A Special Story – Rags to Riches

One cold Saturday morning in early 2010, Aanifeira member and fosterer Ana Célia, was driving down to the entrance of the shelter when, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted something furry lying in a pile of rubbish by the side of the road.  Her immediate thought was to stop the car and jump out and see what it was and thank goodness she did!   To her horror she found a very small dog enveloped in an extremely matted and dirty coat.  She quickly gathered up the little creature in her arms placing it in her car and drove down the rest of the road to Aanifeira.

Getting warm...

Carrying the small quiet and furry bundle in her arms, Ana Célia quickly ran into the Aanifeira clinic where General Manager, Paulo Santos, was able to take her in and get her settled into a warm bed until she could be properly examined by our vet.  When vet Claudia got down to giving her a first up check-up it was found that this was an elderly female dog with an enormous mammary hernia bulging from her abdomen in addition to having a heart murmur.   The difficulty she would have had in walking with this extra weight underneath her abdomen is unimaginable.

Nanica (meaning in Portuguese ‘a tiny bit of something’), as she was quickly baptized by Paulo, was received with open hearts by Aanifeira’s staff and volunteers.  The first chore was to clip her matted coat and this was taken on by Paulo straight away.  Underneath the matted ‘blanket’ we found a very small, thin little creature with big soft brown eyes who let all those around her give her the treatment and care that she needed.

Nanica's very large hernia

It was obvious from the start that with Nanica being a senior dog and having a heart murmur that there was a certain risk in removing the large hernia but Claudia took the plunge and she was immediately programmed into the first operation of the next week.

In what proved to be a long and somewhat delicate operation she pulled through famously and became the shelter’s little sweetheart with everyone throwing lots of TLC on her.   Her recovery was speedy and it wasn’t long before volunteers were able to take Nanica out for walks in the sunshine which she delighted in.

Nanica after her operation

Over the past few years, Aanifeira has been very fortunate to receive medical supplies on a regular basis from the Animal Medical Care Foundation (AMCF).  The AMCF gives  Animal Welfare Shelters worldwide an opportunity of  putting up an animal with special needs for sponsorship on their website.  With Nanica’s case being a more delicate one and the fact that she was a senior lady made us think from the start that an adoption in Portugal would be very difficult to find.  Life for her would be very lonely in a cage in a veterinary clinic something we certainly didn’t want for her.

After much pondering it was decided that we would do this to seek sponsorship for help on her future medication.  Within a week or two our wishes came true and AMCF informed us that a sponsor in Switzerland had shown a special interest in Nanica and had offered a monetary donation to begin helping her out.  It was from this day forward that a special relationship grew and flourished between Aanifeira, Nanica’s Swiss sponsor and Nanica herself that would bring a happy finale to this entire story.

Soon after giving her donation the sponsor sent an email to AMCF saying that she would like to ADOPT our little Nanica.   This was a dream come true and from then a steady stream of emails and telephone calls were exchanged between Switzerland and Portugal reporting back on her daily progress.

During the course of the next couple of months however, Nanica’s  health didn’t improve as well as it should have done and complications occurred from the first operation.   Coupled with this two further small tumors were detected which needed removing.  Once again due to her problems the risk factor was high, so it was decided that she should be operated on at a veterinary hospital in Porto where all the best veterinary surgeons and equipment would be made available to her.  Claudia had the opportunity to assist at the hospital with this operation as well.   Additionally the vets proposed a further operation to remove the huge amount of excess skin left from the large hernia so she was given a ‘tummy nip-and-tuck’ operation as well as a complete dental work over.

To everyone’s delight she pulled through like a trooper (we were always concerned at her fragility) and from then on Nanica never looked back!

During the course of the next few weeks preparations for Nanica’s travel were worked on and it was at this time also that the Swiss sponsor decided that she would like to rename Nanica to ‘Lady May’ which we were delighted with.  The sponsor continued to show constant concern for Lady May’s health and emails were exchanged daily giving updates on her condition.

In early April 2010, Lady May was finally ready for her journey to her new home in Zurich and Aanifeira’s President ,Victor Barros made this trip taking the special passenger in a small carrying case with him in the cabin.  She proved popular with his fellow travellers who delighted in seeing a tiny face peeking out at the outside world around her. Victor was met at the airport by her new owner and there was much joy as finally she was in new hands.

Baxter patiently waiting for the new family member

Her arrival at her new home caused a sensation with her new family as she joined four other rescued dogs with one bachelor in particular, Baxter, anxiously holding his breath for her arrival!

Over the next months, we have received updates and photos on the progress of Lady May’s health and she has blossomed into the most beautiful dog, full of life for an old girl and absolutely loving her new home in Switzerland.  The videos and photos below are proof of this.


Our sincerest and heartfelt thanks go out to all those who shared Nanica’s/Lady May’s life along the way, from Ana Célia who originally found her, Claudia who treated her, Paulo who cared for her at the clinic as if she were his own pet, Aanifeira volunteers for general helping out with her day-to-day care and hygiene, Victor for spending an entire day travelling to and from Switzerland, the AMCF for giving us the opportunity of having her on their website and finally last, but certainly not least, to Lady May’s new owner and all the kindness that she showed in bringing an old girl back from rags to riches!

About Aanifeira

Aanifeira – Associação dos Amigos dos Animais de Santa Maria da Feira is a non-profit/ no-kill organization with around 400 abandoned dogs and a small amount of cats in its care.
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1 Response to A Special Story – Rags to Riches

  1. Ângela says:

    A Nanica está uma rainha 🙂 lindaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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