Tag Archives: dog rescue

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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My Dog Blog: an introduction

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 )

 

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My own two dogs Pepper and Polo – the source of much of my learning and my inspiration

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.

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‘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…

First ever full tummies…

So there is no photographic expertise to this photo, however, it seemed to me to be pretty appropriate for this challenge. In trust I cannot remember whether is was breakfast, lunch or dinner for these wee guys but for the purpose of this Daily Post Weekly photo challenge: dinner

These 7 pups were found abandoned in two milk crates tied together with a few bits of garden string near the rescue shelter in Spain where I help out as much as I can. When I’m there, I am an extra pair of hands and can do things that require that extra bit of time – such as looking after litters of puppies and spending time with shy or frightened dogs who are finding life difficult to cope with. More on some of those experiences in other posts!

On arrival, their skinny little bodies were jumping with fleas and their skin was encrusted with flea dirt. Even with the help of a couple of friends it took a couple of days to comb it all away and get them properly cleaned up. I named and “colour coded” them matching their colour to their identity photo so they could be easily recognised not only by me but by all the volunteers.

This photo was taken on day two after their cruel abandonment. What a joy it was to see them guzzling down together in their bowl with their little tails rigid, almost vibrating with excitement as they visibly expanded and resembled “wee tummies on legs”.

dinner time (3)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Family

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mmmm…what to say about ‘family’? This is only my second ever blog and I have a lot in my head about a number of subjects that I hope to get off my chest at some stage including animal welfare, photography, what my last 10 years has taught me and many more things, but I will ease myself in gradually me thinks. In the meantime, taking on this weekly photo challenge will help me to introduce a few of my special interests. This one is “Family’ and indeed I have much that I would like to share about them, again, for another day!

Of course my nuclear family is me, my long-suffering husband (I freely acknowledge I have not always been easy to live with!) and my three sons who are 15, 19 and 22. They will of course all be blogged about at some stage (!) hopefully in a way that they will find acceptable. Suffice it to say until then, all I will say is that I am very proud of each of them. However, there are two other little beings in my life and I consider them to be part of my family. I am not a crazy dog lady (although some would say I am!), I do not treat them like children (although some would say I do!) but they are most definitely part of my family. They are my two dogs, Pepper and Polo and they have changed my life.

Fifteen years ago I could not have imagined myself with a dog in my house, I didn’t like dogs, I thought it was unhygienic to have them in the home, I hated dog hair in people’s houses, barking dogs and worst of all I hated stepping in dog poo!! Now, I regularly find myself standing in the compound of a Spanish Shelter with 20 or 30 dogs around me many looking for hugs, wanting attention, paws prints up to chest height and dirt of all sorts covering me from head to foot! I myself cannot believe how much i have changed.

As with many things over the last 10 years, the trigger to this change was my diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis. Before and at the early stages of my illness I really was pretty poorly and spent a ridiculous amount of time in the house, not going out, not feeling like going out and often not able to go out. Much of the time I was, therefore, on my own. My boys were badgering me for a dog as children often do but my husband veto’d the whole idea for some time so for ages I could blame him! Then as I spent time adjusting to my changing health I began to think that perhaps having a dog would actually be a good thing – for me – not the kids. I set about researching what would be a good dog in my circumstances – key requirements: doesn’t shed hair (!), not too big, doesn’t require too much exercise – and we hit on the breed Miniature Schnauzer. My husband lifted the veto and before very long we had a gorgeous little pup in the house. SONY DSC/p>

This pup was a new interest for me at a time I really needed something. He was company for me 24/7, he was happy so long as he was with me. As I slept during the day he lay next to me. If I slept longer than usual, because I was having a bad day, he sniffed around me and nudged me with his nose. No, he did not want anything, I absolutely believe that he was checking on me. I never felt alone, we developed a bond I did not think possible (with an animal) and he became a reason for me to leave the house when I could. I realised what an amazing privilege it is to have a dog – how they do more for us than we could ever do for them, what an asset they can be to someone who is ill, lonely, elderly etc etc etc. Pepper introduced me to the love of dogs, I viewed them all in a new light no longer seeing them as a hairy, dirty thing to have around but a companion, a helper, a friend, a reason to go out even when I didn’t feel like it and for me a “godsend”. In fact I was so grateful to Pepper for what he had done for me that I decided I would like to get him a little friend. So along came Polo, the same breed but completely different personality. Pepper is wise, ‘all knowing’, mischievous, serious whilst Polo is the eternal puppy, innocent, naive, simple who spends his life wondering what is going on and whether he should get involved.

My love and enjoyment for them has led me to being involved in volunteering at a shelter, meeting people I would never otherwise have come into contact with, triggered my interest in photography which in turn has led to so many new unexpected experiences.SONY DSC
They are not children but they are LIKE children in the sense that they are totally vulnerable and dependent on us. Just as with children, if we choose to be bad to them they live a miserable, painful existence, if we see them as disposable or possessions then any excuse becomes acceptable to justify abandonment and neglect. As a result, many hundreds of thousands live as strays on the streets and thousand are euthanised daily. There is nothing they can do to protect themselves from us. So, I am doing what I can, I choose not to turn my back and look the other way, I choose to help when I can. I use my ‘talent’ to photograph dogs needing homes and my energy when it’s available to walk dogs and volunteer at the shelter. The satisfaction I get from knowing I have helped in some way to find a home for a shelter dog is immense and fills a gap created by the effects of my illness. In that sense I, again, get a lot more from these shelter dogs than I can ever give to them.
Franelo
To finish this post, indulge me please – I would like to include two short videos of two wonderful dogs who are looking for a family:

Thank you for listening!

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