It all started in 2015 when Bassel Abou Fakher fled war-torn Syria to find refuge in Belgium. To his great sorrow, his hasty departure forced him to leave his dog Stella behind. Her host family, however, did what was necessary to repatriate her as well.
Bassel Abou Fakher adopted Stella, a magnificent Berger Blanc Suisse dog, when he was only 12 years old. Stella, on the other hand, was 40 days old. A strong bond was thus created between them.
A year later, conflicts broke out in Damascus, their city of residence. Even when it was dangerous, the young teenager took the risk of walking his faithful furry friend. In 2015, Bassel finally fled his home to take refuge in Belgium.
However, reluctantly, he had to leave Stella behind. Indeed, her journey through Lebanon and Turkey as well as the journey on the open sea to Greece by rubber dinghy would have been perilous for the dog.
Bassel found refuge in Brussels, Belgium with Joannes Vandermeulen and Ann Hoste. The Good Samaritans took care of the young man and helped him to flourish in his adopted country.
However, Bassel never forgot Stella. He was sad to have left her to her fate. Joannes and Ann therefore said to each other that it was necessary to do what was necessary to bring the duo together.
Together with a local taxi driver, Stella was driven from Damascus to Beirut where Joannes was waiting for her.
The man then cleared the paperwork and loaded the dog on a commercial plane. “It is extremely difficult to imagine what it takes to bring a canine from Beirut to Brussels via Istanbul. It was very complex. Stella almost died on the way when she got stuck with her necklace in the transport crate. When we arrived, we were both exhausted,” Joannes told UNHCR.
The reunion was very emotional! The dog immediately recognized her master and the duo has not left each other since.
Their beautiful story was the subject of a children’s book called «Saving Stella: A Dog’s Dramatic Escape from War» written by author Deborah Blumenthal.