December 29, 2014

Snapshots - daily life at El Refugio

Food! Maybe there's some food in here!

Cuddles. We love to give cuddles and our dogs need them so much.

Puppies. We're never short of puppies. So tiny and so defenceless.

Fabienne cuddling one of our precious dogs.

December 28, 2014

Rose makes wonderful progress


Rose (formerly known as Rosa) has now been with us for nearly three and a half months. In that time we have seen her grow tremendously. Rose had been in a very safe environment with a couple of dogs and a foster mum. From there she came to us - a family with father, mother and two more daughters. In addition, a very loving and stable Labrador. Rose had a fear of men, and that we noticed immediately. My husband could barely enter a room but she shot away, barking. She was even wary of my daughters. Rose would come to me and preferred to spend the whole day close to me or on my lap. Her fear manifested itself especially in the evening and at night. Then she barked a lot and hard! Something neither we nor the neighbours appreciated. Ha ha!

I contacted her fosterers and they put us in touch with a behaviorist. A few emails and phone calls were sufficient. Rose seemed to have a great need for clear guidance from me. I was to practice with her a few times a day in the woods and meadows. Simple basic exercises. Roos 'grew' visibly when she got everything clear. She is a very brave and smart girl. Happily her curiosity always wins out! 
Now she can even play with my husband and my daughters. Sometimes at night she crawls secretly into my daughter's  ...;-) She hardly barks any more and has also found her place with our other dog. They do not play together a lot but are happy to share the same space! If one lingers the other waits as if he would say: hey, hello! Hurry up!

We take long walks in the woods every day or in the floodplain where Rose is like a fish in water. She runs and scans and sniffs a bit! In the beginning she would sometimes wander too far, but now she comes back quickly on her own. She constantly seeks to make contact and then 'disappear' again. Completely in her element!

We feel very supported by the ACE/Shin organization. They don't treat it as if you were just simply buying a dog. Instead they are always at hand to help with any problems. Very reassuring and pleasant for us. Certainly also for the dog!


Family Bouman, Bikkel and Rose.

Rose and Bikkel

Bikkel and Rose on the beach

Puppy of the week - Yurika!


This is my sad face.

Shhh! I'se thinking.

Am I not just the cutest thing, EVER!

New homes for a new year ...

Not quite home for Christmas but home in time to greet a brand new year in their forever homes. Here are some of the lucky dogs who arrived at Rotterdam airport on 26 December. Some of the film taken by Saskia didn't come out - but here are some of the arrivals, and also some photos taken when they were still at the Refugio.

Many thanks to Kelly and Manon who accompanied the flight and enabled these sweethearts to get to their new homes. Among them Daantje - a sweet Bodeguero who I met in September and who loved to snuggle up for a cuddle.

Waiting for the dogs

Yep! Here they come


First to come out is Hilario.

Hilario before the flight.

Now Alonso is home.

Alonso before he left the Refugio.

Snuggly Daanje, the black and white one, with Smily, the golden one, waiting to greet their families.

Enebro at the Refugio. He now has his own golden basket.

Happy New Year - from all of us

Fabienne emailed me a lovely little video but so far I haven't managed to get it to open on the blog. Here are some of the stills from the film that she also sent me.


John Travolta


Happy New Year from all of us XXX

December 21, 2014


These two adorable black ladies have had enough! "All this fuss about the Spanish dogs - we'll see about that!" Sitting on the laptop's a good way to stop the dogs being publicised! And it's nice and warm. This story comes from Eugenie, the wonderful lady who is adopting Manolito. They are two of the three dogs and four cats she already has, they will be Manolito's siblings. Aren't they absolutely gorgeous.

Changes to the blogs - will you help us find a new name?

To all of you lovely people who send little notes, fun stories, updates and funny and beautiful pictures about your adopted and fostered dogs and cats - we have some news.

From 1st January the Dutch and Belgian blogs are combining. 

For that reason, we have created a new address for them:

So please do continue sending us all those nice stories and lovely photographs to share with all ACE/Shin fans. Miracles happen when we share.

We are looking for a new name for the new combined Dutch/Belgian blog. Will you help us? Do you have some interesting ideas?

We have a nice prize for the winner: donated by our dear volunteer Rita, she has made a fantastic, soft and comfortable dog sleeping bag.

We have assembled a jury, which will consist of: Fabienne, Ineke ( and Hélène (

We hope we get lots of great entries, we can give a great name to our new blog.

Together we are strong! Send your nice ideas to:

Please note that, for the time being, the English Blog will stay the same, but there may be changes to name etc. in the new year. Watch this space. Currently the email, should you wish to send any photos or stories, in English, is

For my special Manolito

For Manolito

Manolito, Manolito, Manolito - your name sounds like a southern song all day through my head, Manolito .....

I was going to adopt Hera, the very old, blind dog but unfortunately this was not to be, because sadly Hera died on the day she was to fly to me. I wrote Fabiennne an email saying that should she have another old, sick "Special Care" doggy like Hera, I would be willing to help.

Pretty soon there was a grateful response to my email ... but in the same email Fabienne told me about you Manolito, about how you would lie under the garbage truck, afraid you would be attacked and so shy that you didn't want anyone to see you . She felt so sorry for you and wanted so much to see you happy. 

Now you should know, Manolito, that beside my offer to take in a "special care" dog I already have four female cats and three very old dogs, one with cancer. I do the best for her with all my love and will carry on doing it to keep her happy and pain free for as long as possible.  Day and night, sometimes getting up from my bed, I encourage her gently to take food and her medicine. 

I had a plan in my head. I wouldn't adopt a new dog until one of my old dogs had slipped away and when that happened, I would again take a special care dog because they are always welcome. This time it would be a small, fluffy little thing, one that I could lift easily and very young to make a nice balance with the oldies. I didn't have to do this now, I would do it when the time came. 

But not everything went according to the plan I had in my head, Manolito. Because you popped back into my mind again and again, like a jack in a box. Your story and the image of those sweet endearing pictures of you, I just could not forget them ... and then I went too see for myself and started think about how it might work. 

The thoughts went round and round and then there was no stopping. I could not contain myself and adopted you the self same day, because I want to see you happy, so happy! For your ticket is booked for Monday, December 29th and then you will fly to this cold country and when you arrive I will be waiting for you. 

Until then I will not worry about you, because I've read that you are very happy there in foster with Fabienne and Dirk. "Big shoes to fill" for me but I will do my level best to ensure that you will find happiness with me, my sweet boy.  You are welcome here, so welcome. I'll take care of you and you will be so loved.

With love from your new boss, Eugenie

PS Fabienne says I will fall in love with you, but I believe that I am already in love ...

Manolito meet your new family and as you see you are right there in the middle of us. 

Manolito's first real Christmas ...

Manolito is ten years old. But this is his first real Christmas. This is his story, from Fabienne's Diary.
This is how he looked when he came to us.

My name became Manolito. I was born somewher in the campo, that's what they call it here. At first I was a sweet, cute, furry ball. But when I grew up everyone made fun of me. My teeth were crooked and my under-bite was more than abnormal. I couldn't eat propertly because my teeth were all wrong. I was laughed at and neglected, kicked and sent away wherever I went. They called me 'ugly'. I learned to make myself small and to hide, to make myself invisible. I stayed in the yard and was happy with all the many puppies who were born there in the campo. They accepted me for what I am. They came and went and I learnt to survive.

People were scary and they made me feel afraid. Then one day I was taken to the killing station. I was scared and knew these would be my last ays. This was how my life would end - in a stinking cage where I would survive for my last ten days. I was put on the death cart, together with the rest of the dogs that were also sentenced to death. All together on our last ride.

A woman came to the cart and looked at me. I tried to hide. What did she want? Tears were rolling down her face; she lifted me into her arms. Never before had I felt a human so close to me. She took me with her, I was saved. I then lived for a while at a rescue centre, where I felt safe hiding under the wheelbarrow. I ate, slept and lived under the dirty wheelbarrow, where life was good because I was safe. No, don't look at me. No, I don't exist. I don't want to be seen. Please let me be.

One day a van arrived and since then my life has changed. I was taken away and washed with soap and shampoo. My dirty long hair that had grown over many years was shaved and my whole body was massaged, admired and loved. They were cuddling me. So funny! I had a basket, but God, what to do with it?! For the first few weeks I slept on the floor, because that's what I'm used to but now, now I sleep, roll and burrow into my pillow and it's wonderful. 

I am so happy. I eat from a bowl and they find me pretty. They think I am funny and I am allowed in their car and they walk with me. They call me Manolito, mi nino, my sweetheart, my cutie. I laugh and I glow. My heart is beating from happiness. They take me for walks and I can run around free as well and run into their arms. Proud, cheerful and happy - that's what I am now. I am hapy to explore everything. Recently my life is different, so completely different.

My Christmas is going to be great.

Yes, my name is Manolito, but you can call me little ball, or sweet little fluffy, that's all fine with me. Merry Christmas from an ordinary stray dog who would never have been noticed if there hadn't been people with a big heart and so I am very grateful to you. To all of you, thank you.

Thank you for my very first Christmas.

Update: On 29th December, Manolito is flying out to live in his forever home with Eugenie. She has written a beautiful letter to him. You can read it on the next post.

At Fabienne's house. All washed and brushed and happpy.

Swapping a cold floor for a warm basket.

December 20, 2014

A Message from Amareto

At the airport with Tubolev waiting for Mum

Hello Fabienne

This is me, Amareto, writing from Denmark  to tell you that I have a family now, mum, dad and my own girl called Lulu, she is a big girl and my best friend. I was a bit worried in the box at the airport, but then mum came and smiled at me and called me her little dog and when they let me out of the box, I jumped straight on to her lap and l knew that she was my mum. 

When we came home I found out that I have a house to live in and Lulu was glad to see me and said that I could share her dog basket, so I was very pleased and thought I had better pee on a lot of things in the house, so everybody knew that Lulu and the house was mine now. But mum didn`t like it at all, so I stopped that and only pee outside now and mum says that I am intelligent and wonderful and she loves me.

So you see Fabienne I am very happy here, because they all like me - and mum's friend Nina want to adopt a dog from ACE too, because she is so impressed with me and the other 3 dogs that came home in December. So next month Deno comes home too and then I have a friend from ACE near by to play with.

                                                                                                                Love from your Amareto

Me in my golden basket

Lulu lets me share her basket

Me and my new sister, Lulu

December 14, 2014

Fifteen Years - Seventeen Thousand Lives

A message from Fabienne on this extraordinary and happy day ...

Fabienne with her beloved Max

It's hard to believe and to comprehend, but today we are 15 years old. Together with Ton, with Dirk and with so many other people we started something. We had no idea where it would lead us. We wanted to change things, to do something about the misery that we saw then and which still surrounds us every day.

And we have made a difference. We had to give up a lot, personally, but it was worth it. And it has made a difference to 17,000 lives and even more. We did it. It was our goal and we did it.

Meanwhile our ACE/SHIN  has become an organization where many people work together, and fight to save the animals. Out of our organization many other organizations have been born, all made up of people with their hearts in the right place.

But we are all human and working together and continuing to do so is hard and not always possible to sustain. And so you see people come and go. But there has not been a day when we have abandoned the dogs. Not for one minute. However difficult, however heavy emotionally, we always kept our initial goal in sight. Rescuing animals in need.

Thank you to all who have taken part in this task. Thank you for everyone who has contributed in any way, whether you are still working with us or have long since gone your own way. We are grateful to every single person who accompanied us on our path. No matter how long or short a time you were with us, thank you to everyone who has helped us get where we are today. Our sincere thanks.

So, now we will continue with our big dream. We will not give up. We will go forward lustily, all together, for the next 15 years. Life is a stage, and we are the extras, living through a concert where you are given no programme, where you take what is thrown at you every day.

Saved from death, neglect or from other unold miseries our dogs are a constant source of joy. Each time you cuddle them, see them play and run around, join in the fun at home or elsewhere, you realise that they are the loveliest creatures you will ever meet. They make that difference. A difference you will only know if you allow them into your life.

I love what I do. It's not easy. It's not always appreciated. But for people like us, it's more than worth it ... and we go through it together!!

And tomorrow people, healthy again, with your sweetheart in your arms. Life goes on. This is how you fill yourself up with success and courage !!

We do not give up !!


Fabienne with Diva, so special - the very first dog she rescued 

With Max, Christmas 2013

December 13, 2014

Fifteen extraordinary years

On 14th December ACE/SHIN celebrates 15 extraordinary years.
So much hard work. So much dedication. So many tears. So much joy.

We thank you Fabienne, Dirk and everyone who has been a part of it.

Here are some photos from the start, in 1999 to the present.

Christmas Fair at La Cala - for our dogs!

Efe, Fabienne and Diana - but Alfredo steals the show!

Diana with a supporter!

Our lovely Diana - showing off the wares!!!!

The event was very popular and we raised money for the dogs.

Darling Flappy - his very first Christmas in his forever home.

Happy Flappy

Yes. After six years, six long years, Flappy is home and enjoying his first Christmas. He was one of our beloved 'special needs' children. Poor Flappy is incontinent. It didn't seem possibe that we'd ever find him a golden basket. But miracles happen. They keep happening. Flappy has been adopted by some marvelous people. It's wonderful. So wonderful. We are so happy. Thank you so much to these amazing people.

Here is what his new, adoring mum has to say.

"My own little Flappy has been home exactly eight months today! How time flies and what a time it's been. Bear is still his great friend and role model.  For instance Flap was interested when we were setting up the Christmas tree. At first he looked on from a distance. But when Bear went to look at the tree later, of course Flap followed him. 

Flap feels at home. It's as if he's always been here. And now his first Christmas at home ..... so cosy! For Flap Christmas is probably a day like any other day here, but for us it is very special indeed! Who would have thought that this would be possible at all, a year ago? That here we are, a year later, with Flappy, who lived in the Refugio for six whole years, now in his golden basket ready for Christmas. It's so wonderful. 

Flappy now sleeps as much as Bear does, because of course Bear sleeps a lot! Like for the whole day!  If I sit down with Flappy now, he's no longer scared. He rolls around and give me kisses. He is so grateful. For Flappy been a very exciting year. The year of the golden basket! So well deserved and so willingly given by everyone!

For my own little Flappy things have really worked out well.

Happy holidays everyone! May all your wishes come true in December!

Lots of love from me, John, Bear and Flappy.

Flappy and Bear hanging out under the Christmas Tree, making like reindeer!

Cuddles for Christmas - so wonderful!

Quecera - what will be, will be ... and it's good!

Little Quecera at the Refugio

Another sweetheart who I fell in love with in September. A modest, gentle creature called Quecera. She was one of the dogs who ran around loose in the area near the office. She hung back, didn't push forward when treats were being offered - you had to make sure you singled her out to ensure she got her proper share.

I always love the quiet, timid ones. I really feel for them; you can see how crushed they are, how their spirits have been beaten down. And all you want to do is cuddle them, give them hope, show them they are loved. It will take a while because Quecera was no longer wanted. She spent four long years dumped in a dog centre from when she was a small puppy. She got little exercise and put on weight. She didn't get much attention and not much love. She was lost. Luckily that began to change when she came to us. Little by little she began to grow in confidence.

When I met her she was still uncertain but when I spoke to her gently, showed her affection, cuddled and stroked her she would respond so gratefully. I couldn't but fall in love with her and want to make her happy. Fabienne tells her story in her diary. Of how she found Quecera sitting at the back of her cage, her spirit broken. And how she was absolutely determined to show Quecera how very precious she is. And to find this gentle, deserving dog a happy, loving, forever home. And now that's happened.

This is what her adoptive family have to say :-

She is doing very well. She is still easily scared but it's going a bit better. She loves to go for walks and is very kind to other small dogs. She is scared of large dogs. The small dogs are not always friendly to her, but she accepts that. Our Jorg loves her a lot, since the first day, he has also made the photos. 

Kind regards

Liesbeth Dressen - Tania Reynders and the boys.

Happy with her bone


Home at last.