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Gido Washa

Story ID:2874
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Addis Ababa Ethiopia
Year:2007
Person:Kim Bartlett
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Gido Washa

Gido Washa

Gido Washa

I have to laugh how different we are in our reading choices. I recently received a "glurge" among my e-mails. If you are unfamiliar with the
term, it is used by Snopes to designate those urban legends which are usually gushy or
"syrupy." That's my version of the meaning - they have a much better one. These accounts will probably bring tears to the readers. For me, unless they are true, I would rather not read them. However, some of my e-mail friends say they enjoy them --true or not. I guess you can deduce from this that I am basically a non-fiction type of person and you would be right. As they say - different strokes for different folks.

This week I received a letter from Animal People re Gido Washa, a 70-year old Italian fortification in Ethiopia. It endured long after the last Italian troop left Ethiopia and a part of it had become a hell hole for unwanted dogs.

After the wood and metal parts of Gido Washa were blasted or burned out --only the concrete shell remained which now resembled a skull buried up to its hollow three eyesockets. Two of the sockets were filled in but the third dark pit was used by heartless people to get rid of their unwanted dogs.

I always think I have heard all the cruel stories there are to hear re the mistreatment of animals when I hear yet another one like this. This account related to us by letter was written by Animal People's publisher Kim Bartlett.
Her husband, Merritt Clifton is the editor of the bi-monthly Animal People newsletter. They also have an internet site. (They have a son who they named Wolf. I hope he is not teased in school but if so, having solid parents like he has, this is probably not a problem.)

It was through Ethiopian/American physician Anteneh Roba that Animal people learned on June 25, 2007 that for the last 20 or so years local people threw unwanted dogs into a very deep pit where they died of starvation. Roba was in
Ethiopia to help the Homeless Animal Protection Society (HAPS) to honor his deceased mother. They needed help to expand their street dog sterilzation and vaccination project.

He became aware of Gido Washa through an expose published by a local magazine. The caring man that he is, he offered to pay the costs through his Amsale Gessesse Memorial Foundation if HAPS could rescue and care for any dogs they might find alive there.

HAPS president Efrem Legese had heard of Gido Washa while growing up, but like many other Ethiopians, thought it surely no longer existed. However, now he knew better and he and others immediately went to the site. Legese
peered through the dark opening meant for machine guns and saw a jumble of bones. He also smelled the fowl air and, overcome by it, threw up. But he continued to look down when he saw three dogs huddled beside the cement wall.

Legese said "They just looked at us because they were unable to do anything more. It seemed they had completely lost hope and were waiting to die. A little bit away from them, we saw another dog, keeping a strong watch. Even though she was unable to walk, she was looking for someone to save her."

Residents of the the Gido Washa area told Legese that no dog had ever been rescued from Gido Washa. Hyenas had sometimes managed to find their way in and out, but not dogs or humans. I couldn't help but think at this juncture
"How many dogs during this 20-year period met the end of their lives in this
cruel and undeserved way?"

And though Legese et al wanted to rescue them immediately, it was impossible until they got ropes and ladders. For now they threw down food for the hapless dogs and returned to Addis Ababa for the night. Sleep didn't come easily and
even Legese's son Tommy mused "...how come this situation stayed like this with so many people around, even embassies and diplomatic residences?" Good question Tommy, good question and one which should put a lot of people to shame. But in my opinion, the greatest shame should be reserved for those who threw the dogs into the pit in the first place.

The rescue would take time because the needed equipment and sedatives to get them out were not readily available. Sedating and muzzling the dogs was considered necessary because they had to be carried a long way up. In the meantime, the dogs were fed each day.

Now the dangerous operation was at hand. Two metal ladders were fixed together by rope to fit the height of the hole. The rescue team lowered the ladders into the fortification and one of them tested the footing to make sure that human weight wouldn't cause a cave-in plunging them into the subterranean passages rumored
to be below the visible surface.

Satisfied that they could proceed, two volunteers joined Legese in descending to harness and lift the dogs. It was not easy. Heavy rain had added more water to the stinking pool which already filled much of the pillbox. Ethiopian National Television arrived to document the dogs' rescue which took half the day.

What wonderfully happy news was finally reported: "THE FOUR DOGS ARE NOW AT THE HAPS SHELTER."

After Legese and cofounder Hana Kifle washed and fed them, Legese reported that they were clean and healthy. He also said that they asked the government to help stop people from throwing dogs into this hellish cave by filling it in.

Though the government agreed, Roba worried that bureaucratic red tap would delay this needed and immediate closing, so he decided his Amsale Gessesse Memorial Foundation together with HAPS would pay for the physical closure of the cave. After it was finally filled in --Roba, Legese, et all shared sentiments best described in four words "NO MORE GIDO HELL!"

Later Roba told friends and supporters of the rescue and among them was British songwriter and vocalist Maria Daines, whose band has won international distinction since 1996. One of her collaborations with guitarist Paul Killington had already resulted in an album called Music United for Animals. Included was
a song for a documentary about the Hurricane Katrina animal rescues.

When she heard about the Gido Washa rescue, Daines pledged to write a song in their honor. All proceeds from downloads of the song would benefit HAPS. She also posted Legese's account of the rescue at her web site, asking fans to support the Amsale Gessesse Memorial Foundation and HAPS.

Daines released her song "One Small Dog" on July 17, 2007 focusing her musical talents on the one little dog who never lost hope. On July 29 "One Small Dog" reached #16 on the Soundclick pop rock chart. A day later it was #9. It reached #3 on July 3 and #1 on August 2. It remained at #10 on August 7.

Kim Bartlett made a last thoughtful remark about this happening-- "Ascending from the depth of Gido Washa to rock stardom --one small dog was educating the world."

Maybe the Gido Washa rescue would never have happened but for Animal People's Kim Bartlett encouraging Legese and Kifle to found HAPS in 2001. Animal People funds their salaries and for those of us who support Animal People, we too share in this wonderful rescue and end of a pit from hell. If you want to help Animal People
with their other animal concerns, look them up on the internet for more information.

Also thanx to not only Animal People, and HAPS but to the wonderful American Ethiopian
doctor- Aneneh Roba who supports HAPS in honor of his deceased mother. And of course
many thanx to a loving generous rock star - Maria Daines who uses her talents for the animals and for "One Little Dog" though she surely cared for the other three rescued
dogs as well.

Picture 1 - If you look carefully you will see
3 dogs - at least the eyes of two of them in
Gido Washa.
Picture 2 - The brave men descend into "hell."
Picture 3 - All four rescued dogs. I believe
the front dog is the dog who never lost hope.