Ben and Barbara, Dog’s Best Friends
A retired soldier and his wife who fostered 12 children and adopted two, are literally giving stray dogs a new lease of life. Ben, a retired British army corporal of i-Taukei descent and Barbara, a retired nurse from England met when Ben first started out in the army and Barbara was still in school. Now they live in the hidden paradise of Savusavu, dedicating their time to the welfare of the town’s stray and neglected canine population. Ben, as he is fondly known, loves to tell jokes. Everyone in Savusavu knows him and no-one can miss him driving around in his famous white truck that goes ever so slowly. Ben claims to be the first i-Taukei man to climb the mountain range between France and Spain and to ride a camel across the Sahara dessert. He fought battles in Borneo, Sarawak and againt the Chinese and Indonesian armies. Today his war is different - fighting for man’s best friends. Before Ben and Barbara retired and moved to Savusavu in 2009, they had fostered 12 children, all of whom are still in contact with the couple. They also raised two adopted children, Robert and Darren. Asked how long they’ve been married, Ben likes to crack a joke saying “too bloody long!” They’ve been married for 48 years. They had rented a house on an estate just outside Savusavu town while their retirement home was being built in Korovesi. “Whilst waiting for their home to be completed, the couple looked after the dogs roaming around the estate,” Animals Fiji Northern Outreach Manager, Brenda Fenton said. “The house they were renting in had previously been used as a holidaymaker’s retreat When tourists and adventure seekers rented for long or short periods, they often helped in raising puppies, feeding strays and pet roaming dogs, only to leave them behind when their holidays were over.” Ben and Barbara took pity on these dogs and once their own house was completed, they decided to take the estate animals home with them. And so their journey with the dogs of Savusavu began. “They collect sick, unwanted puppies, off the side of the road or anonymously dumped in their car, nurture them back to health with Animals Fiji’s help and find good homes for them… under some conditions, the puppies must be desexed when they are old enough to help with stray dog population control, and be regularly dewormed and vaccinated. “Ben has helped Animals Fiji with communicating in i-Taukei language the basics of animal care to the general public, organising outreach desexing programmes and advertising the charity. He continues to save puppies and dogs and has dedicated his life to the wellbeing of Savusavu dogs. Animals Fiji recognises Ben and Barbara’s service to the community and offers welfare rates to them and many others in need. “At the moment, the couple fosters 13 puppies, eight of which are orphans, two of which have found a home in America and, again with Animals Fiji’s help, are preparing for their journey to USA,” Fenton said. “Ben and Barbara also have six dogs which they cannot rehome, including Lady, a 17 year old gem, one of the original foster dogs from the estate they first rented and Becky, Lady’s offspring from her first litter. “
ABOUT ANIMALS FIJI
Animals Fiji is operated by West Charity Trust Society. It is a registered Fiji and US charity with a focus on animal welfare. “We operate the only veterinary clinics /services in the Western and Northern Divisions of Fiji, which has a human population of over 600,000, where owners can seek treatment for their pets as well as for wildlife,” Brenda Fenton said. “We are a welfare agency operating outreach programs and clinics throughout Fiji. One of our clinics, in Nadi, also functions a shelter taking in strays, injured and abused animals who are treated and rehomed.” One of Animal Fiji’s most critical goals is to reduce the epidemic of stray and diseased roaming dog and cat populations that plague villages, towns and rural areas, through de-sexing (spaying/ neutering) programs. “We make sure basic veterinary services and animal care education are available to as many Fijians as possible by providing flyers and pamphlets to all interested clinic visitors and when we are out visiting villages,” Fenton said. In 2013, Savusavu was the first town to receive regular veterinary services in the Northern Division. Animals Fiji, with the help of Dr Jeff Allen and his assistant/wife Jose Bol, operated a clinic once a week from August 2013 up until June 2016, occasionally visiting the third largest island, Taveuni, one to two times a year. In early 2016, Animals Fiji in the North expanded further. In addition to the Savusavu clinic at The Medical Centre opposite the Hot Springs Hotel, former Northern Outreach Manager, Ms Priscilla Reddy established clinics in Labasa Town operating out of the Ministry of Agriculture Office, Namuka House and Taveuni in a flat kitted out to be clinic/ accommodation and sponsored by generous clients. Animals Fiji have also had veterinarians Dr Jeff Allen, Dr Kevin Sanada, Dr Megan Finlay, Dr Rita Assuncao and Dr Alexandra Buonpane, the current veterinarian, to provide their services and expertise in the North of Fiji. The organisation has also benefitted from the work provided by volunteer veterinarians, Dr Megan Hennesey, Dr Paul Mennick and Dr Felicity Barber.
ANIMALS FIJI NORTHERN OUTREACH TEAM:
Brenda Fenton- Manager- January 2017- present Dr Alexandra Buonpane- Small animal vet- October 2016- present Mrs Luisa Tikoinanaivi- Outreach Assistant-December 2016- present Dr Jeff Allen- Consultant- August 2013- present Ms Jose Bol- Consultant- August 2013- present Northern Outreach clinics in 2018 have so far covered villages and settlements in Savusavu, Taveuni and Qamea Island. Currently, works are underway to post a full time veterinarian and an assistant on Taveuni.