October 19, 2014

A Random Act of Cruelty

This post is dedicated to Hobie, whose one chance of happiness was snatched away.

R.I.P. sweet Hobie - run free at the Rainbow Bridge little fella.

It was my second visit to a killing station. Last time, disturbing and confusing as the experience had been, at least I had walked out with two little dogs in my arms. Two little lives saved. I’d imagined it would be the same this time. It wasn’t. This time it was a different story.

Because of my earlier experience I thought I was more prepared. Or at least as prepared as you can ever be. Which is not much. You can never really get over how it feels to choose one dog or two  among so many. Nor can you easily forget the regret and the memories of those you left behind. Those images remain with you.

Fabienne was tied up with meetings, so Diana came with me. She was collecting a Doberman she had reserved. I had come to choose one small dog – it had to be just one and a small one as, due to the rebuilding works, the Refugio is running at half capacity. Before we even got to see the dogs there was a problem; Diana was told she needed a licence to take the Doberman. There was a lot of discussion – nothing was decided and it was left unresolved. (The following day she was told that she  could not take him.)

Finally we were taken to see the dogs. I tried not to look at the big ones, as I knew I couldn’t take them.  There were not that many small ones apart from a cage of puppies. The Refugio has more puppies than it can handle. So I moved away and tried not to think. By the door, the first cage held a pretty Spaniel type cross and a little Bodeguero. Diana chose the former and I the latter, because this delightful breed is often ignored in Spain. I thought they would take the dogs out of the cage, as had happened previously. But no.

They consulted some lists and told us that, no, we couldn’t have those two after all. They hadn’t been in for the required period and in any case one had a chip. (I was pretty sure that if the chip had been up to date the owner would already have been traced.) We were told that we could have them Monday, if they hadn’t been claimed by then. I didn’t trust them. And I was right not to do so, for a different reason.

Most of the conversations had been conducted in Spanish. I could only follow a bit and there was a lot going on. So, at the time, thinking these little ones were not available, I said I’d choose another dog. And I fell in love with him. Hobie was more medium than small. He was just an ordinary dog. Quiet and unassuming.  He looked so sad - as if he’d given up hope. My heart went out to him. I asked if I could take him. They took him out of his cage. And then they declared that he was sick; he couldn’t be released.

‘Tell you what’ they said, ‘we’ll treat him for a few days and if he improves you can have him. ‘ With that I had to be content.  We went back to the office and I realised I didn’t have a photograph. After a lot of arguing I was allowed to go back, escorted, to take a photo. I am so sad that I didn’t take better photographs. They are blurry but they are all I have now.  Of course I also wish I had asked Diana to take one of me with him. But I wasn’t to know.  That night I spent a long time thinking of a name for this quiet dog. In the end I decided on Hobie, after the gentle, unassuming character in Donna Tart’s ‘The Goldfinch', which I was reading at the time.

The following morning, the day I was leaving, Fabienne picked me up and had to break some horrible news. The killing station had rung her and told her that they would not treat Hobie unless she paid for the treatment. She didn’t have time to tell me this or to work something out because within the hour they rang again. They had killed Hobie.

I will never know if he was even sick at all. Or if he was, what was wrong with him or if he would have got better with the right medicine. He was never given the chance. I’m crying even as I write this. It may seem sentimental and over the top. After all, I only saw Hobie for a very short time. I make no apology. I am crying for a sweet, noble dog.  I am crying because he will never hear soft words, get cuddles, know the care and love of a forever home.

My tears are also tears of grief for all those who we couldn’t take that day or on other days. For the little black and white one in the second cage. For the puppies – barely two or three months old – that we couldn’t save.  My tears are also tears of anger for all the hundreds and thousands of dogs who are cruelly put to death in the killing stations throughout Spain. Every Friday. Every week. Every month. Every year.

The first killing station was quite grubby. Dogs were held in cages out in the open and the whole place looked run down. And although the front office was the usual, sanitised sort that fools some of the public, at least there was no pretence out back. Mind you, there’s really no need to deceive the public. People who bring their dogs to a killing station know exactly what they are doing. One just wonders what happened to their hearts.

The killing station at Canes, however, is a little different. It is attached to a large veterinary practice, both owned by the same vet. He runs another similar outfit – both shiny, state of the art practices attached to government subsidised killing stations. At Canes the waiting room for the practice is large, clean and airy; it’s more than possible that the clients have no knowledge of his ‘other’ persona. Displays of nutritional dog food, accessories, jackets and toys line the walls. Lovely posters of happy families with their dogs line the corridors. The pretty personnel wear pretty uniforms.  

It’s the sheer hypocrisy that I cannot stomach. Certainly I have to concede that as killing stations go, this one was better than some. It didn’t come close to the infamous Mairena at Seville. It didn’t have twenty or thirty or so dogs, of all sizes and states of health crammed in together. So yes, let’s be thankful for small mercies. But then again- the cages we saw were fairly sanitised, but that doesn’t mean there was worse hidden away. Even if not, it's still a killing station. There's no excuse for  the lack of veterinary care, the denial of food and water. The cruel and terrifying death by gas.
There was a happy ending for two of the dogs, if not for Hobie. They kept their word and released Gloria and Muffin on the Monday. They are both now in the Refugio and Muffin is already reserved.
But I will never forget Hobie. Never. Nor will I forget what they did to him.

If you are in Spain as a tourist or on business, you may have remarked that there are relatively few stray dogs on the streets. You may think that this is because there are no stray dogs on the streets. You’d be wrong. The reason there are no stray dogs on the streets is because they are all rounded up and taken to the killing stations. I will be writing more on this subject in subsequent posts.

Happy endings for some ... others are still waiting and dreaming and hoping ...

Thanks to Samantha Riethorst who escorted them, these five dogs flew in to Schipol airport and to their forever homes. Here they are with their new owners.


   From left to right, with their happy new owners - Andres, small Betica, Elie, Luco and Lucky. 

But ...

These sweethearts are still waiting, hoping, longing!

We want to go home. Please. Beyonce, Nicky, Shakira, Beau, Andres, 
Yody (in the background), Elie, Santino, Minka, Joeri, Suzanne, Shakira and Manou.


Slowly but surely ...

In the Refugio work is progressing. Slowly but surely.  The drains are almost in. This will give our Refugio a whole new aspect - especially in terms of hygiene and maintenance. We had to wait a long time, but it's definately worth it!!!

Power cleaning - getting rid of all the dust.

From another angle.

The new buildings begin to take shape.

What's going on? 

Bringing up the supplies - with Fabienne in the background.

When the gates are open, walkies have to be on a lead until they get to the field. You can see how eager they are to get up there!

All clean and tidy - the view towards the gate.

Looking up the other way, towards the kennels, clinic and washroom.

Miguel and friends - among them Rufus, Kyra and Petrouska.


October 18, 2014

Amazing courage. Amazing spirits.

Many thanks to Denise Lansdale for sending this.



There are still wonderful people in this world. Please share this image if you are against animal abuse.

October 13, 2014

Our Axe is home at last ...

... Many dogs settle well when they come to us. Yes, it's noisy, yes there are lot of dogs running about. Yes, you have to live in a cage for part of the day. But you get food, and if you're sick you get treated, people talk to you kindly and you get cuddles and love. For some dogs that's paradise, compared to what they've endured and experienced in their little lives.

But some dogs find it much more difficult. They may have known what it's like to live in a family so apart from grieving for their bosses they find life in a shelter completely alien. Others are just so frightened and traumatised that they take ages to even let you come near them.

Axe was one of those dogs. He had no chance at all. He as going crazy at the Refugio. He had such a hard time. But now - just look!  Our Axe is home - and he'll be loved and spoilt for the rest of his life. Isn't that wonderful!

Love from Axe and his new mama.

October 12, 2014

More happy dogs find their forever homes in Holland

Among those lucky dogs adopted this month are sweet little Hash, who I met when I was at El Refugio, a real cuddle bunny. And Verde who has waited so long.

This is so true ....

... if only we could get this message to those who need to hear it. And act on it!!!