It's eighteen months since I was last at El Refugio. I was so excited to be going out again - I couldn't wait. It was as wonderful as I expected, though not without its sadnesses. I spent nearly all of the week with Fabienne. I already knew how hard she works - indeed how hard they all work. Nevertheless, I wanted to record just a few days to show just what it's like, just how many demands there are on her time and her emotions. In another post I will tell the story of Hobie - the story of just one dog and how his poor little life was cut short by a sadistic killing station just at the point where he was to be rescued.
For now however, here is a brief record of several days with Fabienne and with all the people who work so hard at El Refugio - employees, students and volunteers.
Wednesday 17th September
I arrived at Malaga airport at around 12.45 a.m.and waited for Fabienne. She had already been at the airport earlier bringing groups of dogs to fly off to their new homes in Holland. In all there were three flights that day - that is three round trips that involved more than an hour's drive each time, at the very least, to say nothing of the time spent at the airport making sure the dogs get safely on their flights.
At 2.30 Fabienne arrived with eight more dogs - four cages, the maximum permittted. This was the third flight that day. We also met Isabelleke who had arrived with two more dogs who were to go back to El Refugio where our wonderful volunteer vets from Belgium would sterilise them. Back to El Refugio to deliver the two dogs, discuss their treatment with the vets and to field telephone calls and discuss the daily tasks and problems. Finally, in the evening, we left and Fabienne dropped me at my appartment.
Thursday 18th September
Three more flights today. Fabienne picked me up with Alfredo and Moutard, two of her foster dogs. She had of course been up for some time working. We drove to El Refugio to pick up the cages and give instructions. The ground was swimming in thick white creamy stuff, like liquid cement, which stuck to your shoes and got all over your clothes. It was part of the preparations to make the stones ready for the channels to be dug for the new pipework for the sewers. The restauration of section 4 and the laying of new pipes is another story - a whole new set of problems. See my previous post.
On their way to El Refugio - the puppy Clodagh is on the right.
We got back in the van and drove the 40 minutes to Amalia's, one of our foster mums. We picked up eight or more dogs to take to El Refugio for sterilisation. While the Belgian volunteer vets are with us we try to get as many dogs castrated and sterilised as possible. They did over 45 in the four days they were with us. Back to El Refugio (another 40 minute drive) to deliver the dogs and pick up six more to bring to the airport. Each time you have to stand in line so that the dogs' passports can be checked in with the escort's boarding pass.
When that is done the dogs cages have to go through a special security. This means another wait until the supervisor arrives. Then the dogs have to be taken out of their cages, the cages put through security, the dogs put back in their cages. The cages are then secured so no one can tamper with them or release the dogs. This has to be done for every cage, every time. Nowadays too you have to wait at the airport until the flight is called because if by any chance it is delayed or cancelled you have to turn round and go back, so it's better to wait.
Two of our Belgian vets with Jineta, Kyra, Modest, Hash and Petrush
Maries with Mabel. Mabel, travelling in style with Maries, in the cabin!
Back to El Refugio. As always the phone never stops ringing, even in the car. Always something to deal with. Constant firefighting. At the refuge in time to receive more dogs and show visitors the renovation works while Fabienne discussed them with the foreman. An hour later we were back in the van on the way to the airport once more with four dogs who were flying out to Norway and to Holland. The flight was in the early evening and since we needed to wait until the flight was called we didn't get back to La Cala until nearly 9 p.m. No time to change before being taken out to dinner by the lovely Belgian vets. The day ended after midnight.
Jesulina with her amazing new owner, and me. At the check in desks - from the other side.
Friday 19th September
Yet more flights. Three more in fact - one very early in the morning. Diane went to the airport to take those dogs. Another one in the early afternoon - I didn't go on that one as there were cats going off too and so Eliane went with Fabienne and Diana. And there was yet another flight.
Loading the cages for yeat another airport trip.
There were about a dozen students at the Refugio on this visit. They help in many ways, but particularly with the cleaning and feeding. The place is spotless. I took a photo of the cleaning instructions, which are impressive, so I may well do a post on those soon. Stephen, the manager, Lisa, Mike, Miguel, Julian, Maribel, Rafael our vet and so many others work tirelessly. Marielle in the office keeps everything in order, no mean feat. Tonlooks after the finances, a constant challenge. Of course Fabienne and Dirk never stop. Nor do Diane, Denise and our many other volunteers. Not to mention Amalia, Isabelleke and the many other foster parents. If I have left anyone out, I apologise. It's hard to keep up.
There were two more flights on Saturday. On Sunday it was practically the whole day at the Dia del Perro in Mihas Costa - another one hour round trip, more or less. Then most of the day manning our stall, fund raising and raising awareness. And this was the weekend! You can see all the photos on my earlier post 'The Day of the Dog.' On the Monday I went to the Cane killing station with Diana. She was to take a Dobermann that had already been reserved. I was to rescue a dog, a small one since the Refugio is stuffed to the gills and only has room for about 50% of normal intake. However, it didn't turn out as planned. It was a sad day indeed. I will write about it separately.
So much was going on, so much work, that it was hard to keep up and make notes. Suffice to say that my remaining two days were just as packed and busy. This was my fourth visit in three years. It was wonderful, as always. I simply cannot wait to get out there again.