Just off the IC1 north of Ourique there is a small, quiet hamlet called Ourique Estacao, in the middle of nowhere. It is home to Rafeiritos do Alentejo, a small privately run shelter at the back of the village. It used to be Mariana’s holiday home in the country, and an investment for her retirement, she has owned it for decades. These days however, it is her only home and her life; her life is dedicated to the abandoned dogs, and some cats in the area of Ourique, Castro Verde and Aljustrel.
Mariana has over 60 dogs under her care, in her back garden, small but very well laid out. Mariana does most of the work herself, the cleaning, the feeding, taking the animals to the vet clinic, etc. She has these animals, not because she wanted this many animals, but because she loves animals and there was no where else for them to go.
Mariana has truly dedicated her life to these abandoned animals, she takes amazing care of them (all are neutered, vaccinated, de-wormed/de-fleed), she knows them all by name, and when one finds a new loving home, she is in floods of tears. Both out of sadness and joy; sadness because she truly loves the dog; joy because all her efforts have helped finding this animal a loving home.
When you arrive outside the door the first time, and you knock on the door, the dogs start barking, you start to wonder what it looks like inside, what to expect…. As soon as you enter the kennel area, you see many dogs, beautiful dogs, in fair sized kennels and runs. Walking with Mariana past the kennels, towards her house and swimming pool, you see that every room, area, corner has a dog bed for the rescue dogs to curl up.
Once you are in the kennel area the dogs stop barking and the kennel is calm. It is calm because Mariana is always around, spending time with the dogs. Even though it is small, it is great to see that she has managed to ensure that not too many dogs are living in each area. However, most of the fencing materials are worn, and torn, and could do with replacing and fixing; door hinges have broken and are tied together with cable ties, just to give some examples. The other very noticeable thing is that everything is very, very clean; the animals are well fed and very friendly and have outgoing personalities.
Lovely and beautiful dogs, many of which should be able to be adopted and live in a warm and loving home environment. An old English Setter and Rafeiro do Alentejano came into her care after their owner died. They cannot be separated, and even when the Rafeiro do Alentejano had to be operated on a tumor on his foot a couple of weeks ago caused by dermatitis, his companion went with him to the vet clinic. Mariana has a heart of gold and will keep and care for them until they pass away, as she knows, finding a home for these two golden oldies is next to impossible. A three legged Brittany Spaniel, is living here for quite some time now, sweet and gentle, and not easy to find a home for because of his missing leg. There is a Boston Terrier mix is asking for attention and a cuddle. A large black Rhodesian Ridgeback has been here for a long time, he has seen many dogs come, and many dogs leave, and he is still there. A recent arrival, a mix Serra do Estrela is looking lost in his kennel, he needs time to figure out his new life. Further along near the swimming pool we meet another gentle giant, a black and white mix Rafeiro do Alentejano, friendly, outgoing and very social with everything and everybody. So many lovely and beautiful dogs, all looking for their loving home to call their own…
Most of the dogs with Mariana ARE adoptable, the problem is that there are simply not enough people to adopt. Finding homes for them is not that easy for her, sometimes she sends some dogs to an organization in Sweden, and other times to an organization in Germany. Usually, the smaller sized, fluffy dogs find homes abroad easily, the bigger dogs usually stay for a long period of time; often they stay forever…
There are a few dedicated volunteers who come and help, whenever they can, by helping with cleaning, dog walking, managing facebook. Mariana would love to have more volunteers on a regular basis to take dogs out for walks, there is plenty of opportunity to walk the dogs through the fields at the back of Ourique Estacao, but there are not many people from Castro Verde/Ourique/Aljustrel who are even aware of her existence, let alone coming to volunteer here.
When we visited Mariana in July, we took two small dogs into our care, both of them found wonderful homes in a short period of time. This time we took Magali and Fellini home with us. Magali has already travelled to Germany and Fellini has been quickly reserved for a new home. Ourique is not that far away from the Algarve, and when looking to adopt a dog, please take the time to contact and hopefully visit Mariana at Rafeiritos do Alentejo!
Magali now in Germany:
Mariana saying goodbye to Fellini:
Contact information of this shelter can be found on facebooks “Os Rafeiritos do Alentejo” or here.
We have many other photos of our recent visit that can be found here. If you would like any further information about any of the dogs with Mariana and needing homes contact us and we are happy to help.
To make a donation to allow this work to continue please visit www.sosalgarveanimals.com or facebook SOS Algarve animals.