By Narciso Tapia
The moment Princess was let out of her cage for a walk, she ran to the nearest person she saw and ended up in the loving embrace of Nena.
Hard to believe that six months ago, Princess was one of 60 badly-injured, battle-scarred, emaciated pit bulls rescued from a syndicate that ran a dog fighting operation in Cavite.
MJ was in similar straits. A white aspin (or "Asong Pinoy"), MJ was found on M.J. Cuenco Street (thus, his name) in Cebu, where he hid under an old car, a metal wire tightly wound around his neck. The wire had injured, cutting through his pelt.
Today, MJ is recovering at an animal rescue center and sanctuary in Danao.
Another dog was found with sarcoptic mange and a lump on his skin. The lump was caused by a marble lodged underneath the skin of the brown, skinny stray.
Now, the dog is very healthy and active and has been adopted by a member of the Island Rescue Organization or IRO, a non-profit animal rescue organization based in Cebu. He has also been named Marble.
60 dogs rescued
For the past two years, IRO, an acronym that is also the Cebuano term for "dog," has been saving abused, neglected and tortured dogs, as well as other animals, and nursing them back to health.
IRO has two facilities: one, an undisclosed location somewhere in the mountains of Cebu and referred to only as the "bukid."
The other center is located in Danao, Cebu, and shelters aspins or abandoned dogs. The dormitory-style center, which sits on 1.75 hectares of land, has 22 rooms that currently houses more than 60 dogs and two cats.
The building serves as an indoor kennel, office and staff quarters. IRO says it is the first no-kill animal rescue center and sanctuary in Cebu province and the central Visayas.
'Like living in a condo'
"It's like they (the rescued animals) are like living in condos," said Caroline Mendez, IRO vice-president.
The animals are placed in rooms but they are free to roam the hallway.
As in the dogs in the "bukid," they are fed regularly, bathed and taken care of by volunteers and stay-in staff.
The rescued animals are vaccinated and given blood tests as part of their checkup, especially prior to spaying or neutering. Animal behaviorists are also around to assist in acclimatizing the dogs to their new environment.
Founded two years ago by lawyer Rosario "Nena" Hernandez, who now heads the organization, IRO runs on donations in cash and in kind, including dog food, which is mixed with extenders like rice and vegetables like kalabasa.
Open for adoption
Once a rescued animal is healthy again, it is put up for adoption. IRO makes sure potential new guardians bring the rehabilitated animals home to a conducive environment. Future guardians are also made to spend time with the rescued animal and trained to handle it.
Back in the undisclosed shelter in the "bukid" for the abused pit bulls from Cavite, Princess waits for a new home. Despite the horrors she's been through, Princess loves to be in the company of humans. She is eager to be hugged and petted.
Thanks to IRO, Princess—as well as MJ, Marble, Pogo, Polly, Pepsi, Patrol and countless other rescued dogs—gets a second chance at being a happy dog.