Murielle Vivancos and I have a lot in common: incredible dog adoption stories fit for children’s books; admiration and respect for animal activists in Albania; and a belief the universe helped bring us to our dogs and JETA: Tier und Mensch.
Murielle, her husband Ilir, and daughter Axelle, live in Sweden and run Lygnareds Camping (www.campingalingsas.com). In October 2021, they visited her husband’s native Albania for the first time in nearly five years. Although the trip was short, it would become one they would never forget.
Murielle and Axelle were not supposed to pass through a certain plaza when they did, serendipitously when there was a JTUM awareness event aimed to educate the public about street dogs and cats and explain their mission. Although neither Murielle nor Axelle speak Albanian, they approached the group. Despite language barriers, they managed to communicate and take the contact details of Zamira Kuci, one of the group’s major activists, in case they could volunteer at the Durrës shelter on this trip (unlikely due to time restraints) or the next.
That same evening, they found a puppy alone on the street. While this certainly isn’t a phenomenon in Albania, it pushed them to contact Zamira sooner than expected. The family took care of the puppy and with the help of an Albanian friend, found a family for him.
Murielle and I are similar in that when we receive help, we want to give back. Murielle, Axelle and a friend decided to visit the shelter. In the group of almost 40 dogs were two carbon copies (Gresy and Bobi) of their beloved dogs (Teva and Cyriel) who had passed away. And one dog, then-called Rea, stuck to Axelle and developed an immediate bond.
The family left the shelter and eventually Albania, but obsessed about the dogs. They had never adopted slightly older street dogs before. Would they have trauma? Would they struggle to adjust to a life inside? Plus, the family had just lost one of their dogs a few months before. The pain of that loss was fresh and they were still in the ‘never again, it hurts too much’ stage of mourning. And, why adopt from Albania when there were dogs closer to Sweden who needed homes? It was challenging to communicate in their non-native tongues and even more confusing to understand the ins and outs of adopting from Albania.
But how could they deny the magic? There were not one – but two – almost-identical copies of their previous dogs in the shelter. And Rea’s attraction to Axelle was undeniable. Plus, Rea’s birthday was likely the same date as Axelle’s.
They couldn’t stop thinking about the dogs. To Murielle’s surprise, her husband did not object, even though he wasn’t able to visit the shelter that fateful day. It was settled. They wouldn’t wait another five years to visit Albania. Despite COVID19 travel snafus, they returned to Albania in February and stayed 1.5 months to prepare Rea (now Kenaï) and Gresy (now Mystic) to leave with JTUM’s help.
Their epic trip home started with a ferry from Durrës to Ancona, Italy. Murielle’s parents came from Annecy, France to pick them up. They stayed in France for a little holiday then bought a car to travel from France to Sweden. The trip is full of memories, and each day in their new home, the dogs grow and learn more.
The family is grateful for the friendships created with the JTUM women activists and plans to continue helping their mission in the future. Next up? Finding their goddog, Lou, a good forever home.
Even if this story is amazing and magical, it’s important to remember that it required a lot of time, energy and money. Murielle’s advice to anyone considering adoption? “I think it’s important to be patient and let the dog take the time he needs. In the beginning, Mystic was very afraid but with the help of Kenaï and more trust in us, she is now not afraid of anything. And the most important thing, I think, is to trust the process and not overthink it. The universe makes magical things. We love them so much and cannot imagine life without them.”