Wife, mother of 3 boys, dog lover, photographer, educated at Methodist College Belfast and at Queens University Belfast. Special interest in helping improve the welfare of abandoned, abused and shelter dogs in Spain. Volunteer dog walker at a Spanish shelter. Would love to raise awareness amongst people who visit Spain of the suffering and animal cruelty that exists there on a scale most people would not believe. MS sufferer, currently in remission. Apart from interests in photography and animal welfare, my great love is hockey - watching and photographing my boys play. I have two miniature schnauzers who introduced me to the love of dogs.
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Don’t have many flowers in our garden sadly, lots of greenery but not a lot else. Anyway this time last year I planted a clematis to grow over a little pergola, so this year it has it’s first blooms – well, two so far. So when the word Clematis popped up on Cee’s flower of the day and even better the sun wash shining I popped outside with my macro lens and captured this…
Just so happens that we have another Clematis which grows over our garage roof from our neighbour’s garden. It has a proliferation of bloom and I just wish it was in a position for me to look out at rather than being at the ‘wrong side’ of the house. Anyway, about a month ago it was in bloom and I rather liked this one – again a blue sky is the backdrop but don’t be fooled 😉 We are enjoying a rare settled spell of warmth and sunshine here in Northern Ireland (we call it “exam weather”), sadly we will be back to more normal NI weather tomorrow, normal service resumes! Thank you Cee, for making Clematis your flower of the day today whilst the sun is shining and I have one single flower in bloom!
I have photographed this tree at the Giant’s Ring Belfast a number of times, of course at different times of year and in differing lights, however, I have always turned it into varying B&W effects. Perhaps my first attempt was “the original and best” but I am posting a selection of them as it seems to me that this tree naturally tells me that it needs to be in B&W to do it justice and create the atmosphere. For that reason it seems to me to be the obvious choice for Cee’s B&W Challenge Open Topic this week.
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 😉
I’m not the most exuberant person (and anyone who knows me will have no argument with that!) and indeed I lack self confidence in many ways that inhibits me from outwardly expressing myself fully and hiding behind my camera has become a godsend in some of these situations. Other than ‘losing the rag’ at a bad umpiring decision whilst at the side of the hockey pitch or having tears running down my face when I witness first hand the suffering of some of the dogs arriving in at the shelter, I tend to feel more than I show. That being said, I do not feel nearly so much as I used to…
Since a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis about 10 years ago, I take various medications one of which helps to keep my stress levels down and depression (which I experienced in the first two years of my illness) at bay. The down side – although at times it is incredibly useful – is that I have become a rather unemotional person. Nevertheless, that is how I am now and because of the benefits, I have no desire to change. On an intellectual level I know that there are times when it would be helpful to others if I were more emotional and felt more, however, thanks to the meds – I don’t let it bother me too much! It seems to me that I have become a more selfish person, perhaps that is what is needed when living with a chronic illness and I think of it as a price worth paying. However, no matter how my behaviour is interpreted I also know that in many ways I am also a selfless person and I now, I live with the benefit of being able to chose whether to be selfish or selfless.
So, whilst it seems that I have digressed from the subject of this post is “Jubilant” what I am actually saying is that being jubilant or showing jubilation is not something that I often show outwardly. Nevertheless, as I said in my previous post, it really doesn’t take much to please me. They tend to be simple things such as finding a forever home for a dog, watching my boys have a good game (they play field hockey) or taking that photo that captures exactly what I want – whether it be a beautiful view or the character of a dog.
Whilst most people would look at me and assume that there is nothing wrong with me, as anyone with a chronic illness knows, things are rarely as they seem. I used to really enjoy skiing, however, a couple of years after my diagnosis I hung up the ski boots for the last time and swapped them for a camera. Having 3 boys who were all keen skiers, I either joined them where I could on the slopes with my camera or stayed at home. This year, my middle boy Mark, has been studying at the University of Calgary so we joined him at half term break up in Whistler for a ski holiday. Have to say, compared to some of the European ski destinations access to many parts of the slopes are not easily accessible to non-skiers. In order to get to where I could take an action photo was a bit of a struggle. Trudging through snow especially up hill was a personal Everest for me to be honest and I had to think very carefully before going down hill as each step down equated to maybe ten steps up – and especially at high altitude this hurt. So, I had to compromise in my position. Yes I wanted to be below the action to have a clear sky background and increase the height perspective but thanks at least to having a decent lens I shuffled down into a safe place and sat in the cold snow, contented myself and did the best I could. I managed to photograph a number of boarders and skiers attempting and succeeding with various tricks and jumps which gave me that “yes!” feeling when I looked at them later. However, this boy who was simply wanting to “get air” celebrated mid air and was clearly happy with his efforts.
My own “yes” feeling from the few times I sat patiently trying to capture that moment came with these photos…
Ok so I would have preferred a blue sky background but for them but for me it was capturing them right at the top of their jump through thick heavy snow (for two of the shots at least) at a distance of maybe 50 yards, camera covered with a towel and me shaking with cold that pleased me. Usually I was putting my time in waiting to have lunch with the others between their ski runs. As I struggled back up to the meeting point zigzagging to reduce the incline and one step at a time I saw my husband looking over the balcony – he captured this of me, yes I’m smiling but oh boy my legs were complaining terribly!
So, that is my entry for ‘jubilant’. Yet again after intending to enter only one photo, I have included a few more besides and extended into a bit more of my bio so you all know me that little bit better 😉
Thank you for reading. As ever, I really appreciate feedback and comments jx
The first is “Rhianna’s Tree”… This tree (now sadly deceased) made the headlines here in Northern Ireland when the farmer, having previously rented his field to Rhianna for her to film her latest music video, discovered that she was ” was in more of a state of undress than a bikini top” in his field. When she appeared to be topless (she may indeed have just been wearing a bikini top unlike any one he had ever witnessed) he drew a close to proceedings and sent them packing, after telling Rhianna that she and her film crew should become acquainted with God. The filming later appeared in Rihanna’a We Found Love video which went on to win the best video of the year award at the MTV VMAs.
The second is a view of downtown Calgary, Alberta Canada taken from the Olympic Park Calgary, a distance of approx 15km.
Huge, I hope you like my first venture into your world of blogging. I’m just in the early stages of blogging and trying to learn and build.
I always intended that my experiences with shelter dogs, especially in Spain, will appear often in story form on my blog. Particularly when I spend time in Spain, I tend to be at the shelter every morning and later in the day I would post on Facebook what has touched me that day, along with some photos. These stories I would like now to collect in a more accessible place, hence they will become part of my blog. Occasionally my updates are sad, sometimes uplifting and some just funny experiences but whichever they are my wish is to raise awareness of animal welfare issues, especially in Spain (which for the record has the worst record of all European Countries for number of stray pets – official figures in the region of 8/900,000 abandoned every year – and this is likely to be an underestimate).
To find out how I, who until about 12 years ago was repelled by the concept of having a dog in the house, who never understood anyone giving to animal charities when there are so many people charities in need and who simply regarded dogs as ‘dirty nuisances’ have transformed into someone who now helps out in a Spanish dog shelter, can hardly pass a dog in the street without reaching out for a greeting, delights in being surrounded by dogs and is never more angry and upset when I see first hand the consequences of animal cruelty and neglect – then a couple of my previous blogs will go some way to explaining. Put simply, life changes that I had never envisaged and were never part of any plan for my own life happened and the person I am now and the things I like to do are the consequences of those changes. ( window and family are two earlier blogs which put some of changes into context )