Saving one small dog informs the world

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2007:
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia– Resembling a
skull buried up to the hollow eye sockets, the
70-year-old Italian fortification called Gido
Washa stood for death from the day it was built.
Long after the last Italian troops left
Ethiopia, after the last wood and metal parts of
Gido Washa were blasted or burned, and only the
concrete shell remained, it became deadlier than
“For the last 20 or so years local people
threw unwanted dogs into the pits, where they
died of starvation,” Ethiopian/American
physician Anteneh Roba e-mailed to ANIMAL PEOPLE
on June 25, 2007. As founder of the Amsale
Gessesse Memorial Foundation, begun to honor his
deceased mother, Roba was in Ethiopia to help
the Homeless Animal Protection Society to expand
their street dog sterilization and vaccination

The Gido Washa situation came to light
through an exposé published by the Ethiopian
magazine My Fashion. Roba offered to pay the
costs if HAPS could rescue and care for any dogs
they might find alive there.
HAPS cofounder Efrem Legese had heard of
Gido Washa long ago while growing up in Addis
Ababa, but like many other Ethiopians he thought
it surely had been demolished or closed.
Two similar fortifications linked to the
skull-like pillbox had been filled with debris
and mud by years of dumping and flooding, but
the third remained open.
Peering through dark openings meant for
machine-guns, Legese saw a jumble of bones.
Overcome by the dank bad air inside, Legese
threw up.
Then he saw three dogs huddled beside the
cement wall. “They just looked at us because
they were unable to do anything more,” Legese
said. “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 Gido Washa area told
Legese that no dog had ever been rescued from
Gido Washa. Hyenas had sometimes found their way
in and out, but not dogs or humans.
Lacking the equipment needed to climb
into the fortification and bring the dogs out,
Legese threw food down to them and returned to
Addis Ababa to get ladders and rope.
“We were unable to sleep over-night,”
Legese said. “My son Tommy asked how come this
situation stayed like this with so many people
around, even embassies and diplomatic
Narrated Roba, “For a week HAPS fed the
dogs until they had the needed equipment and
sedatives to get them out.” Sedating and
muzzling the dogs was considered necessary
because they would have to be carried a long way
“We bought a rope and borrowed two metal
ladders and fixed them together to fit the height
of the hole,” Legese said. Lowering the ladders
into the fortification, the rescue team 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.
Two volunteers joined Legese in
descending to harness and lift the dogs. Heavy
rain added more water to the stinking pool
already filling much of the pillbox. The
operation took half the day–but Ethiopian
National Television arrived to document the dogs’
“The four dogs are now at the HAPS
shelter. They are clean and healthy,” Legese
e-mailed after he and HAPS cofounder Hana Kifle
washed and fed them. “We have asked the
government to help us stop people throwing dogs
into the cave, to make this cave no more a hell
for the poor dogs.”
“The government agreed to close the
cave,” picked up Roba. “We thought that if we
waited for the government to allocate funds to
close it, bureaucratic red tape would keep us
waiting for a while, and the potential for other
dogs being thrown into the cave would be high.
“So, while discussing with the
authorities, the Amsale Gessesse Memorial
Foundation and Homeless Animal Protection Society
decided to have our foundation pay for the
physical closure of the cave. No more Gido hell!”
Concluded Roba, “As an isolated event,
I know the significance of the rescue is not
huge, but the public relation value and the
chance it gives us and HAPS to educate people in
Ethiopia about animal welfare is huge.”
That proved to be an understatement.
Among the friends and supporters Roba told about
the rescue was British songwriter and vocalist
Maria Daines, whose Maria Daines Band has won
international distinction since 1996 in a variety
of music genres.
Composing with guitarist Paul Killington,
Daines had already recorded an album called Music
United For Animals, and a song for a documentary
about the Hurricane Katrina animal rescues. The
Maria Daines Band was booked to play with the
U.S. singer Pink on behalf of the Party for the
Animals in August 2007 at the Cardiff
International Arena.
Recipient of a humanitarian award from
the Texas Humane Legislation Network in 2006,
Daines may have more endorsements of her favorite
pro-animal organizations at her personal web site
than material about her music.
Daines on July 11, 2007 pledged to write
a song in honor of the Gido Washa rescue. All
proceeds from downloads of the song would benefit
the Homeless Animals Protection Society. Daines
meanwhile posted Legese’s account of the rescue
at her web site, asking her fans to support the
Amsale Gessesse Memorial Foundation and HAPS.
Daines released her song “One Small Dog”
on July 17, 2007. Though four dogs were
rescued, Daines focused on the dog who never
lost hope.
Recording success is ephemeral. More
than 2.4 million songs may be downloaded at
<>, the leading web site
offering independent label music. Very few songs
ever reach “Top 20” status, or stay there for
“One Small Dog” on July 29 reached #16 on
the Soundclick pop rock chart. A day later it
was #9. Reaching #3 on July 31, it hit #1 on
August 2, and remained at #10 on August 7.
Ascending from the depths of Gido Washa
to rock stardom, one small dog was educating the
Legese and Kifle founded HAPS in 2001,
with ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim Bartlett as
founding patron. ANIMAL PEOPLE funds their

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