For today’s interview please welcome Betty from the Djimba Foundation.
1. Firstly, please introduce yourself and tell us a little about where you are based, for example in which country and part of that country? My name is Betty Heideman, I am 50 years old and I live with Fred and our 32 animals (20 dogs, 6 cats and 6 chicken) in Burgundy France. We are Dutch and we moved to France in 2005 because we wanted to have more room to help dogs and because we wanted to rent holiday houses for people with dogs. We have a foundation Djimba for the animals (most of our dogs are very old, ill and/or handicapped) and we have 2 holiday homes (gites) where you are welcome with your dogs (no limit).
2. Please tell us about your pet rescue and how it came about? I have been involved in the fate of the greyhound and galgo from Spain since 1999, when we started a foundation to find homes and send supplies to the shelters. When we moved to France we stopped (but the foundation is still there and doing very well), in France I started the Animal Medical Care Foundation, a foundation that helped over 80 animal shelters worldwide with medical supplies.
In the meantime we got more dogs ourselves, dogs that were found on the streets, abandoned, mistreated. Because the costs became too high we started a foundation called Djimba, the name comes from our first Galga Djara and one of our greyhounds Simba, who was very special. In 2012 I stopped with the AMCF because of lack of time.
3. What is the aim of the rescue and how do dogs come to you? The aim is to give old and/or ill dogs a last golden basket, we do not rehome, dogs come to us and stay with us. We give every dog a lot of personal care and attention. We also incidentally take dogs that are extremely traumatized or fearful of man and give them time to become a balanced dog.
Dogs come on our path. Sometimes people find us, sometimes we find the dog or the dog finds us, we believe strongly in energy and we know always whether a dog will fit in the group. The balance in the pack is very good and very important, we watch this so every dog is happy.
4. How long have you been established and have you grown over time? We were founded in 2010 but we have been taking dogs in since 2005, in this time we have given many dogs their last basket at our house so they can experience love and cross over in a loving home instead of in a cold shelter. We came to France with 6 dogs and 4 cats, now we have 20 dogs and 6 cats (and 6 chickens from bad circumstances), in the last years 13 dogs and 1 cat crossed the rainbow bridge.
5. Have you always loved animals and had pets living with you? Yes since I was born we had a dog and since I was seven, I had my own dog “Whisky” a cocker spaniel and my own cat Tippy. We always had cats and dog(s) and I did voluntary work at shelters. When I started to live on my own and worked full-time I had cats, and later on when I started working from home, we had a dog, rodents, turtles etc.
6. Please tell us a little about any of the dogs that currently live with you and as this is Pet Hooligans, whether they ever get into any mischief? Of course every one of our dogs has a story to tell, and I have written two books with stories about the dogs. We have Rex a young German Shepherd that came to us from Serbe and was severly deformed (probably from birth). When he came to us he could not walk 10 meters and we had to make a decision to see if he could improve or let him go. We gave him 3 months and a miracle happened, he grew stronger and healthier. We are now one year later and even though his legs are still deformed, esp his hind legs have become very strong and almost normal, he runs so fast now that you cannot follow him. He loves to jump in his little swimming pool and then takes a run to the house, all wet. He adores helping out when I change the covers and drags them through the house.
Then there is little Cleo also a young dog with an extreme fear for people, she arrived in April and was not approachable. The other dogs showed her that she need not fear and now 6 months later we can stroke her even though she remains careful in her approach. But she loves to cuddle and more and more she comes to you and asks to be petted. She is always into mischief, she takes my slippers outside in the garden all the time, nicking them from under my feet and running away.
Because most of our dogs are very old (majority is 12 and older till 16) they are usually quiet and do not play around anymore.
There is however Chico who is almost 17, he knows how to open the bin in the kitchen and then takes out whatever smells nice, result that the whole bin is spread around the kitchen.
Our biggest thief is Nell, a greyhound of around 12 years. She is a large dog and can reach almost every place, she loves to steal the fresh chicken eggs that are on the kitchen counter and does this so silently that you only know what happened when you go in and want to make some eggs, and find out that they are all gone.
7. Tell us a little about your typical day and what is involved in running the rescue? A typical day at Djimba is now lately a bit different because my partner broke his thigh-bone and was diagnosed with cancer, and on top of the care of the animals I also have him to care for since he is not allowed to move.
But a typical day before this happened, usually starts at 8 in the morning (my nights are always broken so getting up early is not an option), getting up and feeding the dogs and cats, most of whom have special food and medication. I let the chickens out of their night cabin and go with the dogs to the big field (we have split up our ground so at night they cannot go into the forest and big field). We have 1 hectare full,y 2 meter high fenced.
Then we go back in, when the weather is good, the door stays open and the dogs can go out when they want. We have for the cats their own outside shelter. I clean the house, change the covers in the dog beds and sofa’s, do some washing. We have two dogs that are incontinent. At lunchtime we go again to the big field, (normally they only go there when I go there because they want to be where I am, except for the young ones, they are outside a lot). In the afternoon I do either shopping, to the vet, work on my emails, do the accounting, work on the websites, work on organizing the workshops that I give in Holland to earn money for the foundation, so in fact every kind of work you can think of involving a rescue.
Of course also promoting the holiday houses, and whatever things come up in-between like cuddling and playing with the dogs, clipping nails, sweeping etc. Around 4 I go again to the field with them and at 5 it is dinner time. After dinner around 6 we close the door so the cats can also come into the living room. The dogs go out another time around 7-8 and I spend the evening working on emails, administration or if possible watch some television. At 10:30 we go to bed, but not before a final pee for the dogs. Then during the night I need to go out in-between 4 (good night) and 15 times (very bad night). And another day starts.
We have no social life, no holidays, no weekend, we can never go out together, or go out for dinner. Running a rescue is a 24/7 job that requires total dedication and commitment. It is hard work but the reward is in the eyes of the animals. That is why we do it, for the first time a dog waggles his tail, the first time you see the trust in the eyes or the first lick you get.
8. Do you have any plans for the future in terms of expanding the rescue? No, unfortunately due to the uncertain future of my partners life expectancy and also because of his age (66) since he has to take care of the animals when I go to Holland to give the workshops, we have to start reducing the number of animals, so when an animal passes away now, we will not be able to fill in the space.
9. How do you raise funds to keep your rescue going? I usually go once a month to Holland to give workshops Soft Touch and Dog Mindfulness, the revenue keeps the foundation running, however due to the accident of Fred I am not able to go for the next months which places us in a very difficult financial position. We do have some sponsors and people can foster an animal, this helps but is nowhere nearly enough to pay for the huge food and medical bills. Last 2 months we have had 4 operations for instance, total costs 2500 euro.
10. Finally, if people want to learn more about you and your rescue do you have a website, Facebook page or Twitter profile where they can learn more? We have a website www.dj-imba.com, I am working on translating all the pages into English, but since I am alone, this takes a long time to get it done.
You can also find us on Facebook: Dj-Imba-Doggy-home on Facebook where I try to post as often as possible new photos and updates in Dutch and English. On our website you will find many photos and videos of the animals.