It was November of 2017 when an emaciated, abandoned dog paced desperately around a deserted island along the Amazon river, needing a miracle to save her from death.
Hungry vultures flew patiently above the dog’s head, knowing it was only a matter of time before they would have their fill.
Fleas and ticks covered the dog’s frail frame, starvation was seemingly imminent.
But before the vultures got their chance, a boat happened to arrive on the shore, stopping for a brief lunch.
On the boat was perhaps the one person with enough heart and determination to save the dog’s life, and he had unknowingly arrived just in time.
David Foster, from northern Ireland, had been vacationing on a cruise down the Amazon river. A frequent world traveler and animal welfare advocate, Foster immediately noticed the skeletal dog limping through the sand.
“She threw herself into the water, swam across and then limped over to me. I saw what a desperate state she was in,” Foster told BBC News.
“There were vultures following her — that’s how close she was to death.”
Foster asked the boat captain to fly a drone above the small area to see if any humans were around — but they didn’t find anyone.
It appeared that the dog had been abandoned there on purpose.
“She was emaciated, badly beaten and her ears were sliced,” Foster said. “The vultures were following her every move”.
Fierce determination flooded into Foster’s being and he knew that he could not leave the dog alone to die. He convinced the crew to allow the dog on board, fleas, ticks and all.
Foster initially thought the dog would fare best at an animal rescue shelter near São Paulo, Brazil. But he soon realized how overcrowded and overwhelmed the shelter was, and determined that the dog he named Negrita needed a better outcome.
“It just wasn’t an option, I couldn’t leave her there,” Foster said.
Because he often travels and advocates for animal welfare through his organization, PlaysforStrays, Foster did have some connections in Brazil.
He reached out to a woman named Tamis, who agreed to care for Negrita in São Paulo until Foster could fly the dog to his home in Ireland.
Foster had initially hoped that Negrita would be cleared for an international flight after about three weeks.
Instead, it took five months.
In the interim, people donated food and supplies to Negrita’s foster mom, who faithfully nursed the dog back to health. Meanwhile, Foster tried to overcome the mountains of paperwork that came with bringing a dog out of one country and into another.
“The government vet in the jungle I was in wouldn’t let her go, wouldn’t let her fly,” he said. “I wouldn’t go as far as bribery but let’s just says there were people asking for money for help.”
“It was a logistical nightmare,” he added.
But Foster persevered through the red tape, and in March of 2018, Negrita was cleared to leave Brazil and fly to Ireland.
Foster waited nervously, knowing his dog was confused and frightened on her first long haul flight.
When Negrita did land, she was greeted with the cold Ireland weather, temperatures the dog had never felt before.
She was a bit scared and timid at first, but when she saw Foster, her body language suggested she remembered the man who rescued her.
Negrita has lived in Ireland for over one year now, trading the harsh Amazon jungles for lush Irish pastures and golden sunsets.
Foster is still in awe that their lives came together in such a unique way.
“I look at her most evenings, when everything’s quiet and she’s lying on her bed sleeping, and think back to how she was found,” Foster told The Dodo.
“The condition she was in was terrible. She has come so far — because of so many people who gave her a chance to live.”
“I am humbled by them, and by her, every single day,” he said.
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