information about the 2 stray dogs from the stall holders but the language was a barrier as their English wasn't that good and neither Hayley or myself spoke Portuguese.
Over the next few nights we drove the forty five minute journey (each way) to take them fresh chicken and a pouch of meat each so at least we knew they'd been fed. Two days before we were due to go back to England we meet up with a lady called Patricia who runs the Canil in Portimao and we showed her the photos of their skin and she advised us to get Bravecto, a treatment for mange as well as other stuff, so off we went to the vets near to Luz to get the treatment for Bill & Ben. Once we had got the treatment we drove over to Sagres again to find the 2 dogs and thankfully we saw them and by breaking the tablet and wrapping it in bits of fresh cooked chicken we finally managed to get the 2 dogs to take the tablets, 30 minutes later I might add! We both sighed with relief, job done! Time for an alcoholic drink to celebrate.
We tried to speak to the stall holders again and this time we were in luck, we found out that they are two brothers aged around six and seven years old, they did have a sister but she was run over and killed and so was their mother. Bill had broken his leg about two years ago as he had also got run over and because it wasn't treated as they are stray dogs and no one had ever got close to them it had obviously set wrong, resulting in him limping and unable to put his paw down. Very sad. Bill and Ben have always lived out in the middle of nowhere in the rough grass and they survive on scraps from tourists and also from some of the local stall holders. Hayley and I felt very sad knowing this and more so when we knew it was time to say goodbye and leave. We looked at the 2 dogs and made them a promise that we'd visit them in January to check on them and to give them another lot of medication.
We arrived back in Portugal for three days as promised and on the way from the airport our first stop was the vets to buy some more Bravecto, we then headed straight to Sagres to try and find Bill & Ben via a quick stop at the supermarket to buy them their chicken and meat. Once we arrived at their 'home' we saw our boys, poor Bill, still hobbling and as we got closer to them our hearts skipped a beat as we can see that Bill had hair growing on his tail and his skin was no longer looking red and painful, to say we were over the moon is an understatement, we were both ecstatic in fact. Once again we managed to get the mange treatment down them with the help of freshly cooked chicken and afterwards we got talking to a lovely man called Bruno and his family who have a burger van there, Bruno said they feed them scraps and keep an eye on them Bruno and his family came across as really caring so we swapped telephone numbers and left more food for Bill & Ben with him. We tried to explain to him about the treatment that we were giving to the 2 dogs and although it was a little difficult due to the language barrier I told Bruno I would message him in Portuguese once I am back in England (thank goodness for Google translate!). Hayley and I travelled back and forth over the next two days but we couldn't find Bill & Ben as the rain didn’t stop and they were obviously hiding away somewhere, trying to get shelter.
We felt sad as we only managed to see them once that visit but were thrilled with the fact that we had seen them and managed to give them their second dose of medication and more importantly the treatment looked to be definitely working. Bill & Ben must feel so much better in themselves without having itchy raw skin that could easily get infected. I contact Bruno on our return and this was his message back to me:-
‘Michelle, many tourists have come over the last couple of years and moan about the state of the two dogs, but no-one has done anything about them, Michelle Holland you arrive and everything has changed for the dogs, thank you Bruno’.
Once again for three days we set off to Portugal and here we go again. A trip to the vets from the airport to get their Bravecto and off we went again to find our two boys and this time it seemed like they remembered us as they came within 6 to 8 feet of us, so rather than us having to throw the food, we gently placed it on the ground, stepped back and they came forward for their treatment and freshly cooked chicken. We were both grinning from cheek to cheek. Treatment three is done and the two boys were looking good and we also managed to see them twice that visit. These two dogs have really captured our hearts and because they were looking so much better we decided we should start them on a worming programme. Kerry from AEZA (Dog and Cat Shelter) gave us some worming tablets as we had to be careful due to the dogs living wild, we couldn't treat them with a wormer that contains heartworm as this could be fatal. We meet with Bruno and explained to him that he will need to give the wormers to the boys in two weeks time and we wrote the date on the tablets for him. It cannot be done too soon after the mange treatment, there needs to be an interval and Bruno messaged me two weeks later to say he had put ½ a wormer each into a sausage and Bill & Ben had eaten it! Great Result!
Onto our next visit and after a very expensive flight due to the school holidays we arrived back in Portugal and this time Hayley's sister Tracy came with us. We were very excited about seeing our two boys and once again a trip to the vets to get Bravecto, off to the supermarket to get the chicken and then on our way to see Bill and Ben. We managed to see them on our first night of going and although Tracy is really proud of us for what we are doing for these 2 street dogs she found it too upsetting for her to personally see, she'd never seen anything like that before. We met with Bruno, his wife and son, we exchanged hugs this time and once again we leave the wormer so that Bruno can give it to them in two weeks time. Bill had a patch of mange looking a little bit sore but this is probably due to the hot heat and the flies as there had been no rain since April. They were certainly in need of the treatment. Poor Ben looked as though he had been in a fight or something as he had a few cuts and a ripped ear so we are not sure what he had been up to! We are sure Bill & Ben recognised us, especially our voices as we managed to get closer to them and every visit we saw progress. Treatment four done and off we go back to England.
Off we go again! Back to the vets to get the treatment, then to the supermarket to get fresh chicken and off to see our two boys. This visit was truly amazing and filled our eyes with tears. We called Bill & Ben and they came running towards us, Hayley is stooped down with chicken calling them and their tails are wagging (video attached) these boys know for sure we are helping them and this time we were able to feed them by hand and words cannot describe how good this made us both feel. We have at last earned their trust. It may have taken over 1 year and 5 visits but we have finally got there, we cannot wait for our next visit, January 2017.
We have made a big commitment as we need to treat them every three months to ensure that they have a good quality of life. They have always lived wild and will always remain there but if we can help their skin heal and stop it getting infected this will make them feel so much more comfortable. Once again we left the wormer with Bruno which he will give them in two weeks time, around the beginning of November.
For some reason we were meant to find these two dogs who needed our help, who live hundreds of miles away in the middle of nowhere. We feel they are part of our family now and we will continue to go to Portugal every three months to give them their treatment. The money I earn from the behaviourist visits I do, goes towards our BILL & BEN fund to buy their treatment.
We fund our own flights, hotel and car hire and whilst we are in Portugal we always visit AEZA which is based in Aljezur to take a couple of dogs for a walk. Walking the dogs at AEZA is also very rewarding and helps the dogs there. We will continue to keep in touch with Bruno and we hope to see our boys in January next year.
Bill & Ben you have touched our hearts in a way you can never imagine and we love you both very much. Stay safe our fur babies. xx
If you'd like to take a look at the 3 Animal Shelters/Charities Hayley and I visit when in Portugal please click on the links below:-