When I started looking for a dog, I was astounded at the amount of dogs in shelters or being given away for free in the classifieds. The more I looked into the situation, the more I saw stories of dogs living their lives on chains, being neglected, mistreated and abandoned. 

I found my dog Tuffas at Cantinho da Milu in Setubal. A 5 year old Shepard cross who had been rescued as a puppy with his mum from a hoarding situation. He was adopted as a pup, and then returned, supposedly temporarily, a few years later by the owner. But they never returned to pick him up. When entering the shelter, I was glad that I had found him online before going there as with nearly 700 dogs, it would have been very difficult to choose! His tittle had been 'Such a good dog!'.  He is a fantastic dog and it was very sad to think that he had been sitting in a shelter waiting for his owner to return, which is no doubt the case for so many dogs. It was certainly not easy at the beginning! But with patience and time, he has learnt that I can be trusted. He is an extremely loyal and loving dog who is keen to learn. 

I decided to start this project, inspired by Tuffas, to show what a beautiful presence a dog can be in your life, as well as well as to show that there are so many awesome dogs waiting in shelters for a new home.  It is not only life changing for the adopted dog, but also brings so much joy to their new family. 

Gosia, one of the volunteers responsible for the adoption program at Cantinho da Milu, said that "There are so many great dogs in the shelters just waiting for a second chance. All sizes, colours and ages. And once they are adopted, they understand and are forever grateful. When buying a puppy people should think about the real cost of the puppy, which are the mothers kept in cages during their lifetime and getting pregnant at every heat so more puppies could be sold.”

Gosia explained that dogs end up in shelters for many reasons. They are often found on the street, often without a chip. Some are surrendered due to reasons of moving to an apartment, divorce, relocation, health and behaviours. “Some do this at night when the shelter is closed. Every week we find dogs tied to the fence, puppies left in a shoe box, dogs thrown over the fence.” It needs to be remembered that “It is a commitment for the lifetime of a pet. If you cannot make such commitment, whatever would happen in your life, don't get a pet.”

Resources in shelters are stretched and new dogs are constantly arriving. Gosia stated that “Shelters are overcrowded and underfunded. They struggle to survive. Dogs are abandoned every week. In Cantinho da Milu the daily consumption of kibble is 350 kg per day which generates enormous bills not even counting all other expenses.” 

There are many ways that you can help the increasing situation of shelter dogs. If you already have a dog, please ensure that your dog is chipped, sterilised and that time is  taken to train and socialise them. In the shelters, volunteers are always needed. They can can assist with keeping the space clean, walking the dogs, socialising shy animals and making it a more positive experience for the animals. Shelters also rely on donations (e.g. money, food, bedding, specific skills) to keep running. 

 If you are considering adding a dog to your life please Adopt, Don’t Shop. Here are some links to shelters close to Lisbon.

Associação Bianca - Sesimbra

O Cantinho da Milu - Setubal

União Zoófila - Lisbon

Check out how these dogs are loving their new lives.