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Yes, you read that right. Here’s the story of how I ‘accidentally’ adopted a street dog in one of my favourite places in the world.
It was December and I was doing the usual scroll of boredom through Facebook when suddenly the most beautiful post popped up in one of the expats in Albania groups I am joined to. A lady by the name of Kornelia had put a photo and a post about a street dog in Tirana. I was instantly drawn to the picture because ever since I was born my family has had border collies.
I am from New Zealand and my father was a sheep farmer, so he always relied on sheep dogs to help him on the farm. My father and I have a slight obsession with border collies. They are extremely smart and loyal dogs. They really are a human’s best friend.
As I read the description of Oreo my heart melted. Kornelia described him as a very sweet, energetic dog that only wanted some love. Kornelia and her husband Arbër run a dog walking and coaching business in the capital of Tirana and they said Oreo used to wait for them at the same corner every day and walk with them. All he really wanted was the attention and love that all dogs deserve, but being a street dog in Albania, they are not always treated with love.
I instantly messaged Kornelia for more details and then messaged a friend that lives in Albania. My friend told me he would happily pick up Oreo and look after him for the three months until I was coming back to Albania. I was convinced that this was fate. There was no way that I could turn a blind eye to this dog. The thought of him being on the street made me so sad and I couldn’t stop thinking about him. Yes, I’m obsessed with dogs, clearly.
On Christmas day my friend drove to the capital and picked up Oreo and looked after him until I came back in March.
When I came back and met Oreo I was so surprised he was a street dog. He was good on the lead, in great condition and very adaptable. We made the trip from Berat (where Oreo was living for 3 months) to Saranda (where I live). It was a difficult ride as it was about 6 hours long and I found out fast that Oreo is highly carsick. Just imagine loads of dog vomit, a relatively hot day and a 6-hour drive – yeah it wasn’t pretty. Oreo spent most of the time on my lap and trust me, he’s not small enough to be a lapdog at all.
Now Oreo and I live happily in Saranda together. He has been living with me since March so he’s totally comfortable with me and his new surroundings now. He is not a huge fan of the beach, just very confused about waves and why they are coming after him. He’s fond of children, very gentle with them and always waves his tail when he sees them.
Unfortunately, a lot of Albanians are scared of dogs so when I walk him a lot of people give him a wide berth, scream and even cross the road to avoid him. A lot of them have been brought up to not trust dogs and to be honest, dogs are not treated well here.
Dogs as pets are not considered the ‘norm’ here. And if people do have dogs its usually for guarding purposes (which means they are tied for their entire life in the same spot). There are a lot of street dogs in Albania because they are no shelters here. Also, many Albanians don’t believe in neutering their dog because Albanians are very into natural processes and spading dogs is not considered ‘natural’.
There’s also a bigger problem here with street dogs that officials seem to try and hide. Poisoning of street dogs to cleanse the streets. I have talked to several people about this problem and it’s horrific. Dogs are being poisoned with battery acid by local authority’s to ‘clean’ the streets of dogs before the busy tourist season starts. Locals wake up to dogs dying slowly on the streets or in the case of the capital of Tirana, there are pits hidden from the public of dead street dogs. It’s horrific. The thought that Oreo could have been one of those dogs makes me sick. Who could do such an inhuman thing?
Albania’s street dogs are beautiful too. Most of them are dogs which are considered extremely beautiful and expensive (if you buy) in other areas of Europe, and especially in New Zealand. German shepherds, border collies, golden retrievers and many more beautiful doggies wanting a home!
This post is all about my adoption with Oreo, but I hope it opens your eyes to the street dog problem that Albania is currently dealing with too. And if you’re from Europe then maybe you should come take a visit to Albania and take a street dog off the street! Oreo is Albanian, but he is b-lingual and knows some English phrases too (smart dog!). And as I’m writing this he’s hasn’t taken his eyes off me, I think he knows I’m talking about him.
If you do want to help and adopt a dog, you should follow Kornelia and Arbër’s Instagram (dog walking and services Tirana) as they regularly put posts up of street dogs that urgently need a home. You should also join two Facebook groups both are called Expats in Albania (You can join here and here). If you are wanting to adopt a dog, you can come to Albania, go to a vet and get all the vaccines, neutering etc. done in Albania, and then you will be able to get a dog European passport which means they can live anywhere in Europe. Oreo has more passport power in Europe than me (damn him!).
That is my story on how Oreo and I met! I know a lot of you have been asking on Instagram why I’m living with a dog now and that is why. Oreo also has his own Instagram account, make sure you go give him some love. He’s always moaning about his follower count.
A big thank you to Kornelia and Arbër for connecting me with Oreo and all the amazing work they do to help save dogs in Albania, they are such amazing people!
Love from Oreo and I