Category Archives: My Shelter Life

My Shelter Life – first on the scene

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.

pet billy
This is Billy, he was so terrified that when taken out of the shelter he shut down with fear. At this point I am just sitting with him in an area away from the shelter, letting him smell something new. Within 4 days he was walking with his tail in the air enjoying every moment. I still have a real soft spot for Billy.

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.

Checko - pet
I visited Checko in his wonderful home after he had been very ill. I had promised to myself that if he pulled through I would fly over to see him. He remembered me from the shelter where I had loved and walked him many times.

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 😉

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Big Boots, Little Feet and something in-between

Part of Cee’s B&W photo challenge: Shoes or Feet (human or animals)

‘Big Boots’ – I was just about to return to the car after walking the dogs along the tow path of the River Lagan, Belfast when something caught my eye which didn’t quite make sense. Compelled to check it out, this is what I saw – it was so unexpected that it took me a moment to catch on that they of course were not floating as the appeared to be but were sitting on a jetty at the rivers edge and the water had lapped up around them.SONY DSCWhat made it so cool was that the water was completely still providing almost perfect reflection, that is until the kayaker who had left them there returned – only at that point did the whole scene make sense for me. Thankfully I had my camera with me and managed to snap a few.

SONY DSC

‘Something in between’ – A quick foot inspection whilst the baby sleeps in her arms, love this picture.

boots (7)‘Little Feet’ – these are the feet of baby Tequila, one of the day old pups we rescued with their mum from the roadside in Spain. The hand is that of the very caring vet giving her the once over and treating them for fleas. This was a fantastic, emotional, stressful and rewarding event in which to be involved. The five pups and their mum were given the best of care and I’m delighted to say that each of them has the most wonderful home in the UK. A huge team pulled together to ensure their safety and care but to be part of the rescue, care and homing of this family from start to finish is something of which I’m very proud.

boots (5)A photo the like of which I have many. These feet are those of a larger puppy and represent many hundreds who have passed through the wonderful dog shelter where I help in Spain. These are the lucky ones…

Weekly photo challenge: Window

My first ever blog – what to write about??
I’m a photographer, hobby, plenty of gear, don’t know how to use it all but “have a good eye”! My life has changed so much over the last 10 years since my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis and I am doing things now that I could never have imagined myself doing. These are the things in my head I would like to blog about. Will anyone be interested in reading? I guess that’s what we all ask when we write our first blog. Who knows, who cares? I’m going to do it anyway.
Actually, I think I actually do care because the my strap line on the blog is “be the change you want to see”. Why I chose that strap line is too long a story for today and I hope I will ease myself into that one and perhaps encourage one or two others to be the change they want to be as well. In the meantime I sought inspiration for my first blog and came across the weekly photo challenge.
Appropriately this week’s theme is Window. Whilst I am very well at the minute, since my diagnosis I have spent quite a remarkable amount of time lying on my sofa, resting, looking out the window – it is a huge window, 8 feet high, right to the floor and runs the length and width of the room – its a ‘garden room’. Being “a photographer” I never like to miss an opportunity, so, through that huge window I have photographed birds feeding, pigeons mating (!), squirrels climbing the trees and munching apples, flowers and my two dogs.
Today that window afforded me the inspiration to write my first blog as part of this challenge as the people in the house behind are having their windows replaced. My challenge – to observe the men and avoid them seeing me pointing my rather large 500mm lens in their direction. As they stood on the scaffolding they could see me as clearly as I could see them – perhaps more so! However, this is what I got…Changing windows (1)

Changing windows

I selected both because I liked the image of the two guys one on either side of the open window, you can see the reflection of the lights on my own window from the kitchen behind me. The other, thankfully no “builders’ bum” but the boxer shorts waste band showing nicely!

When I’m ill this can be as exciting as a day gets for me, however, each day that I am well, I am grateful for it and I realise that this change in my health over the last 9/10 years has given me opportunities which I could either ignore, resent or embrace. I have chosen to embrace them, photography is just one of them. These things are what I would like to write about in my future blogs. I hope some of you will join me. Jennifer