May 27, 2012

If only they could talk ...

How often do we say this, particularly when a lost dog is found or some poor little creature has been badly treated?  Well, perhaps we'll never hear them speak but scientists are working hard to at least help us understand what they are thinking. Researchers from Emory University in Atlanta have been training our four legged friends to lie still in an MRI machine for 15 seconds Long enough to map their brain activity.

The scientists got the idea when they discovered that dogs had played a vital part in the capture of Osama bin Laden. If they could be trained to jump out of helicopters, surely they could be trained to stay quiet in an MRI machine.  The first experiments were to see whether appropriate areas of the brain would be activated in anticipation of an award. They were. It's early days but they hope among other things to prove that dogs have empathy with their owners and to see if they use sight or smell to recognise them.

This is Spain in 2012

These neglected, suffering dogs were found in Tarifa, right behind a shopping centre where hundreds of people pass daily. Not far from the beaches crowded with holidaymakers, despite the economic crisis. Life rushes by but these poor creatures also have a right to life. They were born to be happy too, to lead a dignified existence.  Once they were healthy and full of expectation, both the mother and the puppies.In this case, the Seprona, the division of the Spanish Civil Guard responsible for animal welfare, stepped in and brought the dogs to a clinic. But for some, after already suffering great distress, it was too late.

Thrown out, discarded, ignored and left to die

A mother desperately tries to lick her puppy back to life 

Too late

Little ears full of ticks

Pray it's not too late for this little one

Fighting for his life

May 20, 2012

When a good friend suddenly becomes ill

You do not expect it.  You work and the days go past. For 12 long years we’ve fought together, fighting for so many lives, each in his own way, but always together. In daily conversation about what is good or what could e done better, about which dogs are a concern to us and how to tie the ends together. When I want to save too many dogs, Ton is the one who will whistle me back, yes we can save them but we need to save them financially too. That is the issue.

When he suddenly became ill last week I did not know what happened, it was such a heavy blow. This could not be that strong man who always defied everything, inside a soft good man, honest and sincere, and committed to our dogs, nothing was too much for him, nothing was too heavy, but now …  he must take a step back, to recover and then he will be back.

We hope, as we want it so badly, dear Ton, we wish you the strength of our entire team, of all of us, of all our dogs … Know that we are behind you. And we want to give you the time to feel and be better. Together we are strong, in good and bad times.


May 19, 2012

May 19th 2011 – a day I’ll never forget.

A year ago today the Refugio was badly damaged by a terrible mudslide - but now it’s stronger than ever.

May 19th 2011

When I arrived at the big gates on my very first morning I had no idea what I would find. I’d left England the day before, May 18th, on a very early flight. I took the train from Fuengirola, and then a taxi, arriving at Las Buganvillas at midday. I had no idea how to get to El Refugio, so I settled into my apartment, slept and prepared to go up the next day.

That night, around 2a.m., I was woken by the most violent thunderstorm I have ever experienced. The sky was a pulsating electric blue, the rain lashed the windows, the wind howled. It went on for several hours. Next morning the sky was blue, the sun shone, the air was fresh. I phoned for a taxi to take me to El  Refugio. I got there at 10, the place looked deserted. I ran the bell – no one answered. Unknown to me the electricy had been knocked out. At this point I still had no idea of the enormity of what had happened.  

A car arrived. It was Dirk; we’d never met but I recognised him from the website. We walked up towards the portakabins and that’s when I could see it. The place was a sea of mud, the dogs were covered in mud, parts of the hill had slid down in several places. People were busy digging, hosing, sluicing. Marjolijn, a Dutch volunteer, now a friend, saw me, introduced herself, showed me where to find a sluicer and we just got to work.  A generator was brought in. More helpers arrived I recognised Fabienne, again from the website, but it was no time for introductions.  She was everywhere at once, distressed, but practical as ever, trying to sort it all out.

Everyone worked non-stop. All that day, and the next day and the next. People came from everywhere. Some offering to take some of the smaller dogs, to help them get warm. Others with masses of towels and blankets. Ton said the phone never stopped ringing from 7.30 am and into the night. The people came from the local radio station. Another dog charity brought a van load of food. I hadn’t known it at the time, but over the next days I discovered that the deluge had destroyed all the food stores, all the medicine, all the towels and the blankets and much else beside. The weaker dogs were in danger and some died. From pneumonia, from hypothermia. It was the saddest of times. A time that no one associated with A.C.E. will ever forget.

I know I’ll certainly never forget. I arrived knowing no one at the worst possible time. When I left nearly two weeks later I had a new ‘family’ – and I can hardly believe that it’s only a year since I met you all. I’m glad I was there when you most needed help, even though I was just one among many. I’m glad that I shared that experience with you. I’ve been looking through the Dutch and English blogs for May last year. The posts are heart warming - offers of help, donations, words of sorrow and support and love. Such a great, big, warm, loving family – A.C.E.

May 1st 2012

All squeaky clean

Another day, another dinner time 

The washroom's all nice and fresh again

A nice lick of paint - there've been many great improvements

May 19th 2012 - the pictures tell their own story. Bigger, better, stronger.  Nevertheless, the demands are great and growing daily. Spain is in a dreadful state, the dogs are under even greater threat.  El Refugio is constantly under pressure.  But it’s still going, thanks to the immense efforts, love and devotion of Fabienne and team Spain, of team Holland and of Team Belgium – of every single volunteer, worker, student, supporter, donor, foster parent – everyone and anyone who makes this brilliant organisation what it is today.

Below are just some of the dogs that now have loving forever homes - these are the Dutch adoptees for the month of April 2012.  Many more will find their golden baskets throughout the year - in Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Austria. Thanks once more to Ineke for the wonderful photos and collages.


So many beautiful dogs owe their lives to A.C.E., many of them like the ones above now happy and adored with their loving adoptive families. The work goes on.

May 18, 2012

Goodbye beautiful Mollie ...

... for twelve years she lived outside, she never had a real home. Every now and then someone threw some bread at her. She had puppies perhaps, but who knows what happened to them. She became ill, poor Mollie had cancer. How desperately sad the fate of a dog like Mollie. A soft, gentle kind soul who never did anyone any harm.

But then, on 21st December last year, at last, Maries was able to rescue her and bring her to the Refugio. Where she lived for five months. Five months full of love - in a warm basket, with the best food and treats, with the correct medication and painkillers. And above all, so much love. She was cuddled and petted by everyone - visitors and volunteers, workers and students.

Sadly, love and care couldn't cure sweet Mollie's cancer. She has been released from her suffering now. We so hoped against all reason that there might be some miracle, but life isn't like that. Maries, who brought her to El Refugio and gave her so much love, says with much sadness 'there are sometimes those special souls who take a big piece of your heart. Mollie was that to me.'

I am writing this too with much sadness, but I want everyone who loved and cared for darling Mollie to remember, in the midst of their sadness, all the happiness and love they gave to her. At El Refugio, everyone knows they can't save all the dogs in the world but, as Fabienne always says 'you can save the life of one dog.' Mollie is a perfect example. Others might have said she didn't have a hope. Maries and Fabienne and everyone said - she may not have long but let her know love before she goes.

Everyone, Mollie left you knowing what love is. She was happy. Thank you.

May 16, 2012

And the Winner of Britain's Got Talent is .....


Talented Pudsey, a Border Collie, Bichon Frise and Chinese Crested cross, has become the very first dancing dog to win Britain's Got Talent. This year the final saw 10 excellent acts compete - any one of them could have won. But in the end the favourites - Pudsey and his talented owner 16-year old Ashleigh - carried all before them. They wowed the judges and a dream came true for the show's creator Simon Cowell - a dedicated dog lover who supports a variety of rescue dog organisations. He's always wanted a dog act to win - though it's the British public that votes. I'm putting on the videos of all three performances - first the audition, then the semi final and then the winning final act. Together they won £500,000 and now Hollywood beckons! In case anyone is worried - Ashleigh adores Pudsey and he enjoys his routines. He was given to Ashleigh as a puppy for her 11th birthday and they have been devoted to each other ever since.

The audition

The Semi-Final

The Final

May 12, 2012

Remember Stefan - our miracle dog?



It really was a miracle. 

Already scared and traumatised by life, little Stefan had flown to Holland to a new and loving home with Annemie. But on his very first day a big dog frightened him and, terrified, our little Stefan ran away. It was in the depths of winter, his own curly coat had had to be shaved off because it was all matted, so he had no protection from the freezing weather. It was minus 14. He was in a strange country. 
Annemie with her friends and with many volunteers from A.C.E. did everything possible to find him. There were search parties, there were posters, there were appeals for news. The days passed. Then a week. Then two weeks. Hope was fading. Three weeks were gone. Surely it was too late. We prayed. But we were all afraid. And then it happened. I came home one day, over three weeks after the little fellow disappeared to find an email in my inbox. It was from Ineke.  And in the subject line it simply said 'Stefan is found'. I cried. Everyone cried - with relief, with happiness, with joy. 

Now here's some great news, from his loving owner Annemie, who never gave up on her Stefan. He's  is doing very well, she tells us. He's recovered his health. And although he's still very frightened of people, he's a real sweetheart when he knows you.  He's beginning to play with his ball and other toys. He'll stay at home quite happily and when she comes home they go to the park. He's a completely different dog. He only barks when he is asleep. Next week she's taking him to the dog groomer for the first time, and she's curious to see how it will go.  Stefan still has a long way to go, but Annemie is sure it will be OK.

Patience is a virtue, she says, and Annamie certainly has patience in spades. And a lot of energy, but as she says if you want something badly enough, you'll win through.  And Stefan will be fine now, thanks to her love and devotion.  Just look at the pictures below. The first one is of Stefan on his first day - just see the difference.

Greetings and hugs from  Stefan and from Annemie.

                                            Stefan in February - a frightened little dog

                                         Three months and a lot of love later- just look!

                                             In the park with his devoted Annemie

   Learning to play

May 11, 2012

Harvey and his friend ...

Fantastic Harvey is the star of the Thinkbox commercials - you may have seen him on the Dutch blog, with his packed suitcase, playing his video to a young couple to persuade them to give him a forever home. And they did - but now he has another problem ..... *

* There seems to be a bit of a problem with the contrast. The video is very pale, but it seems to have been made like that. 

May 07, 2012

The Black Beauty Project –because our beautiful black dogs are worth it

We are currently caring for more than 549 dogs -  some are at the Refugio at La Cala, others in Algeciras and with our wonderful foster families

Each one is important to us, each one will someday get a boss, each one has a right to a better life. However, our black dogs are often those who have to wait the longest. Somehow they are not being noticed, not being seen, are being forgotten.........

That's why we are starting the BLACK BEAUTY PROJECT. We want to work on their future by giving them more attention, by putting them in the spotlight, by giving them more chances.

They are beautiful dogs, with wonderful characters, with so much friendship and love in their black heads. They have so much to offer. So they happen to be black - they are also pretty and very sweet, they are so very much worth it.