September 28, 2014

A day in the life ....

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.


                                  Isabelleke                                                               Diana

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

 Diana and Maries, waiting for the flight.


                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.

September 27, 2014

Big changes at El Refugio

Demolition in progress.

El Refugio is undergoing a great renovation in order to meet the new European standards. It's taken years to get all the necessary permissions, long battles with paperwork and bureaucracy. The septic wells and sewers have to be replaced. The back section - section 4 where the dogs go into quarantine when they first arrive - has been entirely demolished. The foundations are being dug and the ground prepared for the shiny new structure that will replace the old one and will include a state of the art clinic.

All this has meant a great upheaval. For it's not just at the back that the work is taking place. Great channels are having to be dug from outside the gates all the way up to the old section 4, to accommodate the pipwork and electrics that will bring water and electricity. So every part of the site is  disrupted and noisy and dusty. Add to this the fact that only about half the number of dogs can be accepted - although as usual they continue to turn up at the gates, one way or the other. And somehow they are squeezed in.

Nevertheless, it will all be so worthwhile when it's finished. The old section four was the area which used to be a killing station. The killing station that Fabienne took over and turned into a refuge instead of a charnel house. However, the dogs that were killed - so many and for so many years - are buried in that area. This cast a shadow - possibly physical, certainly spiritual. Among the dogs taken into the shelter and quarantined there were over the years many unexplained deaths. Particularly among those whose were already low, weak and depressed.

There are difficult days ahead. But it will all be so worthwhile once it's finished. Slowly but surely El Refugio will become what we always wanted, a rescue centre where the dogs have the environment they deserve and where they can be healthy and happy.

Fabienne, Sharon and her friend inspecting the work.

Walking the site.

Digging deep ... 


... heavy excavations.

Surveying the work.

Julian, Fabienne and Diane with the foreman.

Digging the channel in Section One, outside the clinic.

The dogs from this section need to be housed in another section while the work goes on.

From another angle and showing the work on the channel.

The new pipes.

Meet little puppy Clodagh - my namesake.

It was my first day back at El Refugio after 18 months away. We had done an airport run and then went to Amalia's to pick up several dogs. Among them this little darling: Fabienne gave her my name. It is such a privilege to have a dog named after you.  

Clodagh the puppy is just two months old. She weights five kilos. Imagine the fear and terror of a little dog like this, thrown into a holding cage with many dogs, most much bigger than she is. She wouldn't have survived, had Fabienne not taken her out of the killing station. As it was her tiny body was covered with wounds from all the bites she had suffered. But she's safe now with us and healing well - and you can read more of her story on Fabienne's Diary.

Arriving at El Refugio - Clodagh is in the middle

Maribel and Marielle doing the paperwork.

Safe with us, with a little companion.

Greeting her namesake at El Refugio.

Safe with Maribel.

Just look at that dear little fat tummy.

Saying hello to Modest.

Getting weighed and measured.

Such a pretty little girl.

Day of the Dog at Las Lagunas

Our stall at the Dog Day.

Every year, the municipality of Fuengirola holds a 'Day of the Dog', a fair and dog show where all the rescue centres and organisations concerned with dogs come together. This year, the municipality of Mijas Costa decided to hold one too.

Although the weather didn't look promising at first, it turned out to be a glorious and very hot day. As the hours wore on more and more people arrived so it was very well attended. K9 Malaga gave a display as did the Guardia Civil with their drug sniffing dogs and there were of course competions for clever dogs, beautiful dogs and the rest.

The A.C.E. stall was colourful with all kinds of wares. Three of our students - Jamie, Naomi and Kelly - came along to help, as did Diane, Marielle, Miguel, Stephen, Denise and Quani from Algeciras Shelter. And of course Fabienne and Dirk. Fabienne, Quani, a member of the Guardia Civil and a gentleman from Animal Protection spoke on a platform, urging people to sterilise their dogs and explaining some of the problems that are encountered daily.

Marielle admires our display.

Wonderful photographs of our 'happy endings' dogs.

Fabienne and Dirk

Fabienne's mother arrived from the airport, with Fabienne's niece, Freya.

Fabienne and Quani on the platform.

The panel.

Kelly, Naomi and Jaimie on the stall, with Miguel in the foreground.


Fabienne and me!

Our students doing a great job.

Paquito - so happy

I have just come back from a week at El Refugio. There was so much to do, I didn't write anything for the blog so now it's time to catch up. There are happy stories and stories that are more than sad. Luckily more of the former than the latter. I'll start with a happy story. It comes from the wonderful Kirsten in Denmark. Many thanks to her and to the loving Jane and Daniel, Paquito's new mum and dad.
Hello Fabienne
Here are some photoes of Paquito.
With his mum and dad, with his new shoes to protect his feet, when he uses his cart and a photo from the doggiwood using his cart.
Paquito is a very happy dog with his family and 2 rescue sisters from Greece. His mum and dad do everything to make his life a happy life in spite of his disability and Paquito is determined to live life to the full. Adopting Paquito has been very positive and rewarding for Jane and Daniel and they wouldn´t be without him.
Love Kirsten
 Paquito and his dad.

Paquito and daddy on a walk.

                                                                                Paquito's little shoes to protect his little feet.

Paquito cuddling with his mum.

Safe and happy with his mum and dad.

September 14, 2014

Fabienne writes about the Dog Days ...

Thank you for the wonderful days

It's been a week ago already ... time goes so fast, life hurtles past us but the happy moments we never forget, the beautiful moments will remain in our hearts FOREVER !! 

The ACE days in both the Netherlands and Belgium were a huge success. We and our teams greeted hundreds of dogs. We hugged them, we chatted with many adopters, volunteers, friends and acquaintances ... the days couldn't last long enough, they are days we never want to forget. A sincere  thanks to everyone, thanks for rescuing so many dogs that otherwise would no longer be here. 

The many words of praise and the visible proof of these happy dogs are a blessing for our mission, our purpose, no words are needed. The volunteers that day and night work away tirelessly in the background - they are our backbone. Every year they come together at the ACE days - only once a year but every year more lovely and more intense. 

It was beautiful ... together we have achieved this .... each in his own way, his own efforts, each different, but the result is that not only have we rescued great dogs but we have great people around us and them. Together this makes a great whole!

Tomorrow healthy again !!! 


Fabienne's photos, put together by Ineke.

Forty four happy dogs find their golden baskets

Here are the sweet dogs who were adopted this August.
Forty four is a pretty good number considering the small number of flights that we had !!
Many thanks to Ineke for the lovely collage.

Now for some good news - the dogs from La Cala Market are safe!

A few weeks ago, Fabienne's Diary told the story of fifteen or more dogs who had been dumped on La Cala Market. The Fuengirola killing station were on the scene quickly, drugging the dogs and catching them. When Fabienne got there they were still there. Fabienne begged them to give them to her but no - they were determined to take them to the killing station. Then Fabienne could take them - if she paid for them. It was an enormous amount of money.

She could only take one little dog. But there's great news - we have bought them and they are safe at El Refugio. Sadly three of them had already died, but we were able to rescue the other twelve. There are still some dogs who were dumped at the market that are wandering around the streets of La Cala. We are working to save them.

Here they all are, poor souls. They were terribly hungry and of course they are still very scared. Where they came from, who dumped them, who knows. They do, of course. Their eyes speak a thousand words, but of course they can't tell us. They are such a mixture of ages and breeds, it's hard to imagine who could have owned them.

Thanks to everyone who helped us with this, thank you for your compassion .. they are safe now. Tomorrow is another day - back to work.