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Inside Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul, a Heaven on Earth for Dogs

September 28, 2023
Inside Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul, a Heaven on Earth for Dogs.

Located just off the road that separates a vast farmland from Al Mansoureya Street in Giza is a bright green gate that opens into what Noha Awad, the founder and director of Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul, describes as “a heaven on Earth for dogs.”

Once inside, dogs can be seen resting in the shade of palm trees, swimming in the pool, or just playing with one another. However, once they notice the commotion, hundreds of wagging tails approach visitors, wary at first, but after some time and a few pats here and there, the inhabitants of the shelter are sure to give the warmest of welcomes.

Awad, a clinical pathologist, founded Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul in 2020. In the three years since it was founded, the shelter has rescued hundreds of dogs. It now has a population of 550 animals receiving around-the-clock, professional care.

Awad with her dogs at the shelter. Photo credit: Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

Discovering the Joy of Dogs

“Seven years ago, something happened — a miracle of sorts, and perhaps it was what put me on this path,” Awad says. “For the past seven years of my marriage, I have been longing to have a baby. The doctors suggested adoption because I was no longer able to get pregnant.”

Awad ended up adopting, but it was not a human baby; she adopted a puppy.

“I wanted a puppy to shower it with some of the maternal love I had inside of me. So, I brought one into my life, convinced that within two or maybe three months at most, I would find a new home for him,” she tells Egyptian Streets.

This notion quickly changed. Awad reveals how she fell in love with everything about dogs when she first adopted her puppy.

“This journey made me realize that I was on a mission to save all the dogs of Egypt,” Awad says. The newfound revelation pushed the 47-year-old doctor to begin rescuing dogs in need all over Egypt.

“I found out that these were the smartest and most adorable creatures that God ever created on Earth. Since then, every time I see a dog suffering, I take it to a clinic and then send it to a shelter,” she explains.

After some time, it dawned upon Awad that she had rescued over 50 abused strays, and they were all put into shelters.

“I thought to myself, they’re all in shelters. So why not open my own shelter if I am that in love? So, seven years ago, I opened my first shelter. And, once I opened the shelter, I got pregnant with my baby, Talya,” she says.

“It’s a little miracle I didn’t see coming. When I showed kindness and mercy to these dogs, God showed me His mercy. So, I decided to keep taking care of these wonderful creatures for the rest of my life because every time I help them, good things happen in my life.”

Awad believes that rescuing these dogs brings her countless blessings. One of the dogs she rescued about seven years ago still lives with her to this day.

One of Awad’s dogs before and after the rescue. Photo credit: Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

An ICU Shelter

The land on which the shelter operates is divided into several partitions, catering to the needs of its canine inhabitants. The gates open into a central playground where most of the dogs reside. There is a separate section for elderly dogs. Dogs with disabilities also have a designated area to ensure they are well cared for. In addition, there is a special section for puppies as well as isolated areas for dogs with aggression issues, where they undergo behavior modification therapy before their reintegration with the general population.

“It’s a sanctuary-like shelter. We don’t have dogs put in boxes and closed areas. No, we always leave them in open fields, and they learn how to put themselves in packs. Yes, there are some dog fights at the beginning, and then they start to learn, like in the streets. Each pack of 100 dogs is living together, and everything is peaceful. But I hate locking up the dogs in boxes. This is not a life for them,” Awad reveals.

Dogs swimming and playing at the pool at Talya’s foundation.

With a team of six dedicated individuals, including Awad, who is the head of the veterinary team, two vet assistants, and two workers, Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul specializes in helping the more challenging cases that other shelters might not have the resources for.

“Our shelter is an ICU shelter; it’s essentially a medical sanctuary for dogs. We go above and beyond to provide food and shelter. Additionally, we focus on rescuing the most challenging cases from the streets — those that are on the brink of death or grappling with severe conditions such as epilepsy, paralysis, and blindness,” Awad says.

“Perhaps it’s because of my medical background that I’m always willing to take on these tough cases,” she adds.

The veterinary team going about their daily routine at Talya’s Foundation.

According to Awad, the shelter spared no effort to obtain the best available treatments, even if it meant sourcing them from outside of Egypt.

“Our commitment to their well-being is unwavering, and as a result, we have achieved an impressively high survival rate. Thanks to these efforts, we have earned a reputation as one of the leading shelters in Egypt,” she says.

The veterinary team begins their daily routine at 9 AM by thoroughly examining the dogs. Their meticulous assessment includes evaluating the dogs’ physical well-being, observing their movements, and diligently searching for any health issues. Then, they administer necessary medications to dogs requiring treatment, including those on daily medication regimens. This routine is followed until 5 PM.

“This shelter has witnessed miraculous transformations; dogs that had almost lost their lives are now thriving, swimming in our pool, and joyfully running and jumping,” Awad states.

Mohammed Khaled, an assistant veterinarian at the shelter, administers medication to a sick dog.

A Dedicated Team

“I have been working with the shelter for the past three years,” Mirna Mohsen, a volunteer at the shelter, tells Egyptian Streets. “I took it upon myself to help abused dogs on the streets. Then, I crossed paths with Noha, and I witnessed her unwavering dedication to the cause. She’s truly remarkable.”

Mohsen playing with the rescues at Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

Mohsen believes that what sets this foundation apart from other shelters is Awad’s keen commitment.

Beshoy Ezzat, another volunteer at the shelter, has been rescuing dogs for the past nine years. The IT engineer has known and worked with Awad for quite some time.

“We are trying to do the best we can, but it’s really difficult. The stress is unimaginable. I have three dogs that require special care. Imagine what Noha has to go through, having hundreds of dogs that require the same special care. It’s difficult,” he says.

Ezzat with the dogs at Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

“I came across the shelter, and Noha was doing some amazing work. She used to visit the schools and teach the children how to look after animals and that sort of thing. It stood out to me that she was trying to change attitudes and work towards creating a better future. And there are so many dogs here, but I stumbled across a picture of a dog and asked her some questions about it,” Emily McMahon, another volunteer who works in dog rescue in the United Kingdom, says.

McMahon giving one of the dogs a bath at Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

McMahon visited Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul a year ago and met Pepper. The two have been inseparable ever since.

“He is just an absolute joy, and I have had him for a year now. I just thought I needed to try and come back and help some others. The shelter had a rough time recently, and I really wanted to help the shelter my dog came from,” she says.

Community Work

Talya’s Foundation recognizes the critical need to address not only the physical rescue of dogs but also the transformation of Egyptian attitudes and cultural practices. According to Awad, the unfortunate reality is that many dogs end up in the shelter due to widespread abuse within Egyptian culture. Parents often pass on these behaviors to their children, resulting in acts of cruelty such as tail-cutting, eye and ear injuries, and various forms of mistreatment. The root of this issue lies in the aggression and misunderstanding surrounding dogs.

One of the survivors of societal abuse at Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

To combat this problem, the shelter has taken proactive steps to change the mentalities of both children and parents, hosting numerous events at the shelter and inviting celebrities to participate. When local communities, especially those from disadvantaged areas nearby, witness these gatherings featuring celebrities, music, and a spirit of community, they start to recognize the positive energy in this place; Awad could see their behavior change towards dogs.

Additionally, the shelter’s team conducts school visits, where they educate students about animal welfare and the role of dog shelters. This initiative has yielded positive responses, with several schools organizing bake sales and fundraising events to support the shelter.

The Financial Struggle

Awad broke down the shelter’s expenses to Egyptian Streets, revealing that because of the current inflation rate and rising prices, the shelter spends about EGP 250,000 (USD 8,090) each month. Medication and vaccination alone cost around EGP 80,000 (USD 2,589), while salaries for workers and vets can reach EGP 50,000 (USD 1,618). As for food, the cost of meals that have chicken, vegetables, and liver can reach a total of EGP 100,000 (USD 3,236) over the month. The rest of the budget is allocated to pay the rent of the land.

Because the shelter is a registered non-profit organization, Awad’s main source of income is donations.

“When you see the transformation that these dogs went through, how they were before they came to us and how they are now, it is truly remarkable. You will understand why we do what we do. Every penny spent here is well worth it,” Awad says.

“Our shelter has been running for years, primarily relying on donations. We started with just 50 dogs, and now we care for 550 dogs. Donations keep us going, but they’re not always enough to cover our needs. There are days when we run out of food and medicine, and those are the ugliest days for me. It’s heartbreaking to see that we can’t provide for our dogs on those days.”

Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul is open daily for visitors, who are free to bring packs of dry food and medicine if they can. Visiting hours are between 11 AM and 4 PM.

“I invite you to come and visit our shelter, see for yourself the piece of heaven on Earth that it is,” she says. “To get medicine, we can always send you lists of the medicine we need daily. And if you have it, you can bring them along. I guarantee you are going to have a day full of joy and lots of positive energy that can’t be found outside this place.”

Last month, the shelter did not have enough funds or supplies to operate. It was a desperate time for Awad, who took to social media to get the community to help.

“Sometimes, we reach a point of desperation, feeling like no one is listening to our pleas, and no one will step forward to offer their support. But then, almost miraculously, and I say this with complete certainty because I believe that God loves these creatures, help arrives,” she says.

Dogs at Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

The dog-loving community heard the voices of 550 dogs and came together to help Awad with enough funds to keep the shelter running.

“Last week, I came across a sight that touched my heart deeply. The dogs, all 550 of them, were standing in a way that I can only describe as if they had arranged themselves to salute the generous souls who had sent donations. They stood with such dignity and adorableness, seemingly sending a message with their eyes and letting me take a picture of them as a message of love, gratitude, and appreciation,” Awad says.

Dogs gathered around the pool at Talya’s Foundation. Photo credit: Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul.

The donations saved the shelter’s operation in August and, with it, the countless dogs it hosts.

“Such occurrences are not frequent, and I wanted to share this photo to convey that they feel your love, that many of you care deeply for them, and they eagerly await your presence at the shelter. They want to meet each and every one of you. So, we are here, waiting for you all with open arms,” Awad says.

If you would like to help the shelter too and support Talya’s Foundation to Save a Soul, WhatsApp this number: +20 101 644 9900 for more information.

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