The old town of Dubrovnik is buzzing with tourist activity. iPhones and selfie sticks galore, it’s safe to say that on my last day of our holiday I was keen to venture away from the hustle and bustle of the ancient city walls.
As an avid animal lover, I optimistically Googled ‘Animals Dubrovnik’ and one of the first search results to appear was a TripAdvisor review for Zarkovica Animal Shelter.
For anyone who has seen the 2018 film "Isle of Dogs" by Wes Anderson you will perhaps be shocked to learn that the premise is perhaps not as fictitious as it may seem. The Animal Shelter is currently home to 400 stray dogs who have been exiled to the hills of Bosanka on the outskirts of Dubrovnik.
Primarily run by an admirable lady named Sandra, the Shelter relies on donations and the tireless efforts from volunteers. From doing some further reading online, it seems that there is no political interest in the shelter and despite several promises of support, sadly nothing has come their way.
We arrived at the Shelter which from the outside looked a little like a scrap yard, with metal grills, an abandoned ticket kiosk, a solitary portaloo and a few scruffy pooches lazing in the midday sun. We wandered down the path, dogs barking excitedly at our arrival. There was no sign of any human life so we kept walking, navigating our way through a chained gate. At this point, it looked as though we had made a grave error and entered into the dogs’ territory as they lined themselves up in front of us. I could sense my boyfriend‘s unease as we exchanged awkward glances, wondering if we had done the right thing walking aimlessly into an unknown place. As we continued to move past the dogs, you could quickly tell that their barks were not barks of aggression but in fact, they were excited at the prospect of some additional human attention. The dogs all pawed and nuzzled our legs affectionately as we passed. We finally came across a friendly gentleman and we told him that we had come to help for the afternoon, he thanked us graciously for choosing to visit the shelter and walked us back towards the main entrance to help one of the female volunteers.
We then spent a wonderful afternoon walking some of the dogs, the first two being a boisterous lab named Blackie and another small breed with no name. I couldn’t stand the thought of the little guy not having a name so on our walk I named him Fudge! Not quite your traditional Croatian name but I think he liked it!
The one thing that struck me most was how excitable the dogs got when they spotted the volunteer lift a dog lead from the hook. There’s clearly only so much the volunteers can do so walks are definitely a luxury for these pups. Our visit here was most definitely bittersweet. If you find yourself in Dubrovnik and have some spare time, PLEASE visit the Zarkovica Animal Shelter. Spare a thought for the forgotten animals of Dubrovnik and donate generously.
Žarkovica ul., 20207, Bosanka, Croatia
How to get there
Uber (The shelter was approximately 15 minutes outside the city centre. The journey cost around £7 from our hotel.)
Recommended Visit Time
We made the decision to just turn up on the day but I would recommend contacting the shelter in advance. This can be done via Facebook. I’d also suggest taking a supply of water, suncream and hand sanitizer.