Truth is often stranger than fiction. FARIDA MASTER talks to Ruzvin Elavia about the incredible tale of Palti, an abandoned dog from the mountains that stole her heart.
When Ruzvin planned a family holiday to Romania, little did she realise that she would fall hopelessly in love.
The east Auckland resident, who had moved from Auckland to Dubai at the time, says that the first time she set eyes on a furball in Paltinis—a mountain resort in Transylvania, Romania— it was love at first sight.
“The day we reached our hotel, this happy puppy appeared out of nowhere and rolled over, for a belly rub! He had a collar on that night. I remember thinking, it must be such joy to have him around,” says Ruzvin of their first encounter with the pup, at the highest resort in Romania, a popular winter destination.
“He appeared again, the next morning eagerly waiting outside the hotel doors, wagging his fluffy tail, following us around on our forest walks. The next day I noticed he was without a collar. I kept a watch on him and decided to call him Paltinis, (Palti for short) after the mountain range we were at.”
Ruzvin soon found out that it was quite common for pets to be abandoned near the hotel as food was abundant near the kitchen.
“It broke my heart as he was out in the cold. The temperatures were dropping to minus zero. Each morning I would watch him trotting beside horses or chasing birds,” she fondly recalls.
Ruzvin discovered that though the hotel had a ‘no animal policy’, the hotel personnel would secretly let the pup sleep in the space between the two automatic doors. In no time, the family got attached to Palti.
On the day we were leaving, we had to tear ourselves away from him. As our bags were being loaded into the car, I held onto him, silently letting him know, that no matter what – I would make sure he was alright. He tried hard to get into our car. I’ve never felt so helpless as little Palti followed the car as long as he could.
“The plan was to drive via the Transfagarasan Highway from Sibiu to Bucharest, one of the most beautiful motorable roads in the world, but with such heavy hearts the seven hours felt like 70!” recalls Ruzvin.
Once in Bucharest, Ruzvin contacted a Romanian guide, who asked her to call Animal Life Sibiu, run by volunteers.
“Our flight was scheduled the next day. There was no way we could extend our stay,” says Ruzvin who reluctantly boarded the flight to Dubai.
Two days later, she received an international call from Animal Life in Romania!
“I explained to them that there was an abandoned or lost pup on a mountain, 30kms away from Sibiu. I wanted him taken to safety. The organisation was run by volunteers, and not all of them own a car. They said they had to find a volunteer with a car, and determination to drive up a steep mountain,” narrates Ruzvin.
A couple of days later, a volunteer was assigned. Ruzvin called the hotel reception to make sure Palti was around when the volunteer arrived. Palti was surreptitiously whisked away to the staff quarters that night.
“Everything was according to plan till Palti was let out for his morning job. Next, I had a frantic call saying they couldn’t find him. The assigned volunteer had reached the hotel, and Palti was nowhere in sight. Someone mentioned they spotted a dog of his description walking alongside a couple of German tourists who had just checked out of the hotel.
“Upon my insistence, and totally against the hotel policy, the hotel staff rang the guests to check if Palti was with them. They confirmed he was trekking alongside them all the way down to Sibiu, and then happily carried on, on his own. After a long wait till 11pm that night, the volunteer left. A thunderstorm ensued.”
Completely beside herself thinking she had lost him for good, Ruzin went to great lengths to ensure that posters were put up in the village announcing an award to anyone who found Palti.
As luck would have it, Alex, one of the boys from the hotel who promised to look for him with a friend, spotted Palti in the village looking like a rag doll, drenched to the bone. They bundled him up in a jacket and put him in the car. Ruzvin begged the volunteer to make another trip up the mountain to collect him immediately. She was firm with the hotel to not let Palti out of sight. Happy to oblige, they placed him in the centre of the reception area and sent photographs of the friendly pup, assuring her that he was safe.
“Never have I known such relief!’ smiles Ruzvin. “Palti was moved to Animal Life. We put an advert in the local papers mentioning he was found and asked the owner to please come forward. With the animal shelter being full up, we had him stay at a foster home. In the three months he was there, no one came forward to claim or adopt him.”
Finally, it was fate that brought him to Dubai. On Feb 3, 2017, Palti entered his new home with his Romanian passport duly stamped. His travel was a very expensive affair with professional handlers involved in the process.
“He was a little frightened initially but after looking into my eyes for about 20 minutes, we both fell asleep, with his paw in my hand.”
Ruzvin requested her boss for three-day paw-ternity leave to help settle in the new baby of the house.
Paltinis was two then. He is eight now, and happily settled in east Auckland as the family moved back to New Zealand.
“Never have we known such love and joy,” says Ruzvin. “We’ve been truly blessed and happy to have been adopted as a family by this fluffball of joy. He continues to melt hearts.”