Meet La Paz, Bolivia’s, dog savior, 45-year-old Fernando “Ferchy” Kushner. Ferchy has made it his life’s mission to help Bolivia’s homeless dog population. In 2015, he formed the organization Alimenta Perritos de la Calle (Feeding Street Dogs), which has sterilized over 800 dogs with the help of volunteers and veterinarians.
Last March I tagged along with Ferchy to meet some of the beloved street dogs he’s been helping. With two large buckets full of discarded chicken, we set off on foot to feed some of the nearly 1,000 hungry dogs he encounters each day. With the help of local restaurants, Ferchy has created a sort of table-scrap recycling program.
Within a few minutes we encountered our first group of dogs sleeping in a park. With a soft whistle and a loud tap on his bucket, Ferchy summoned his four-legged friends who ran to us with tails wagging double time. After a round of hugs and scratches and a few handfuls of chicken tossed on the ground, Ferchy was quickly on his way to find more mouths to feed. In just an hour’s walk, we had fed 34 dogs before Ferchy returned to his truck to refill his buckets.
“My goal is to end the stray dog problem here in Bolivia,” Ferchy says. Not an easy task. Based on statistics, the homeless dog population in La Paz alone is a staggering 350,000 dogs. What inspired him to start working with these dogs? An unexpected furry encounter with a dog named Choco helped shape his new life purpose.
“We made a connection, and I knew he was hungry,” Ferchy says. “I could feel this dog’s soul, and I knew I needed to help him.” Ferchy found Choco some food that day, and their bond was soon forged. From then on, Ferchy set out each day to meet Choco and feed him. Before long, he felt a deep desire to start helping all dogs he encountered.
Social media and education are an integral part of Ferchy’s work. He regularly posts information on Facebook about dogs available for adoption. In addition, he’s visited over 100 schools, speaking to students about responsible dog care and ownership. To date, his organization has adopted out over 600 dogs in just three years.
Thumbnail: Photography ©Alan De Herrera.
Alan De Herrera is a travel photojournalist working domestically and internationally specializing in humanitarian, wildlife and dog stories. He lives in Laguna Beach, California, with his Cocker Spaniel/Labrador mix, Rio.
Editor’s note: This article appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your vet’s office? Subscribe now to get Dogster magazine delivered straight to you!