Brazil is the only country I’ve bicycle toured so far, where I didn’t feel safe enough to wild camp and it was this reason I arrived at night to an empty campsite in Marataizes; a seaside town 500 km bike ride north of Rio de Janeiro famous for it’s pineapple plantations. The petrol station I had planned to camp at that night had only a small concrete forecourt with no patches of grass to fit my tent. Darkness fell and I cycled to the campsite, unsure if it would be open during the winter months.
I had already pedalled across Brazil the year before but this time I arrived to cycle north to the Amazon Jungle, with a dog trailer to do animal rescue on route. Those first weeks of cycling were dampened by arrival of the depressive stage of grieving and I stayed many days in this empty campsite, with little motivation to pedal onwards. I spent my time making a video of the Dogs in Brazil rescue shelter I had visited when I first landed to Rio de Janeiro. Click here for Dogs in Brazil website.
DOGS IN BRAZIL (Video)
I met Maria and even though she gave me ringworm I loved her immediately. I asked the locals if she had an owner and my little Portuguese meant I misunderstood their replies. The year before as I cycled Chile, Argentina and Bolivia I spent the first hour in my tent each morning learning Latin American Spanish but Brazil was Portuguese and I found this a much more difficult language to grasp. My heart sank as I understood Maria had a human and I gave her a hug goodbye as I pedalled off towards the Amazon some 4000 km away.
I had only cycled 40 km when my camera equipment was robbed and the police kindly put me up in a hotel for the night. The next day I cycled back to the last place I felt safe, which was the campsite where Maria was.
Arriving back I found out I had misunderstood and Maria was in-fact a street dog, as I had originally assumed.
I asked the locals if I could adopt her. They agreed, explaining that if Maria ever got sick, no one had money to spend on veterinary care of a street dog and she would surely die young. Brazil was in the the midst of the worst depression they had known and people were struggling to feed themselves.
I sensed Maria was unwell, but the locals assured me she was fine and was always this way, a lazy dog they said.
Maria lived on bread, chicken bones and left overs from barbecues. The locals injected her every 3 months to stop her having babies, not knowing this should only be used in emergencies because it causes cancer in dogs. I took her off the injections straight away but remained thankful to the locals for looking out for Maria.
I took her to a vet who checked Maria over and told me she was healthy and I booked Maria in for her sterilisation op. But my inner sense that something was wrong never went away and a debate began in my head; listen to the vet or my own instinct.
Twenty minutes before her operation was to begin I contacted Dogs in Brazil and said I had a bad feeling and asked if I could take Maria to them to use the vet they used and trusted for their own shelter dogs, Andre Luiz in the mountain town of Teresopolis.
They said yes and I called and cancelled the sterilisation appointment with ten minutes to spare. I packed up and put Maria in the dog trailer attached to my bicycle and began cycling the 400 km to Dogs in Brazil, abandoning the Amazon for now.
It was whilst we were cycling towards Dogs in Brazil that we crossed paths with Murphy, another injured street dog. His story is coming in next blog post.
It turned out Maria only had about 2 weeks left of life as she was in advanced stages of tick disease. Her blood was so thin she most likely would have bled out and died if she’d had the sterilisation operation. We began treatment and Maria lived. She has gastrointestinal issues which means she has to have a special diet to manage her symptoms.
Whilst at Dogs in Brazil stories were hitting headlines around the world of the murders, robbery and rape of foreigners and locals inside the Amazon Jungle. British headteacher, Emma Kelty on a ‘bucket list’ adventure was kayaking the Amazon and tragically murdered which hammered in to me my own vulnerabilities. Pirates were robbing tourists and locals daily, including families with young children. The land war rages on between illegal loggers, cattle farmers and environmental campaigners and over 1000 people have been murdered trying to protect the Amazon. The chance of risk to my life was too high and I decided it was not the right time to explore the Amazon as a solo woman. I was thankful the year before I had one of the most incredible experiences of my life cycling the Pantanal Jungle. And I sure was thankful to Maria for diverting my destination from the Amazon to Dogs in Brazil.
With the help of the World Bike Girl community, I began a fundraiser and seven months after meeting Maria, she arrived to Scotland from Brazil to begin her happy ever after, along with Murphy.
MARIA & MURPHY ARRIVING TO SCOTLAND (Video)
Thank you Dogs in Brazil! Without you, Maria would not be alive and she wouldn’t be living her happy ever after.
Thank you Maria and Murphy’s amazing veterinarian in Teresopolis, Andre Luiz.
Thank you to every single person who donated or shared the fundraising page. I am eternally grateful. You brought me and Maria back together and I look forward to the years ahead with the best dog I could ever wish for!
I’m loving life with Maria. We are so in tune we are with each other. Praise is more important to Maria than treats. I never have to raise my voice to her I just drop my tone a level and she’s knows if she responds she’s going to get lots of praise – she just wants to please me. She’s really is a dream dog and I feel so blessed to be her human companion. She’s so happy and so am I.
MARIA PLAYNG IN SCOTLAND (Video)
First Days of Arrival
Maria was named by locals after Maria Bonita a folk heroine in Brazil, who was a bandit, outlaw and married to the leader of one of Brazils most infamous and dangerous gangs in the 1920’s & 30’s. She was killed with 9 of her gang members by police in a shoot out. Maria Bonita means beautiful Maria.
Maria was named after Maria Bonita not only because of how beautiful she is but also because she was alpha dog over the packs that lived in her area.
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.