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From The Ark Number 194 - Summer 2003

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Who We Are

A Hungarian ‘Puss in Boots’

By Patricia Johnson

I was visiting Hungary this winter and found to my great surprise a Hungarian/British lady running an animal sanctuary near Gyor, on the edge of a forest called Szolohegy. As a former vet nurse, I was intrigued.

One day I had found a little stray dog running nervously around the baroque city of Gyur. I was trying to take it back to my hotel room, but was told at the reception desk that there was a lady who would not only take the little dog into her sanctuary but also find a new home for it. So I rang the number given to me, and that’s where my story begins.

A charming English voice told me that I could take the little dog to the sanctuary but, if not, she would come and collect it from my hotel. By this time I was so intrigued to see where this place was that I took a taxi to Szolohegy - being only eight miles from Gyor - with my little friend, who seemed totally undisturbed by the ride, and was happy to curl up in my lap. After twenty minutes we arrived on a bumpy road to the sanctuary, which is on the edge of this lovely forest. Mrs Rhodes, the owner of the Puss in Boots Animal Trust & Sanctuary, opened the gate, with five happy jumping dogs around her. I noticed immediately how affectionate and well-fed the animals were. Mrs Rhodes attended first to our little stray friend and, as it was a small dog, she put it into her dog nursery, which was an enclosure with about six small dogs running about with plenty of space and several straw-filled huts to go into. My little friend was vaccinated and examined by Mrs Rhodes, and was given a worming pill. She said she would prefer to isolate the newcomer for six to seven days, just to be sure it was not carrying any illness, while the vaccine took effect, but she had not yet had enough money to build proper quarantine kennels.

Mrs. Rhodes had hoped to start fundraising and to build a few kennels this coming spring. She then took me around the sanctuary where 45 dogs are housed in several enclosures with shelters filled with straw. As we went along, I saw all the dogs running to the gates of the enclosures and, as Mrs Rhodes put her hand through they all jumped with joy and licked her hands.

I have rarely seen such happy and loving animals - it was like a big family! We then went on to the cat sanctuary, which is built onto her own house. I could hardly believe my eyes when we went in. A large room with two bunk-beds, cat baskets of all sorts, with coloured cushions and blankets. What a delightful sight, with about 60 cats looking very well fed and lazy in the mid-day sun. A big chinese stove with a crackling wood fire, lovely warm blankets, and an English cat-flap leading onto a sun-lit terrace which extends to a long cat-run. What heaven! Clean and tidy, with bowls of fresh water and dry food. As we went in, again I noticed the affection of the cats towards Mrs Rhodes. Some of them were jumping straight on to her shoulder, and rubbing on her face, as only cats do. They all have names and she was telling me about their individual habits. ‘Mushi’ was a great shoulder-jumper, but ‘Cindy Crawford’ talked - and she really did!

Then we sat down in her busy, messy office, which also housed a sick cat, separated as she was brought in with a nasty skin problem, and Mrs Rhodes was worried that the others might catch it. Over a cup of tea, she was telling me how difficult it is to run a sanctuary in Hungary, as there was little culture to treat animals as lovingly as she did, and often she is not appreciated for her work, but even attacked! She also has great difficulties in finding staff. Carers are not trained, are often irresponsible, and amount to not much more than cleaners. Her workload is enormous, she is running her trust and her sanctuary single-handed, with very little outside help. She is re-homing, sterilising dogs and cats, treating them for various illnesses and injuries. She has to take the animals to the vets in Gyur and even getting food is a constant battle. Having seen all this with my own eyes, I pledged myself to go back to London and raise whatever help I can, for her sanctuary.

Well, here is what she needs:

  • First of all money to build these quarantine kennels for the dogs, more runs and better winter shelters. She needs a mid-sized van to carry animals and their food, and the cats need a sick room, and a quarantine room for five to six cats to be built on to the existing sanctuary. She needs to raise a minimum of £30,000 to keep the sanctuary open, as the Hungarian authorities are now asking for a permit which includes quarantine facilities. Also goods are welcome: blankets, feeding bowls, baskets, dog and cat flea collars…
  • Volunteers are urgently needed in Hungary. Accommodation and basic food provided. Plus a responsible couple or single person needed to run the sanctuary during owner’s absences: 3 months minimum. Accommodation, basic food and wages. Also in London, helping Mrs Rhodes with fundraising and general office work when she is in London.

You can send English cheques made out to ‘Puss in Boots Animal Trust’, and all other correspondence, to Mrs E Rhodes, Paskumu 1, Bony-Szolohegy 9073, Hungary or tel: 0036-30-2903535

* I beg all people with a heart for animals - please help this lovely place to stay open to so many happy animals.


Return to Number 194 - Summer 2003

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