Some people think that they would not be able to cope with coming to the shelter, that it is a sad place with evidence of so much cruelty and neglect, so many dogs needing homes that it would be too much for them. However, invariably when they come with me they are surprised. What they see is volunteers who help because they love the dogs, they show this love to the dogs, they care from the bottom of their hearts and this reflects on dogs themselves and their behaviour. Yes of course there is sadness, frustration, despair at the endless cycle of abandonment and cruelty that these volunteers never get away from because they live there. They do not walk away, they do it day after day, lifting the s**t, cleaning kennels, feeding, giving medication, playing with the dogs, rescuing from the streets and some horrendous situations, running back and forward to the vet and most of all showing the dogs love, for some this will be their first ever experience of love.
It is because of these volunteers that the atmosphere in this shelter is generally a very happy one, yes with dips when an abandonment, a terrible cruelty or neglect case pushes them over the emotional edge. They see this day in day out, however, they do not become hardened to it. Their resilience and love is an inspiration to me. I not only want to help the dogs but I want to help the people at the shelter. I consider them “mi familia espanol”, I have learned much from them and when I witness this neglect and abandonment first hand it is these people and what they do that restore my faith in the Spanish people (just for the record, Spain is top of the league tables in the whole of Europe for the number of abandoned pets every year and top also for the number of puppies born – i.e. the worst offenders in the whole of Europe).
I love to be there. Some days it reduces me to tears, however, more often than not it makes me happy, a deep down kind of happy, why? because I know that I can make a difference, maybe not to the overall situation in Spain but to individual dogs. To spend time cuddling a dog, taking it out for a walk, helping it to see the world as a better place, etc makes a whole world of difference to that one dog. I also help to find homes for them. To get to know a dog in the shelter, recommend it to a particular home and then see it happy and content lying on a soft bed in a wonderful home, well there is no feeling quite like it.
So, of course it is not all happy at the shelter, I have had many new experiences not all of them positive, however, there is still a certain privilege in being involved even in a small way with helping a dog to find safety. Last Friday was such a day. I have personally rescued a number of dogs or been first on the scene to discover a newly abandoned dog. Last Friday was one of those days and for my friend Diane it was her first experience of finding an abandoned dog. This was our first sight of the little princess. As we drove down the lane to the shelter I caught sight from the corner of my eye of this frail, cowering, hopeless little bundle…
Diane stayed with her whilst I drove on down to the shelter to tell them about the new arrival waiting to be rescued. We found her, scooped her up and brought her down to the shelter. We were so lucky that the vet just happened to be there vaccinating dogs. As I watched and photographed the volunteers and the vet what struck me most of all (apart from the dreadful condition of this poor little princess) was the love, care and attention shown to her, something they do day in and day out in these situations. Immediately a dog like this arrives their life improves as the first thing they experience is love.
The little princess JoJa is still in the care of the vet. She is less than a year old and has obviously experienced nothing but suffering in her life, yet when we approached her she managed to wag her tail at the sound of a kind voice. We could learn a lot from dogs.
I filmed what I could of this experience, here is the link to the youtube video – it is not sad, but you will see in motion what I have described here rescue
Of course this was an emotional experience which generates frustration and anger in me but at the same time admiration and respect for the good people of the shelter who continue to do this in response to an endless demand. It wears them down but they keep going regardless – because they are needed and they make a difference. I have to say that not all shelters in Spain are like this one and I suspect that I could not go there every day Im in Spain to help if it was not such a positive place where the love of the volunteers rubs off on the wonderful dogs. They make a difference and I believe that the reason I love going to the shelter so much is that I feel I can make a difference also.
To be honest there are not too many photos of me without a big grin from ear to ear, my overriding feeling is that I get back much more than I can ever put in…
I hope you have enjoyed my dog blog and perhaps even inspired someone to visit their local shelter, who knows you might even fall in love and adopt 😉