André Cabrita and his 43 animals
André Cabrita is 34 years old and lives in Estremoz, in the district of Évora (Portugal).
It is there that he fights daily to change mindsets with regard to the way animals are treated. He divides his days between his job at a food factory and the 43 animals he takes care of.
It's not easy.
It takes a lot of work, a lot of expense, a lot of heartbreak. And it takes time.
Taking a vacation is difficult and a simple outing with friends requires excellent management of the hours of the day. But André wouldn't trade the life he has with his four paws for anything. He always lived there. And it is there that he does what he can to help those who have no voice – a calling he felt early on as a child. “As I live and grew up in a more rural environment, there has always been a lot of contact with all kinds of animals since I was a child. I grew up in Arcos, a village very close to Estremoz, where most people have animals. Therefore, dealing with them has always been, for me, a very normal thing”, he tells PiT.And that “has good things and bad things”, he explains. “There were always animals abandoned around the village – and some with owners, but they were very neglected. So, many times, I ended up wanting to keep them, but it wasn't always possible and so I tried to find owners or someone who could take them in”.
The eternal gratitude of a rescued animal For André, all animals are special, “but those that are rescued abandoned on the street, or from situations of mistreatment, bring with them an eternal gratitude to those who saved them. In an abandoned animal, the love for the owners is the same, but the gratitude is much greater”. Sometimes they are collected with many physical injuries, visible to anyone's eyes, but they all have psychological injuries that no one sees and which are often irreversible, underlines the caregiver. At other times, these psychological wounds “mean much slower recoveries than wounds and thinness, so it is inevitable that they all have a strong connection with me”.
And which animals most marked this animal protector? Choosing just one or two is tricky. “If I had to talk about the cases that made the most impression on me, I would have to talk about those that take the most ‘work’. They are those who almost die, but with a lot of work, time, effort and medication manage to survive”. And that is breathtaking. “We are seeing, little by little, the evolution and recovery of animals that were about to die and that gain an opportunity to be reborn. It's amazing”.
It was the case with Lost. “The Lost was a dog that was dying in the middle of the street, with no one knowing how it got there. He had very little fur due to leishmaniasis. His four paws were injured and I even had to buy baby socks for him to be able to go for walks”, says André. But the paws weren't the only problem. “His eyes were crying blood and his ears were all rotting away. It was one of the slowest recoveries I've had and there were a lot of things that couldn't be reversed. By then he would have been five or six years old. He lived with me for another five years and during that time he had all the care and daily medication. What he never had was a family”, says André, heartbroken. “I do my best so that they don't lack for anything, but it's impossible to provide the same comfort as a family”.
Another case that made a big impression on him was that of Bimi, who appeared skeletal in the street – and also almost hairless, due to leishmaniasis. Now it's recovered and beautiful, but the family still doesn't have it. And it shouldn't have, André suspects. “Nobody wants dogs with leishmaniasis”. Days in a row on the way to the vet All these situations require a lot of care and also funds. “It is very complicated to keep dozens of animals. I usually say that, for those who have one or two animals, it is normal for them to get sick sometimes. But for those who have many, this probability increases dramatically and often they are days in a row on the way to the vets with different animals.” This is in addition to daily care, such as feeding and cleaning spaces. With so many lives that André helps to recover, the bonds are getting closer and closer. Some of these animals never get to have a family of their own, but they have the love of this caregiver, a space where they are welcomed and where they live with dignity.
And what is it like to deal with the loss? Difficult. Extremely hard. “I must confess that I still don't know how to deal with death very well, especially when they are animals that have just been rescued and we can't save them. We do everything in our power, we give up a lot of our time, our energy and a lot of money to save them, but we still can't”. “It seems that there is a feeling of failure because we were not able to arrive in time. We always try all treatments. When it works, it's one of the best feelings you can have, because it's the reward of never giving up. But when they don't survive, there's a huge emotional toll,” he stresses.
André speaks in the plural, because without his friends he wouldn't be able to help the way he does. “Some take in animals when I no longer have space, many contribute to help pay expenses, others help with their time when there are food collection campaigns in supermarkets”, he points out. And what does André say to those who want to adopt an animal? For him, it is important to stress that “animals feel the same as us humans. The difference is that they don't know how to speak. “So I tell people to do what I do myself, which is try to put myself in that animal's shoes. So it seems that it is easier to understand their needs and see where we can improve in the way we treat them”. Animals without “usefulness” are discarded About where he sees himself in a decade, there are no certainties except this: he will continue to be connected to animals.
“I don't know what the future holds for me and 10 years from now is a long time, but I would really like the animal cause to have evolved, especially in more rural areas, where animals are seen as disposable objects”.
The hunter has a dog and if he is not fit to hunt he is automatically abandoned. If the dog is not fit to guard the house, it is abandoned. And the cat is often not even fed in order to be hungry and go after mice. If there is no use, the animals are discarded”, he laments. And that hurts you. It pains him that their company and loyalty is often not enough. “That was the evolution I would like to see 10 years from now”. “I've always thought, and I continue to think, that all – really all – animals are adoptable, but the reality is that the vast majority of society does not think so. The vast majority of animals I rescue are adults and mixed breed and there is still the misconception that an already adult animal does not adapt to a family. So they prefer to adopt baby animals, which means that those who rescue are quickly full of animals – and with no adoptions in sight, because the criteria for those who want to adopt are very specific”.
However, those who collect from the street only see an animal in pain, he stresses. "And that's why you often end up staying with that animal for the rest of your life." “If I take them from the street, they are my responsibility”
André lives alone and works eight hours a day at the factory. That is why, for him, taking care of animals is not a sacrifice, despite the time and money it requires. “Taking care of abandoned animals and giving them up for adoption is my ‘hobbie’, so to speak. It's all done in my spare time." But it also means “taking time out for friends, family and ourselves”. Which, for André, is an inevitable choice. “From the moment I remove them from the street, they become my responsibility. But I can only do what I do thanks to friends who follow my work and know what I do and who help. Everything I do is on a voluntary basis, but all these animals involve expenses that I alone could not afford. Especially in castrations, which are one of the first surgeries to be performed”.
Scroll through the gallery to get to know André Cabrita and the animals he is in charge of better. All of them with the secret hope of one day having a home.