Wow, what a week. Our "pet-free" lives have been shattered – with the appearance of a rescue dog. We became foster parents and took in a little hound. We took her from a life of hell in the summer heat to a new home with doting "dog people"….and during that week, we became members of the "dog people" club.
Perceived wisdom suggests you´re either a "dog person" or not. I don´t think I am really a dog person, but I have had one hell of a great week with my foster hound! Here in Spain at this time of year, the huge number of deserted and abandoned animals become increasingly visible as the heat and dryness makes survival a huge struggle. Supermarket car parks, retail avenues and private gardens are all possible refuges for desperate animals in search of fresh water, food and shelter.
It is almost a cliche here that the Brits, especially those living inland, all have at least one "rescue" pet.
Yet last week I received a call from summer rental guests staying at my little house in the country and my life changed – for the better. A painfully thin hound,
days away from death had arrived at the cortijo, in search of water. The guests thought I could help my getting the council to come and take her away. I explained things didn´t quite work that way here in Spain! So I drove up there, with every intention to collect the pathetic hound and drop her off at Triple A.
Once I arrived and saw those eyes looking up at me, that was it. I named my little princess "Nieves" – a beautiful, feminine Spanish name with echoes of the Sierra de las Nieves, near my little house where I found her. I took Nieves home and gave her a bath, fresh water and make-shift bed made from a cardboard carton and a travel rug (no Italian designer dog beds or concept dog homes just yet!). I called a friend Louise, to ask advice about what to do. Louise called a 24 hour vet so Nieves could be checked, scanned for a chip, de-wormed etc, then gave me a lead and collar, pet food and plenty of loving advice.
Rafa woke early the next day to take her out for a walk. She had amazingly regained enough energy to really show a glimpse of her fantastic personality. Here was a animal left destitute, uncared for and yet she was still filled with excitement and love. I guess this is where people come up with the weird God/Dog thing from. Also, when you go out with a dog, strangers start talking to you! It’s like a club. For example, there’s a frosty bitch that lives in our building who never greets me, yet when I had little Nieves at my side, the frozen expression on my neighbour’s face softened and she came over started talking to me and then started communicating in baby gibberish to the dog – how weird is that????
However, I can understand how sentimental one can get about a hound. We discovered she is an English Pointer, close to Spanish hunting breed called a Ca Mè Mallorquí. Both are obedient, loving gun dogs that need a ton of exercise. She was probably taken out with older hunting dogs for training far from the home, in the wilds of the sierras and was lost and was left.
Sadly Rafa & I do not yet have a lifestyle that suits having a dog – since we are away from home a lot – and could not effectively look after a hound that would double in size and need plenty of time on the beach or in the forest. However, I could not have wanted a better pet – she never barks, is always loving and is exceptionally intelligent, (she managed to be car trained, house broken and learnt to "sit" all in less than week, despite being in recovery!).
We worried about how we could find her a home. Initially looking thin and ill, no one would want her, and the dog agencies often can´t invest in sick animals as they are so over stretched here. Yet fate was on hers and our side. She regained her health at amazing speed, gained weight and whilst walking on a peaceful stretch of beach one day, we bumped into a couple with two dogs. Nieves, normally a little shy, quickly started to play with their boxer and raced up and down the beach.
The couple, after hearing the story, were seduced and wanted her. So after a 48 hour "cooling off period" to really think about it, she joined them on the beach again and was offically found a new home. Our foster week was over. I can´t deny I felt sad, even a bit teary eyed. The week was great. Somehow it was enlivening, rejuvenating and inspiring. And Nieves had a new home with other dogs with doting owners and escaped had the harsh life as a hunting dog.I felt great…and still do.
Good for you for saving Nieves!! I am Shelter Manager at a large open admissions shelter in Kentucky, and every day I witness the worst and the best of people. I am also privileged to daily see dogs recover from abandonment, abuse, and neglect, and become loving, happy creatures.
Loving dogs has made me a better person.
This, by Roger Caras (President of the ASPCA, 1991-1999) says it all: “Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe. We are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made.”