The hero cousins who live with their 24 rescue animals
On the surface, June Ramores and Joena Andrada live pretty regular lives for UAE expats. Both are in their 30s, have lived in Dubai for around a decade, and have good jobs working in HR and as a financial consultant.
But the cousins, who share a one-bedroom apartment in JVC, actually have an incredible story – one that spans nearly five years, involves rescuing and homing cats, dogs, birds and even a turtle, and includes an ambitious plan to return the animals to the Philippines to live in a custom built house.
Both long-time dog lovers, Joena, 37, explains that their rescue journey began after she brought her Shih Tzu dog, J.D, to Dubai in 2009. JD, whose name adorably means Joanna Dog, was beloved by both cousins but sadly passed away in 2015.
“He died at the age of 13,” Joena explains. She and June, 30, were heartbroken by his death, and admit that they became immediately more aware of any suffering animals they saw around them.
“I think we have to thank J.D because after he died our love for animals just grew so big. You can never replace someone, and it’s not filling in the gaps he left. It’s just that we were so sensitive, we would see everything,” June says.
Though they had adopted and rescued several dogs while J.D had been alive, after he passed away they came across a cat in the road, which triggered their passion for rescuing felines.
“A bus was about to hit the cat. Before that we were not really into cats. It just started because of this cat, because everyone was passing by and we were the only ones blocking the bus coming. He was so small that we didn’t have any choice but to take care of him, so that was the start” June explains.
“After J.D died, the numbers started growing” Joena agrees. Over the years they have rescued so many animals that they now have 21 cats, three dogs, and one parrot. The cousins even once rescued a turtle!
June and Joena walk their dogs three times a day, change the cat litter four to five times a day and thoroughly clean the apartment every day, they spend more than AED1,500 a month of their own money on food and litter, and even feed colonies of stray cats that live outside, with the help of chicken donations through a friend.
“That’s why we’re still single,” Joena jokes.
But their sacrifices for their rescue animals don’t end there.
“We could have chosen to stay in a room, sharing. It’s so usual for us in Dubai to share one room. But we didn’t do that, because we have pets. We are renting a one-bedroom apartment just for them,” June explained of their AED52,000 a year apartment, which they have adapted to ensure their animals have enough space.
“We made a partition for them to have their own space. Instead of us having the whole living room. So they have two balconies and half of the house as well,” June says.
The cousins have paid thousands of dirhams to treat injured animals – including AED2,000 for an overnight stay in Umm Suqeim for pain relief treatment for one cat.
“Whenever we have to pay for surgery we pay at least AED500,” June says.
The truth is that these cousins have saved the lives of dozens of animals. Often, they explain, it just happens that they are in an area at the same time as an injured animal.
“And most of these cats have no tails, no eyes, so we send them for surgery. So we spend a lot of money – that’s why our families complain!” June laughs.
But even more incredibly, June is leaving Dubai in a few months for good, and she plans to take 20 of their rescue animals with her.
“People say why don’t you give them up, or rehome them. It’s not as easy as that. Now I treat them as my own family,” June says. “I can’t leave them behind.”
“I will stay because of the 16-year-old dog, he is too old to travel.” Joena says. She will also look after a snub nosed cat who is not allowed to travel during the summer. The cousins are looking into options into how they can travel with the parrot.
They estimate that the total cost will be around Dhs. 30-35,000. They need to send each animal for vaccinations, and to buy the carrying crates, and get the health certificates. As well as all the money they spend on their rescue animals, these amazing cousins have also been saving to relocate them.
“We have only saved half of that as of now, but we are very hopeful that people can help. Even if they can lend us a carrier, it would be a big help.”
They are allowed to have two animals in each carrier – but that still means at least 10 carriers, as well as money for the vaccinations and health certificates. Once the animals reach the Philippines, they will live in a house that the cousins have had built in a province, giving them more space and allowing June to pay for someone to take care of them while she works.
“If we have good finances in the coming years, then our main plan is to have an animal farm – with rescue dogs and rescue cats.”
To donate to June and Joena’s mission to get their rescue animals home to the Philippines, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or simply click here and add to cart. If you have IATA travel carriers they can borrow and return that would be a great help too.
We wish Amir, Coco, Kuri, Mau, Simon, Putam, Clammy, Bait, Pusa, Beng, Boknoy, P.S, Ginger, Phil, Wiggy, Sissy, Perla, Popo, Frankie, Kongkong (cats), Snowball, Kengkeng, Boobie (dogs) and Happy the parrot the best of luck.
Interview by Jenny Haward