Sara Ortín León left her home in the city of Barcelona to enjoy a nice, small town vacation in La Rioja in northern Spain. Her family owned a home in the beautiful, mountainside town. She planned to spend a few months away, so she even brought her three rescue dogs with her.
Sara enjoyed herself by doing a lot of hiking.
A Surprise on The Trail
One day, her trail led her to an old sheep barn where she found two Australian Shepherd mixes chained up outside. She slowly approached the dogs and found that they did not have any food or water. Their chains were extremely tight around their necks and only allowed them to move three feet.
She assumed the dogs had an owner, and although she did not agree with this method of dog ownership, she figured they were only chained temporarily.
When she returned the net day, she found the dogs in the same predicament without food or water.
On the third day, she saw the same.
Sara told The Dodo, “I thought, ‘OK, this is weird. If they would be off [the chain] at some point, they shouldn’t be there all the time.”
She decided it was time to inquire about the dogs. She could not find an owner nearby, so she began to ask around. A local friend of hers was able to shed some light on the dogs.
Sara was now determined to save these poor pups. How would she find the owners? She knew that she could not just take them without permission.
In the meantime, she knew that it was important that she get the dogs used to her. The black dog was friendly, but the other dog was very timid.
“She wouldn’t get close to me,” Sara told The Dodo. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, how is this [rescue] going to happen?’”
Determined to get the dogs used to her, Sara visited them daily and spent several hours with them at a time.
“I gave them food … and I would read to them,” Sara explained to The Dodo. “It’s something that relaxes the dogs, because when we read, there is no movement, and it’s just your voice … it’s nice for them.”
The Owners Are Found
Finally, Sara found the owners. They were an elderly couple in their 90s who were previously sheep farmers. The two dogs – Opis and Mori – had been their herders.
Based on the information she received from the couple, Sara learned that Mori was about eight years old and the mother to Opis, who was six years old. The most astonishing news, however, was that the pair had been chained up for approximately six years.
Sara understood that the couple thought they were making the best decision for these dogs; they hadn’t sentenced them to death.
“It’s so difficult in these situations because you realize that they don’t know better,” Sara said. “They didn’t really think that the dogs were suffering. They thought that they were doing them a favor by keeping them alive.”
Sara finally inquired about taking the dogs off their hands. They weren’t sold.
“They said, ‘When our granddaughter comes here, she likes to go there and spend time with the dogs. They said, ‘Talk to our granddaughter. If she says ‘yes,’ then we will give them to you.’ So of course, I sent her a message.”
The granddaughter also was not sold and told Sara that she would get back to her.
Two months passed and Sara began to worry.
“I started getting really sad, and I had to stop thinking about them,” Sara said.
The Final Decision
Finally, Sara received good news. The granddaughter decided that Sara could take the dogs!
In the meantime, Sara had returned home to Barcelona, so she made the trip back to La Rioja.
She was well-prepared and brought a muzzle just in case the bashful dog, Opis, needed it. Turns out, Sara didn’t need to use it! Once off the chain, Opis was a very different dog.
Sara explained, “She was the best doggy in the world. As soon as she got out of there, and I got her on the lead and I touched her, she started licking me and I was like, ‘Wow, wow, wow, wow.’”
Sara was also touched by how much the dogs wanted to be near one another since they had been separated for so many years.
“They could touch for the first time for, I can’t imagine, how many years,” Sara said. “They were licking each other and licking each other. They were super cute.”
She had lined up a no-kill shelter for the dogs in Barcelona. The shelter, Lliga per a la protecció d’animals i plantes de Barcelona, would take the dogs in after they spent some time at Sara’s home.
Sara described the scene at her home to The Dodo, “It was like having something wild in the house. It was crazy. They wanted to eat everything. They got a packet of raw pasta, opened it and started eating it so fast. But we had to give them very little amount of food because they’re not used to food.”
While the dogs stayed in Sara’s home, she bathed them and took them out for hikes. At one point, she felt safe to let them off their leashes. She expected them to run and frolic in the grass, but instead, the two dogs cuddled up together in the grass.
“These dogs have been chained up for six years, and now they want kisses and cuddles,” Sara said. “They are amazing dogs. They are gems.”
Soon enough, it was time for them to go to the shelter where they hope to find their forever home!
Giving dogs a new life is a very powerful thing. Consider rescuing your next pet and share this beautiful story with others!