ATTLEBORO — Local resident Marjon Tondravi has for years dedicated herself to saving street dogs in Thailand from a horrible fate, and now she’s expanding her mission.
Tondravi, 39, will be leaving for a 40th birthday celebration in Peru this week and returning with some new furry friends accompanying her.
She is a “flight volunteer” who checks rescued animals in as her extra baggage, either in the passenger cabin or in cargo, and gets them to volunteers, or adopters, waiting at the airport when she arrives.
On her trip to Peru, Tondravi will be visiting a shelter for a day so she can give them advice and supplies, as well as meet the dogs she’ll be flying home.
Born and raised in Marshfield, Tondravi moved to Attleboro 13 years ago and works in finance. But she also dedicates herself to rescuing animals overseas.
She started out volunteering for the Soi Dog Foundation, which saves dogs in Asia from the dog-meat trade.
Recently she’s expanded her volunteering to three other groups: Paws Rescue, in Qatar; the Barking Lot, which works in Peru with shelters in Los Angeles; and International Street Dog, which operates in India with shelters in Chicago.
Her work as a flight volunteer is part of her vacations, but most of her volunteering is done at home, selling pet accessories at shops, craft fairs and events such as Providence Pride Parade, as well as on Facebook.
The money she makes from the sales goes to cover the cost of flying dogs to a better life in the United States.
“It’s everything I’m passionate about rolled into one,” she said.
This year, Tondravi has traveled to or will be traveling to Qatar, Peru, India and Thailand. Next year, Jordan is on her itinerary.
She has traveled with her husband, her girlfriends, and her nephew, who she said “went on his first dog rescue trip when he was 8.”
Before dog-meat trade survivors are flown to the U.S., they are rehabilitated by volunteers who walk them and get them used to people again.
“Most dogs are adopted before they even come” to the U.S., Tondravi said, adding that adopters always know their dog’s back story.
Tondravi said the most rewarding aspects of her volunteer work are “first, seeing rescuers who work tirelessly” to provide dogs with a “great new life,”and then meeting adopters at the airport, where there are typically “a lot of tears.”
“You can watch everything unfold and think to yourself, ‘Wow, you made this happen.”
Tondravi stresses that foreign dogs are not “taking (rescue) spots away from dogs here, and these dogs’ stories are much worse.”
Dogs in the meat trade are “skinned alive, burned alive, and tortured,” she said, adding, “Could you turn your back on that?”