As the small convoy carrying volunteers, dried food, and canned meat pulls up before a revered Hindu temple on the slopes of Bali's Mount Agung volcano, dogs trot out from the mist shrouding the temple's cascade of steps. Now, an animal welfare organization founded by a Californian woman who's made the Indonesian tourist island her home is making daily forays into the danger zone around the volcano to feed the hungry temple dogs and rescue village dogs left behind by fleeing residents, the AP reports. Pura Besakih, aka the "Mother Temple," is usually busy with thousands of tourists, but it's now deserted—save for its canine residents. More than 140,000 people have fled from the surrounds of Mount Agung since authorities raised the volcano's alert status to the highest level on Sept. 22 after a sudden increase in tremors.
Janice Girardi, a Pennsylvania native who first came to Bali on vacation in 1973 and never really left, says she's nervous about getting close to Mount Agung, but she wants to ensure the animals are treated humanely. "We're just seeing a lot of starving ... [and] scared dogs," she says. Girardi and local animal welfare volunteers have been driving up the mountain to retrieve roaming and chained-up dogs. The group rented an empty pig farm and created an animal shelter, which now houses 70 dogs; they're starting a second shelter. "People are telling us where [the dogs] are or they're running up, getting them, and bringing them to us," says Girardi, who also runs a jewelry business on the island.