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After two long years in England, when Spain was an itch that had to be scratched, a golden opportunity came along, which couldn't be ignored. So here I am back in Spain ~ again, just me and my dog on the sunny Costa Blanca, ready for another adventure!

ONE OF THE BIGGEST PROBLEMS IN SPAIN
30 October 2014

 

Over the past month or so  there has been some debate about how running a dog rescue in Spain can become overwhelming, and something that was started with the best of intentions, can end up hitting the headlines, sometimes not in a positive way.

I know that Eye on Spain has several contributors who try to rehome stray and abandon dogs, but I don't think the average expat is actually aware of the scale of the problem in Spain, and I'm sure that there must be many dog lovers, who might not want the tie of a dog of their own, but who would enjoy a spot of volunteering, to make a difference to some unfortunate animals.  

I did that very thing, and here is MY personal experience of working in a dog rescue in Costa Dorada, and will perhaps go some way to reinforcing the often easily dismissed fact that stray and abandoned dogs are a HUGE problem in Spain. 

During another long hot Spanish summer,  I was idly flicking through the local Olive Press magazine, when I came across a cry for help from a local dog rescue. As a dog lover, and knowing that whilst staying in Catalonia I had time on my hands, I was soon on my way to meet Anna, who was going to show me the ropes at the shelter where she volunteers.

Naively, I was expecting to find maybe 50 dogs, and anticipated that I’d be topping up food bowls, patting a few furry heads and maybe throwing the odd ball or two. I imagined I'd be there for an hour or so, and was looking forward to it.

However, NOTHING could have prepared me for either the size of the shelter, or the amount of dogs and cats that were living there.

On entering the very secure compound, probably 80 or so small dogs, of varying ages, shapes and sizes, ran towards me, all determined to be greeted appropriately. They were, without exception, in good health and high spirits, which reflects the level of care each one received, it was overwhelming, and uplifting both at the same time.

All I could see at this point was a mish mash of small kennels, barrels, boxes and all sorts of containers that a small dog could rest in lined up on the perimeter fence. Dogs peered out from underneath large washing up bowls, old carpets, and plastic storeage boxes.

Even the odd rabbit hutch was 'home' to a dog. 

In a smaller area stood several abandoned caravans. Cats perched on the roofs, or peered out nervously from windowless frames. Kittens played in the dirt underneath. When I ventured inside, there were more cats sleeping in the tiny sinks and in cardboard boxes on the threadbare seating. But even in this chaos, there were hand knitted blankets, cushions and old duvet's dotted around as if to give just a bit of home comfort to these unfortunate moggies.

Onwards we went, through securely locked gates, to purpose built blocks of 10 kennels, where larger dogs were housed 5 to each individual large pen. Again, no dog held back, as we called out a greeting, or stopped now and then to stroke and make a fuss of as many as we could.

Altogether at this shelter, there were over 300 dogs and 60 cats, which had been abandoned, or picked up as strays, the scale of the problem in Spain cannot be imagined.

During the course of the next 4 hours, I helped to clean out kennels, and feed and water around 200 dogs, whilst another volunteer, dealt with the other small dogs and puppies in the larger compound. We worked like trojans, this was literally, no walk in the park.

Because of the sheer number of dogs, there is no alternative but to keep them enclosed for much of the time. Two comfort breaks a day were usually all that could be easily managed, so it goes without saying that each kennel was fairly 'high' on excess energy and excess poo. 

We methodically and thoroughly cleaned them all. First scraping and shovelling, followed by throwing liberal amounts of disinfectant around and finally hosing and rinsing.

The heat of the sun dried the floors almost instantly. 

Water and food was replenished and dogs ushered out and back into each pen with meticulous precision. 5 dogs out, 5 dogs counted back in again, which is not as easy as it sounds when there is always 1 out of 5 who simply does not want to return willingly!

Piles of poo were shovelled, minor grumbles between bored dogs were diffused. But overall, there was a sense of calm and achievement as each clean kennel was once more, locked and secured.

But of course that HAS to happen on a daily basis. My little stint, was a drop in the dog rescue ocean of life. They needed people every single day, twice a day would have been better.

The cleaning and feeding was just the tip of the iceberg. Long haired dogs needed grooming. All dogs needed checking for minor ailments, nails needed trimming, ears needed cleaning.

Above all, the dogs needed human contact, and to be socialised to stand any chance of being rehomed.  

There simply was no time for niceties. It was all a question of priority.

Like so many other dog rescue's, this one was started by one lady, taking in a couple of abandoned dogs. It grew, and grew. As an animal lover, she couldn't turn a deserving dog away.

Luckily for her, and unlike many well meaning rescuers, she did have plenty of support, and eventually the local council offered her an old landfil site on which to create this HUGE shelter.  But it still has to be maintained, the rescued animals still have to be fed. The money for this has to come from somewhere. Donations are a crucial factor for any dog rescue, big or small.

This particular rescue, with 360 or so animals to care for is just one of hundreds across Spain, they all need your help and support. 

We've discussed before on our blogs and forums about what you can do when the novelty of your move to Spain has worn off.  Here's the answer!

Please do seek out your local dog rescue, offer your help even for a few hours a week. Trust me, it is SO rewarding.

You cannot save every dog you come across, that's for sure, but you can help to make their lives more comfortable.

YOU REALLY CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!

Find me also at http://hellosixty.com
 


 



Like 0        Published at 15:30   Comments (7)


SO YOU'VE MOVED TO SPAIN ~ NOW WHAT?
09 October 2014

 

The beginning of that decision to move to  Spain usually goes something like this doesn't it?!

While the kids are growing up, you spend many happy package holidays in Spain, then the kids fly the nest, and you and your significant other go a little bit more upmarket, maybe it’s now Seville, when it used to be Salou! 

Over a few too many jugs of Sangria, one of you gets a bit misty eyed and plants the seed about ‘how it would be lovely to move to Spain permanently’. 

Mr or Mrs has a few reservations, but is cajoled and convinced that of COURSE the kids will come out and see you, and it’s only 2 hours from home, and if after a few years you really don’t like it, of course you can go back to the UK and buy a little cottage by the sea there instead.

Just to be doubly sure you are making the right decisions, on rainy afternoons you watch re runs of ‘A Place in the Sun’. It always looks so nice and sunny in Spain, and the properties on the telly look like bargains.

You do a bit of online research too, perhaps you join a few expat sites like Eye on Spain, and This is Spain to name but two,and you ask a few questions, but selectively ignore any advice that YOU see as negative.

You go to a few property shows, and there you might find super salesman Santos from Salou who is flogging THE most amazing 2 bed casa, at a knockdown price, as it’s a repossession. He's got some connections at the bank, and before you know it you’ve sealed the deal and pretty soon you are on your way to Expatshire.

Circumstances mean that you arrive in Spain with all your wordly goods packed in the back of your estate car, on a dull day in November. But HEY, tomorrow will be sunny, everyone knows  it’s hot ALL year round in Spain and it won’t be long before you see the kids for a good old family Christmas, just like you’ve always had in the UK.

Santos from Salou has reassured you that there are big supermarkets for all your everyday needs virtually on your doorstep, and what with Spain being so popular with expats, it’ll stock all your favourite stuff, and everywhere opens on Sundays nowadays doesn’t it.

It's Europe after all. Cosmopolitan and all that!

You didn’t bother to bring perishables as you didn’t have much room in the car, and thought the shops would be open.

But you've arrived on November 1st. All Saints day, when your chosen village is celebrating many a long since dead Saint, and nothing will stop them shutting up shops and bars and turning a vibrant village into a ghost town from Friday through Monday in holy reverence. 

It’s just the local bakery that will be open for a couple of hours in the morning, as here, man clearly can survive on bread alone. But it’s now 4pm in the afternoon.

Trust me, you have no chance.   

Your new casa is actually freezing cold, those tiled floors are great in the summer, but not so feet friendly in November, and you begin to think that actually it was warmer in the UK when you left 2 days ago. 

You haven't realised that in Spain, once late October arrives, it actually does get cold. A damp fog can come down, permeate through to your bones and not lift for weeks. 

It doesn’t bode well, and is not the best of starts.  But once you’ve got the domestic front sorted, everything will be fine.  Except you haven't thought about what exactly are you going to do with the rest of your expat life in Spain.

For the first few months, you get to know your area, and decide which is going to be your preferred supermarket. You’ll favour one for your everyday bits and bobs, and another one for your ‘big shop’, and more importantly, you select your favourite ‘local’.

You’ll probably visit it every lunchtime for a baguette con jamon, and you’ll also probably visit it every night too, because oh my days, his steaks are SO good.  

All this will probably be accompanied by several rounds of Grande Cerveza for Mr and more than is sensible G & T's for the Mrs, even though she has to go steady because the measures are so big.

You are sure you didn’t used to pay that much for a round of drinks when you were on one of your package holidays a few years back, but, what the heck, you deserve to spoil yourselves at the start of your new life in Spain.

Now of course this routine would be all well and good if it was ‘just’ for your two week annual holiday, but you’ve got into a routine and lost sight of the fact that this is now your life 

You are not on holiday anymore!

But, as Steve Hall observed in his ‘Rules for Expat Life’, at some point, you have to drag yourself out of the bar and go and look for some work to replenish your already dwindling finances.

http://thisisspain.info/advice/rules-of-expat-life/

Santos from Salou reassuringly said that as a fully qualified jobbing builder, there would be loads of work you could pick up. He probably didn’t mention the fact that just as in the UK, the Eastern Europeans have also discovered Spain too, and have cornered the market with good cheap labour. 

But HEY, something will turn up, you’ve got the rest of your life to start working again. You’ve only just got here.  

WAKE UP EXPATS ~ THIS IS IT NOW ~ YOU ARE NOT ON HOLIDAY ANYMORE!

When you are seeking advice on the expat forums, I’m sure like me, some of you wince at the often brutally honest responses given to the most innocent of questions that go something like, ‘I’m thinking of moving to Spain, any advice please’. 

The replies are often very negative, and can dampen enthusiasm at a thousand paces, BUT the people responding are realists, and unlike Santos from Salou are simply telling it like it really is. They've been there, done that and sweated buckets in that particular T shirt.

In my view, one of the best bits of advice would simply be, remember, when you move to Spain, you are not on holiday, this is now YOUR life. You need a plan.

There is no holiday rep to act as a go between, there is nobody to complain to when things go wrong, you  wouldn’t go to the bar every lunchtime and every evening in the UK, what makes you think that you should do it now you've moved to Spain. 

There is no financial benefits prop down at the Town Hall, because you are a bit down on your luck, you have to prepare carefully for all eventualities. Most financial ones.

As all good salesmen will tell you, to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.

But not if you are Santos from Salou!

 

Have you met other expats who really have failed to prepare themselves for their new life in Spain.

 

You can read more from me at: HelloSixty.com

 



Like 1        Published at 19:18   Comments (0)


TAKING MY EYE OFF EYE ON SPAIN
02 October 2014

Yesterday my ‘to do list went something like this.

Write blog post for Eye on Spain

Yes, agreed it was a short to do list, and given that I had nothing else to do on my ‘to do’ list, you might have thought that I’d soon be basking in the soft glow of blogging achievement.

Now I’m a reasonably good, morning person, I’m up and at ‘em with a cheery smile, and just as everyone has their own personal ‘fix’ to kick start their day, mine is a bone china cup of Yorkshire Tea which I prepare with love and proceed to my office to check my emails before starting my post for Eye on Spain.

In my mind I know what images I need to crop, and an idea or two of what I’m going to write about, but I just check what is ‘trending’ on the internet today  

Such a bloody pretencious word ‘trending’, why can’t topics just be popular.

There is a link to a NEW Social Media guru, I just take a quick look, its’ still only 8 am. I want to get the blog post uploaded by this afternoon, but I’ve got loads of time. 

After following the new SM guru’s link to Twitter, FaceBook and all points on the Social Media compass of life, I decide I may as well check my own FaceBook pages as well.

I ‘like’ some lovely pictures of a FaceBook friend’s wedding. I have never actually met this ‘friend’, but the pictures are indeed lovely, and apparently for maximum exposure to one’s ‘brand’, one needs to keep virtual conversations going.   

An offer for a fab freebie catches my eye, I sign up for that, then quickly catch up on what my fellow Writers on Spain are thinking about, and chuckle at some of Sandra Piddock's saucy links, and whoops a daisy look its 9.00a.m. already and not a drop of water has touched my skin and you could fry chips in my hair.

Cursing myself I head for the shower, this will just take 5 minutes it’ll be a splash and dash day, no time for primping and preening, I must get on. I want to get that blog post posted.

The late summer sun shines into the bathroom and I think to myself we could be in for a nice warm day. I need to pop out later for some dinner, and mentally create a small shopping list that I can get at the local shops.

But glancing down I see toenails that are looking a bit chipped and the polish needs a touch up, and heavens above, there’s a forest sprung up on my legs overnight.  I simply CANNOT pop out for shopping looking so cruddy.

I mean you just never knows who you might bump into. If George Clooney just happened to pop into the One Stop for a pork pie en route to a filming in Essex, I want to be looking vaguely acceptable, though to be fair, that particular ship has probably sailed without me. The FOOL, if only he had asked ME!

Cue, nail varnish remover, polish, Veet and Moisturiser   

After primping and preening I dress in my comfie ‘at home’ look and at 10am head back to the kitchen to make a second cup of tea to take back to my office to get cracking on my blog post. My office is really my sofa, but it sounds impressive.

Whilst waiting for the kettle, I soak last night’s washing up in a nice bowl of Fairy, but then I think it will just take a minute to wash it up anyway, and I’ll just sweep the kitchen floor, then my mind will be completely free to work.  

Us creative folk like a nice clear head to focus on our writing.

With the washing up done, the floor swept, I remember I could really do with popping in a load of washing. It’s a nice day, it’ll dry really quickly.

I dash around, gathering up my ‘wash dark colours together’ load, which as you’ll all agree entails checking pockets for tissues and stray fivers, and while I’m there I just quickly make the bed and get the hot wash load sorted too as it’ll save me time later when I’ll be engrossed in my blog.  

Before I know it, the 11 o’clock news is on the radio and now the dog is looking at me with pleading eyes.

As I have the domestics under control, I decide to quickly take the dog out so he is happy and I can sit at my desk ( my knees ) and get started on my ‘to do list’ knowing he is comfortable and will sleep at my feet while I tap away at my keyboard.

We head out of the gate for our usual walk round the field. There is a dog friendly mix of rabbit scented ditches and trees for leaving a calling card plus the opportunity to meet n greet some fit looking lady dogs. We are on track to complete our circuit in the allotted 30 minutes, but our friendly neighbour has put some lovely flowers and pots of homemade jam out for sale near his garden gate.

I have no money in my pocket so I park the dog back in the garden and race back to my neighbour’s house with a fiver I retrieved from the ‘wash dark colours together’ load. 

The honesty box has clearly not hit the spot today and so I follow my helpful neighbour indoors to find me some change.

Then after an unsolicited step by step instruction on jam making and the art of growing gladioli, I run back home aware that, as older people say ‘half the day is gone already’

But, I will definitely be able to focus now that my domestic tasks are out of the way, the dog has been walked, my nails are buffed, and you could bottle my legs in an Innocent Smoothie.

I file the morning’s lack of achievement and move on. After all the afternoon is stretching ahead and my head is full of idea’s for my latest blog post.

By the time I found a vase for my blooming lovely flowers, and topped up the dog’s water bowl its 12.15 - Lunchtime. If I make something to eat now, it’ll save me stopping when my foot is down on the blogging throttle.

I decide on a sandwich but as I open the fridge door the dustbin collection dates catch my eye. I must remember the bin men come tomorrow, and while I’m here I’d better just relieve the fridge of anything that is growing live cultures or that has actually expired.

After all it’s usually one or the other, in the average ‘would be’ writers’ fridge, there is rarely anything that is actually edible. We are far too busy to go shopping; we are busy being creative. 

There’s the mandatory one rasher of bacon left in the packet, which has yet to acquire that subtle bronze tinge that tells you that it has indeed ‘gone off’.  Shame to throw that away.

 

Likewise the lone tomato that lurks in the salad drawer underneath a severely wilted Iceberg Lettuce, which must be old, they usually last forever.  Well, I may as well have a bacon and tomato sandwich, and that will set me up for the afternoon while I get down and dirty with my writing. 

The quick snack, turns into a frying pan event, which then leads to more washing up and I decide I may as well actually put the bin bags out, so I can really settle down at my laptop knowing my domestic tasks are now absolutely complete.

Armed with a fresh cup of Yorkshires finest I return to my office/sofa at 1pm to start my days work and wouldn’t you know it, the phone rings. It’s one of my oldest friends who is having, in her own words, a crisis.

After saying yes and no in all her right places, the crisis is downgraded to a bit of a falling out with her man. Her ‘issues’ have been explored in depth, and she goes off considerably calmer.

I on the other hand am now considerably further behind with my blog. My tea has gone cold, and my brain has been drained by my involuntary counselling service, I need a quick caffeine fix so I return to the kitchen to make another cuppa.

1.45. At last I settle down to select those images I first pulled up onto the screen at 8.00 this morning. Thank goodness I’m still on track to get that blog post posted at the optimum time.

The phone rings again, it’ my daughter in a panic this time. She has broken down at a shopping centre and my youngest Grandson is at nursery and needs collecting at 2.15pm.

How can I refuse? 

Admittedly, I do have to change out of the ‘at home’ baggy leggings, tea stained top and mismatched ski socks, into capable Grandparent attire, but I also need to get there quickly to avoid a teary eyed 3 year old thinking he’d been forgotten.

Rather coincidentally I thought, my broken down daughter and I both turn into her road at the same time, clearly she got fixed up sooner than she thought (or was it extra shopping time she was after) but before I can say my Goodbyes I have to stop and admire some finger painting, a necklace made out of spaghetti, a new pair of expensive looking shoes, smell a new perfume and admire a new shade of lipstick.

Clearly everyone has had a far more productive time than me this morning.

With all that accomplished I’m in everyone’s good books, and even though it’s now 3.00pm I’m on my way home to get my Eye on Spain blog post written and hit the ‘send’ button.

Oh hang on, I need something for dinner, and even though it was going to be a One Stop shop, I’m just going to drive right past Sainsbury’s. It will save on time and petrol if I simply pop in there on the way back and then I won’t have to go out again later when there will be lots of traffic around.

I fall back into my kitchen at nearly 5.00pm with bags full of shopping, plus a neat little GOK top that I had to buy in the 25% off sale. It would have been silly not to.

I have chew sticks for the dog, ice cream and a new mascara, lots of fruit and veg, milk, cereals and yoghurt, flour, sugar and tea bags, but curiously nothing specific for dinner. I rush around putting it all away. My cupboards bulge with basics.

5.30 pm Where has the day gone? I’ll just make another cuppa and get my blog post written. I want to be sure it’s posted at the best time of day, to catch as many ‘views’ as possible, and to be in with a chance of making the top 10 readers digest.

The dog looks at me again with those pleading eyes that say ‘it’s been over 6 hours since my last walk, how can you neglect me this way’. 

So I just walk the dog quickly round the block again, then he’ll settle and be comfortable.

Dog is happy, so I am happy.

I look at the clock again in disbelief. Yes it really is 6.00 pm.

The dog needs his dinner, I need my dinner.

My get up and go, has got up and gone.

My blogging motivation has buggered off

There’s only question that needs answering right now 

 

The first sip of Rioja hits the spot but after the day I’ve had, my brain is frazzled, and Emmerdale is on soon.

 

I’ll make a really early start tomorrow and write my blog post for Eye on Spain.

and here it is!

 

 

 

 

 



Like 0        Published at 14:18   Comments (5)


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