A Surprising Encounter
David planned to just unplug from the world, especially social media, and take a complete break. “When we stopped at this random island, the plan was to go swimming and snorkeling, then have lunch,” David said in an interview. “Idyllic, really.” He didn’t expect what was waiting for him…
Into The Wilderness
There comes a time when any person, no matter how much they love their job, finds they need to take a break from the daily grind. Though David Foster’s work involved significant amounts of travel, he came to realize that he still needed to give himself some time for rest and relaxation. It had always been a dream of his to explore nearly uncharted lands, and so he excitedly booked himself a trip that would allow him to explore the Amazon rainforest of Brazil.
Cruisin’ Down The River
A significant part of David’s trip would be taken up by river cruising, which would bring the intrepid travelers ever deeper into the heart of the jungle. It was there that Foster would discover just how much his life would change. For all the times people embark on an overseas sabbatical with the idea that their lives will be changed for the good, sometimes a vacation is just intended to be a vacation. David’s passion, however, would get in the way of that.
Far From Civilization
On that fateful day, Foster was content with his trip’s itinerary. The small group of explorers was winding their way through the river on a motorboat, as they bounced from one village to the next. Foster could hardly get over the experience he was having, as he continuously met people whose lives were so different from his own. The tour planned a midday stop on a small island, which would change the course of Foster’s life forever.
What’s That On The Horizon?
While aboard the boat, David took a glance at the shore. He saw a very strange shape, which he figured was probably just a stray piece of driftwood. However, something nagged at him to take a second look. Using binoculars, he discovered that it wasn’t a piece of wood. “I could tell immediately that it was a dog,” David said in an interview. He was instantly worried about why a dog was by itself in such a remote location.
David expressed his concerns about the dog’s wellbeing to the ship’s captain. The captain seemed unperturbed and told David that the dog’s owners were most likely in the area. But David couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something seriously amiss. He flew his drone overhead, which revealed that they were at least two hours away from the nearest village. It was clear the dog had been alone for a while, and David didn’t know how it would react to their presence.
Meeting The Mysterious Canine
Some of the boat’s passengers decided to take a dip in the water and go snorkeling. The dog immediately perked up and jumped in the water alongside the people. When the passengers came back to the boat, the dog paddled close behind them. David decided to go to the beach to see the dog, who open closer inspection, was worse for wear: “She was a pitiful sight, and I’m surprised she had the energy to swim and run so far.”
Seriously In Danger
David said that the dog was making crying noises, and since he’s such a dog lover, the dog’s noises almost made him cry. He took a closer look at the dog, confirming that she was a female. He was immediately struck by just how badly she was malnourished. In his opinion, she was probably only about 48 hours away from starving to death. David wanted to save her life. He knew that she required serious medical attention, and fast.
The popular website for dog enthusiasts iHeartDogs interviewed David Foster in December 2017, in the wake of his life-changing trip to Brazil. David spoke about how he was able to seamlessly blend his work with his dedication to helping man’s best friend. In the interview, he said that “All this traveling [for work] is boring. So I would go to local animal shelters wherever I may be, and give a few toys or balls for their animals.”
Social Media Guru
A few good deeds can go a long way, especially when they get shared by word of mouth and social media. Originally, modest David only told his close friends and families about his charitable work, and of course, they wanted to help support him. Soon, after he posted pics of his drop-offs at local shelters on Facebook, social media followers and strangers began donating gifts for David to take to the dogs on their behalf, as well.
Hard Work Pays Off
After his social media popularity grew, the donations poured in. This enabled David to create his own charity dedicated to bringing toys to furry friends currently in shelters, called Play For Strays. After several intense months of hard work – both in his business career, as well as his charity – David, decided that he needed a vacation. He chose the most relaxing thing he could think of – a cruise up the Amazon River in Brazil. Little did he know…
David sprang into action, knowing that he was the difference between life and death for this poor canine. “No way could I leave her there to fend for herself. No way,” David recalled thinking at the time to iHeartDogs. Another passenger joined David’s mission and named her Negrita, a Spanish pet name which roughly translates to “Blackie.” It was hard going, but they managed to convince the boat’s staff to let her onboard and feed her.
Hot As Day
The temperature that day reached over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the remote area of Brazil in which Foster was trekking. Even the travelers felt weary at the thought of managing the heat without having the chance to enjoy the cooling waters. David couldn’t even imagine how the emaciated dog was able to go on in such conditions. If he thought her rescue would be a straightforward task, he would be sorely mistaken, as it became clear the owner of the boat didn’t share his interest.
The Rescue Begins
Finally, the boat’s staff let Negrita come onboard the ship, and they sailed off with the intention of finding her a veterinarian. But, finding a vet for the dog in the middle of the Amazon Jungle was much harder than David could have ever expected. David spent money out of his pocket at local pharmacies to treat her with the pet medicine that was available. Negrita was a hit with the children of the local villages, who helped bathe her.
Sharing Their Bounty
The small expedition was far from going hungry, but even so, there was only so much food the little boat could carry in between their excursions to these far-flung villages. After winning the battle to bring Negrita on board, Foster knew he needed to get the dog some nourishment even while waiting to get her to the vet. The little boat was two hours in either direction from any town, so with much persuasion, Foster managed to share some of the boat’s steak with Negrita.
Giving His All
Knowing that Negrita was safely on the boat wasn’t going to be enough for Foster. As he continued to fret over her frail health, he knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep easily without checking up on the dog every so often. Even after the tour stopped for dinner, Foster explained to iHeartDogs, “I checked her below decks every 20 minutes or so.” Even then, on one of his checks, he descended the stairs only to see the dog was missing.
“I had a moment of panic but she was right there on the beach. I jumped off the boat, gave a whistle and she came straight back. I tied her extra tight to the bemusement of the local fishermen who think I’m crazy,” Foster shared with the website. It wouldn’t be the last time that Negrita gave Foster such a fright. As thoughts of saving the dog overtook his every thought, Foster began considering changing the rest of his trip.
A Major Decision
It wasn’t long before David realized that his feelings for Negrita had extended beyond his trip. David was so worried about what could happen to Negrita in the future if he left her in Brazil. He explained to iHeartDogs, “Dogs aren’t loved here as we do in the U.K. [and] my heart wouldn’t allow her to stay.” But following his heart wasn’t so simple for David, especially when international regulations transporting dogs from Brazil to the U.K. are involved.
A Growing Crisis
After reading Negrita’s story, it’s easy to think that Brazil is a country that quite simply doesn’t care about dogs. However, the reasons why a dog is abandoned or lives without a home are complicated, and stray dogs can be found in every country on the planet. But if you read on, you may be surprised to find out that the Brazilian people actually do have quite a soft spot for man’s best friend – even the ones that live on the street.
During the lead-up to the 2014 World Cup, many street dogs were rounded up by the authorities. There were no official estimates for how many dogs were seized and presumably killed, but local people had enough. Despite the fact that they themselves were dealing with complicated issues ranging from poverty to unemployment and lack of safe water, the local villagers decided that no more dogs were to be killed for the World Cup. They took to the streets in protest.
Bus Stop Angels
Staff in the bus station in Curitiba made makeshift beds from old tires for three cute strays. Bystander Rosa Fabiane captured the whole thing and posted it on social media. “Congratulations to the terminal staff, everyone understands that these angels are there and have a right to be,” she posted on Facebook.”So many companies in Curitiba could follow this example, adopting a pet. Of course, it is not the ideal, but at least there are those who are looking after them.”
We’ve all heard about the overcrowded Brazilian slums referred to as “favelas” – but what about a special favela just for dogs and cats? Such a thing could only exist in Brazil. Back in 1998, a local NGO started construction on a large complex of simple animal shelters for strays, which has now swelled to provide a home for an astounding 1,600 dogs and 200 cats. The animals consume an estimated whopping 12 tons – that’s nearly a staggering 27,000 pounds – of food every month.
Rags To Riches
This dog is the center of one of our favorite rags to riches stories ever. This dog, Bolinha, was abandoned at a gas station while he was still a puppy. Sickly and skinny, the gas station’s staff took pity on him and began feeding him table scraps and leftovers. Within a year, Bolinha ballooned to a whopping 80 pounds. However, thanks to a diet, he’s now dropped back down again to a healthy weight. Talk about the “Biggest Loser!”
What’s inspiring is that individual Brazilians are making the choice to try to save the lives of these precious pooches. Even if they themselves suffer from a lack of resources, they still do their best to share what little they have with the less fortunate. Simple bus drivers in a station used old tires to create makeshift beds for strays, and favela residents teamed up to save the lives of stray dogs in the lead up to the 2014 World Cup. So it seemed that David wasn’t the only one concerned for these poor pops.
Meeting The Vet
David began to realize exactly how much the situation wasn’t under his control. After several days, Negrita finally received the medical attention she so desperately needed. Santarém, a small city located at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers, was where David set up camp. But despite the fact that Negrita finally got some help, the vet told David that Negrita’s test results would what determine her fate. “Her tests included canine leishmaniasis and cinomosis,” he said.
Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by sandfly bites, but its most severe effect is that it causes the internal organs, including the spleen, to become enlarged. The vet informed David that if Negrita were diagnosed positive with the disease, she would have to be put to sleep. The wait for the test results was nerve-racking, and he said it was “the longest 24 hours of my life.” In the end though, thankfully, Negrita passed with flying colors.
But this wasn’t your average everyday case of a street dog in poor condition. She was severely malnourished, with her ribs showing. Her body was infested with bloodsucking ticks and fleas and had deep lacerations in both her ears. From scars on her abdomen, it appeared that she had been abused by her previous owners, who abandoned her. Vultures circled overhead, which confirmed the very worst in David’s mind – she was on the brink of death. But how did David even end up in the Amazon, to begin with?
Time For A Break
After the grind of a 9 to 5 job, everyone loves taking a much-deserved vacation. British citizen David Foster is no exception to the rule. The stress of commuting and the intensity of his occupation meant that he was ready to relax when he decided to go on a trip to Brazil. He chose the remotest part of the Amazon jungle, expecting a relaxing break from reality. But before he knew it, he was shocked by something running towards him.
David Foster is not a man who is afraid to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. He’s originally from Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom. He is a salesman for medical equipment, which means that he’s a modern-day nomad, always on the go and traveling from city to city and even internationally. He’s quite successful in his occupation, but his real passion lies outside of the office. His biggest love in life is, undoubtedly, dogs.
David decided to focus on Negrita’s journey instead of his vacation. His relaxing break had officially taken a back seat, and Negrita’s health assumed priority. The problem was that David couldn’t immediately bring Negrita back to the U.K. – it’s not as though he could just stick her on the plane back with him. However, through the power and magic of social media, a loving temporary foster family in Brazil was found for Negrita, and she was left in a safe place.
Of course, David kept all of his charity’s followers updated on the whole saga, every step of the way, via his social media pages for Play For Strays. Hundreds of donations from all over the world poured in, helping support David’s quest to bring Negrita back to the U.K. After weeks of limbo, David made an excited announcement: As of February 2018, he gave word that Negrita’s papers were finally in order and his “Amazon Girl” would be coming home soon.
You might be wondering why exactly David devoted so much time and energy to save a random stray dog. David explained his reasoning in an interview with iHeartDogs, “I’ve seen hundreds of dogs in shelters, but they are safe, fed and hopefully loved. Stray dogs in cities are also a prevalent sight, but they can potentially find food.” Basically, David knew that leaving the dog behind in the remote area, without garbage to rummage through, meant certain death for her.
A Matter Of Fate
“Negrita was beaten and left for dead in a place where she couldn’t survive,” David said. “She wasn’t a stray; she was abandoned to die and chose me to save her. It may take time, but I will do it.” Once he looked into Negrita’s dark brown eyes, he felt a deep connection to the lone animal. There are things in life that we can’t explain, and David decided to go with his gut instincts to adopt Negrita.
… And She’s Off
In April 2018, Negrita’s story took a new uplifting turn. After waiting for months, David posted a thrilling updated on the Play For Strays Facebook page: “Negrita has said her farewells to her foster mum Tamis and is currently at the airport in São Paulo…She will be boarding in a couple of hours. First to Germany…a stretch of the legs, then onwards to Dublin. I’ll drive down to pick her up tomorrow…with other Play for Strays supporters! It all feels so surreal!”
Safe And Sound
Finally, after nearly 24 hours of travel, there was another update: Negrita reached the U.K. Dave posted: “Negrita had a very quiet night and slept well. Today she went shopping for a new harness, lead, coat and a visit to the vet and a walk by the lake. So we’re back home now so she can relax on the sofa. That’s more than enough excitement for one day!” He then thanked several individual donators for their support.
However, it wasn’t all smooth sailing once David and Negrita were reunited: “Poor Negrita was back at the vet’s today. She had been showing signs of a sore left ear. After investigation, it was shown they were very dirty and infected so they were cleaned out under sedation. Left eardrum possibly perforated too, so I wonder if the flying could have contributed to that? She’s on a course of tablets now. Poor girl is feeling very sorry for herself right now.”
A Bright Future
But lately, things have finally taken a turn for the better. David happily posted: “Negrita must be feeling better because she’s trying to stop me from packing this bunch of toys for our next Play for Strays donation! I’m off to South Korea…will keep everyone updated of course. And Negrita’s grandad will keep her company when I’m away; she loves him.” We’re glad to hear Negrita is feeling better and will enjoy a weekend of spoiling courtesy of David’s dad.