Friesland – home of Romanian Stray Dogs [2]

Barking Romania is the organization that makes possible the process of bringing the stray dogs from Romania to the Netherlands, and all this is done with the help of Barbara van der Weijen, a wonderful, amazing and courageous woman and dog lover, who dedicates her entire life saving stray dogs and finding them a home.

By: Laura Apostol

Life surrounded by dogs

Barbara is from Dronrijp, a small village in Friesland, living in a modest house surrounded by 6 dogs. What else would you need, when you have six energetic and happy dogs, around you all day ? Many may think that this is not enough, that in life you should aim bigger and better, but for Barbara this is her ideal way of living her life: surrounded by dogs.

Hera, the Greek dog

This passion for saving stray dogs has started around 2010, in Heraklion, Greece, when she was on holiday. While waiting at the airport, to check in, she went outside. Suddenly, a small puppy jumped into her arms, all excited and frisky to had found a new friend to play with. Barbara played with the puppy for a while, but when it was time to go, she had to leave her. However, the puppy wanted more affection and started to follow Barbara into the airport. So, she had to take the puppy out several times, up until one time when she managed to stop the puppy to get in the airport.

All alone

While on her way back to the Netherlands, her thoughts were back to the little puppy who was all alone, with no one to take care of her. Therefore, Barbara contacted an organization that deals with stray dogs in Greece and managed to find the puppy. After three months of waiting, the puppy, now named Hera, and Barbara got back together and they have established such a strong connection that is beyond words.

Risky decisions

Starting that moment, Barbara realized that this is her mission in life, to take care of stray dogs and this is not something that she could resist, because this job chose her. So she quit her job as a social worker, gave away every benefit that came with the former job and endured all the judgements from several people, knowing that this is what she is going to do from now on.

Helping stray dogs from Romania

When realizing the bad situation regarding stray dogs in Romania, Barbara visited a shelter in Timisoara, a city in Romania. Seeing the overcrowded cages in which the dogs were held, with several diseases and poor conditions, she decided to do something. That’s when she met Roxana and started working together by finding adopting families in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium and save the stray dogs from Romania.

Training process

Doing this job for over 7 years, Barbara has become an expert in the behaviour of the dogs, as she – with the help of other experienced foster families – is assisting the dogs in accommodating to their new life. Most dogs come from Romania with psychological issues, being afraid to trust humans, thus being sometimes aggressive towards any threats such as bikes, cars and even joggers. Therefore, Barbara dedicates every day to training these dogs, walking them on a regular basis, especially in a pack so they can get more social and teach them the language and the behaviour of Dutch dogs. It almost sounds like a human trying to adapt into a new country!

Finding adopting families

After the training process, Barbara gets in contact with possible adopting families. The adopting process is thorough, as she first send a list of requirements for the family, asking them about their living situation, job, present animals in the house, history with other animals, etc. and based on that, she makes a decision on whether this family is an option for adopting the dog. Afterwards, she phones the family, and establishes a home check along with the dog, in order to see how or if the dog will adapt in the new house. During this process, Barbara thinks everything through, but she mostly relies on her feeling. If she has a good feeling about the people that are going to adopt, than this process becomes easier. And this seems to work! In all these years she got back only 2 dogs!

Dedicating life for saving dogs

Even though she has received several criticism from people judging her about her way of living, about not caring about stray dogs from the Netherlands, Barbara trusts her feeling and surrounds herself with supportive and special friends and people that have helped her move past these judgements. She dedicates her life to the dogs, and every donation she gets goes straight into the health and food of dogs. Until now, Barbara has managed to get around 300 dogs adopted, this job becoming a representation of her life and her personality.