The worst and saddest thing you can be in Albania is a dog. There are strays everywhere, in the big cities, the small villages, and the road next to the highway where they stand timidly, waiting to cross. In Qerret, they hang out on the beach, by the markets, and in the shade on the side of the road. Some of the older dogs have “owners” who toss the day's scraps to them, but the younger ones wander from the dumpsters to the garbage pits. Most animals in Albania are utilitarian, but dogs have no purpose and are treated like pests.
When we left off, I was trying to find an animal shelter for Dash. There are a few animal shelters in Albania, and a few veterinarians too, but it all looks pretty bleak. I emailed the "Protect Me" Organization but the owner never got back to me. I ended up exchanging a few emails with the owner of Animal Rescue Albania regarding Dash and his broken leg. The owner said, “We are not vets and our shelter is not ready yet. He needs special treatment. Here is the number for a vet in Durres. But if the leg is broken is little we can do in Albania. There is no vet who can do a good job. They just take money and after surgery the situation might be worse.”
We took Dash to an animal hospital in Tirane, the capital city, and it was clean and expensive and full of pure breeds. We thought they might be upset to see us take Dash out of the trunk of the taxi, but then we saw a golden retriever carried out by two men holding his towel taught, and placed in the trunk of a huge eight wheeler. Then his friend was taken out of the eight wheeler and dragged into the office with his ears and elbows all chewed up. The sign over reception said “Doing a good deed for an animal is the same as doing a good deed for a human being.”
The vets and assistants were very kind and told us everything they could do for Dash. They showed us his X-ray and explained that his leg couldn't simply be set because it was broken in three places and part of the bone had shifted. They would have to operate, or Dash would never walk again. The whole operation, 8 days of recovery in the dog hotel, food, X-rays and care all cost 30,000 lek, about 250 euros. We spent 200 euros in Berlin just for four stitches in Anja's arm.
This was Saturday and the operation was scheduled for Monday. We made the ~2 hour trip back to Qerret and got some rest. Then on Monday we made the ~2 hour trip back to Tirane to see Dash before the operation. This trip involves walking from our apartment to the end on the village, climbing over two guardrails to wait for the bus to Durres on the highway, changing buses in Durres to get to Tirane, and then taking two more city buses to the hospital on the other side of town. The way back is a bit easier because we don't have to wait on the highway and we only have to climb over one guardrail. Our friend Aida said, "All that for a dog? I'm sorry to say that, but really? All that for a dog?"
We arrived at the hospital at around 10:30 on Monday morning and were told that they would operate that day, but they weren't sure what time, as potential emergencies were prioritized. One of the vets took me down to see Dash in the Dog Hotel. It was pretty small and a bit stinky, but it was better for Dash to stay with vets who could take care of him. When I went to his cage, he was lying down with his head between his arms, looking totally bored. As soon as I said "Dash," he jumped up and his ears stood up so fast, and he stared at me with these huge eyes, making even the doctor laugh. I was so happy to see him, too! I spent a long time standing there petting him. I missed him, and I was so happy he was alright.
Unfortunately, we could not take him home that day after the surgery. He has to stay for eight days after the surgery. Because we didn't even know when they would operate, we decided to go home and visit him after the surgery. I'm sorry to say we don't have any more news other than that, but he's still happy and healthy and just as dashing as ever.
But you still have to keep him in your thoughts!