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Dog loving James Barton has given seven sweet pups a second chance at a joyful life in Scotland thanks to his roadside rescue mission and the support of generous donors from around the world.
The Scottish electrician working in Saudi Arabia in the run-up to this month’s Saudi Cup horse race had spotted the dogs on his first day at work.
“As an avid dog lover I went to investigate unaware of the journey I was about to begin,” said the 29-year-old living in Riyadh. “I started off for the first couple of days just going down to see them, to give them attention as well as food and water.
“I started to notice over the coming days that there was no sign of their mother and they were left to their own devices. After I posted some pictures and videos of them on social media, the people of Scotland started to encourage me to get them home. And so Save The Dugs was born!”
The pups were named after people he cared about. Cathy was named after his granny who passed away and the other Betty, after a woman from Calton who has been supporting Save the Dugs and who helped him to take the leap of faith. Smeego is after his dear friend from Gringo in Glasgow, Kobe after the late great basketball player Kobe Bryant and Hassan after his friend from Chad. Hamish is a Scottish name famed from the movie Braveheart for being a true warrior and finally, Calton because that is the area that he was born and raised that taught him the morals he has today.
After investigating the procedures needed for the dogs to be sent from Saudi to Scotland, he realised how daunting it was.
“I knew I couldn’t do it myself,” he explained. “After seeking advice on Facebook, I was receiving a lot of mixed information with the majority of it being negative implying it can’t be done. However, a little bit of negativity wasn’t going to stop me.”
Mona, who he dubbed as a caring Saudi soul, contacted him and offered to look after the dogs until James could sort out a solution.
He was overjoyed by her support and continued on his mission. However, he was coming to a dead end of what to do next after realising the financial implications. It would be on average around GBP2,000 per dog including vet fees and flights to Scotland.
That is when he set up a JustGiving fundraising page and an Instagram account solely to Save the Dugs. “Within 24 hours a fellow Scot got in contact with me,” said James who loves dogs and had them in his family since the age of four. “She is a Bahraini resident, an animal activist, a singer, the founder of Bahrain Animal Rescue Centre (BARC) and all-round kind hearted humanitarian by the name of Sandi Thom. Within two messages back and forth, Sandi provided the lifeline needed for the Saudi Seven. She offered her extensive knowledge in the steps needed to firstly get them to her centre in Bahrain and advice on how to get them back home to our beautiful wee country Scotland.”
The page was a roaring success, having raised GBP3,474, which is enough for all of their vet bills. “With the rest, I will try and help one or two get a dog for a cut price especially, a woman who has contacted me that her son with autism would love a therapy dog,” he added. “It’s what I’m all about; helping those who need help and it’s all about doing something for someone who can never repay you.”
The pups are rapidly growing and waiting patiently in Mona’s home for their final tests and vaccines before they can cross the border to Bahrain.
“They will then be collected by Sandi and her BARC team and taken to the Centre where they will be welcomed by 180 dogs and 200 cats all of whom are looking for adoption like the Saudi Seven,” said James. “BARC’s predominant focus is to rescue, rehabilitate and rehome each and every one of their animal population while providing vaccinations, professional care through both holistic methods of healing as well as western. There will be a new BARC Centre which is under construction just now and opening to the public in the summer of 2020.”
James’ wish came true when all seven were adopted and they will be heading to Scotland at the beginning of April. The beauty of this mission is that it has opened the door for a further one.
Sandi said: “The Saudi Seven has inspired James and me to continue our efforts to help rehome many more pups. Since the response from the Scottish people was so overwhelming, we’re continuing to find homes for more pups coming into the shelter. It’s been amazing and we can’t thank everyone enough!” Three pups from BARC will be making the move to Scotland with the seven as well.
“I am delighted and can’t thank everybody enough for their great generosity,” said James.
“I have fallen in love with handsome Hassan and I can’t wait to get him home. Thank you to everybody who has donated and to the people of the Calton, Scotland and the Arabian world.
“We are all one and no matter what is portrayed in the media, people unite and it knows no race, religion or nationality.”
Help Sandi and James continue their dog-saving goals by following them @savethedugs on Instagram. To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/savethedugs