Category Archives: Rescue Dogs

Bobs, blogs and dogs

Bob signing his paperback, at Waterstones, Islington

I’m a bit of a technophobe. I tend to go frilly round the edges when confronted with one of those ‘error 101’ messages.  When my lovely – well formerly lovely – host server recently sold themselves to someone else – the tarts – and my website disappeared off the planet I nearly had a breakdown. You’d think, then, that I’d steer away from social media. But no, I’m a big fan, although I do believe that these platforms can be overused. I also think that they are far more suitable for some purposes than for others. That being said, when they work they work wonderfully.

I’ve been blogging for some time but my Facebook page was dormant until fairly recently. I had a Twitter account but never used it. I tended to think that Twitter, in particular, was somewhat frivolous. I was wrong. Thanks to the links people have tweeted I’ve read fascinating articles I would never have found on my own. I’ve entered entirely new worlds and had a lot of fun along the way. Above all I’ve made some wonderful friends.

It all started with ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’. I’d met James Bowen and his beloved cat Bob several times when James was busking in Islington or Covent Garden. Bob draped round his shoulders or sitting quietly on James’ bag. One day last March I met them on the 38 bus. James handed me a flyer, an invitation to his book signing at Waterstones in Islington. I was delighted to hear about it – he’d mentioned the possibility of a book last time I’d seen him. When I got home I tweeted the information and others did the same. The day of the signing arrived. There were queues around the block. The book sold out. No one had expected quite that degree of interest.

Next day Twitter was alive with stories about Bob and James and the book. I wrote a blog post, others wrote blog posts, articles appeared in newspapers, followed by TV appearances, their own Facebook pages and Twitter account. The rest is history. James and Bob are legends. ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ is a runaway best seller, has been translated into 18 different languages, has rave reviews on Amazon – including mine, written under the pseudonym Queenie. A children’s book and an American edition are coming out next year and now Hollywood beckons.

Social media has played a huge part in the success of this wonderful book. Nevertheless, it’s the quality of the book itself that has played the greatest part in that success.  It’s a heart-warming story of redemption. James saved Bob and nursed him back to health. Bob saved James by giving him a reason to live and the motivation to get off methadone. Furthermore, James honest account of his life on the streets has done wonders to raise awareness of the miseries of homelessness.

This was the first time I’d watching something go viral. It was astonishing. And it had unforeseen consequences. Through Twitter I was connected not only with Bob and James, but also with Mary, their agent and friend, and with co-author and journalist Garry Jenkins. Through Twitter I got to know a host of others who are now friends, Julie and Penny, Magda and Eileen, Kerry and Kristie, Rhian, Celeste and Becka.  All cat lovers, all connected initially through our support for James and Bob. And now also through common interests, among them a love of cats (naturally), cakes and crime fiction.

That’s the Bobs and now we come to the dogs. As all my friends know, because I ‘m so passionate about it, I volunteer and write a blog for a wonderful Spanish-Belgian-Dutch charity and dog refuge, ACE – Animal Care Espaňa.  Some of the lovely Twitter friends, mentioned above, knit colourful and stylish scarves for Bob and also blankets and rugs for him to sit on when he’s out with James. ACE recently put out a call for people to knit coats for the dogs; it gets very, very cold at night in Spain in the winter.  So, a bit tongue in cheek, I asked my friends if they would consider knitting for dogs as well as cats. They got knitting. And those that didn’t knit sent money. So kind, so generous and so much appreciated.

The blog I write for ACE has brought me new friends too, as have their Facebook pages. I recently spent four days in Holland, for Dog Day. An annual event where the Spanish team are reunited with the precious dogs they have saved and meet their new owners. Ineke, who writes the Dutch blog for ACE, picked me up at the airport. Until I met her I was unaware that the round trip took 3 hours. Rineke put me up at her house and she too drove me vast distances. They both offered friendship and great hospitality and generosity. I had never met them before.

Social media is now a fact of life. Of course it can be abused. It often is abused. It can be overused too.  Some people think it’s stupid, a waste of time. For me it’s opened up a new dimension, introduced me to new ideas and new writing, new worlds. It’s given me the opportunity to introduce my own writing to a new readership. It’s brought me new friends, helped me do some good. For all those reasons, I’m a fan.

© ACE Charity

Kerry knitted the coat on the left, Penny the one on the right.


Posted in A Street Cat named Bob, A.C.E., Blog, Blogs, Books, Cats, Dogs, Rescue Dogs, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Today he lost his best friend – the human cost of the economic crisis


Joyma - grieving and bewildered

Some people have made vast fortunes playing with money. Others have let them do so – by turning a blind eye, either to maintain the status quo, line their pockets, keep their parliamentary seat or preserve the possibility of honours. Although relatively few in numbers, the damage these people have done has had brought countries to their knees. It has affected and is affecting thousands, millions of people.

The story I’m about to tell is just one among these millions.  It may appear insignificant in the great scheme of things. But for one man and his old dog, their world has shattered.  Their story is not unique. Similar scenes are being played out all over Europe.

Spain, like many other places, has been badly hit by the recession. People have lost their jobs, their houses. Families have been broken up. One of the consequences is that people are no longer able to keep their pets. So they bring them to the killing stations, abandon them, or in some few cases try to find them a place in rescue centres.

The organisation I’m involved with is called ACE – Animal Care Espana, in Southern Spain. The rescue centre itself is called El Refugio, founded by Fabienne Paques nearly fourteen years ago. Like all the others it’s full to bursting now, with ever more dogs arriving or being dumped at the gates daily.

He came to the gate in tears. A young man of about 35. He’d lost his job. As a result his marriage had broken up. His wife had thrown him out with just a backpack and his dog, his Joyma. He had no car. No family he could call on. He’d been trudging from refuge to refuge to ask them to take Joyma. He loved him too much to even think of bringing him to a killing station or to simply abandon him. All the centres were full, besides nobody was willing to take in an old dog.

El Refugio is full, over full. But Fabienne couldn’t turn him away.  She couldn’t find the young man a home or a job, but she could take his dog. She’d make room. She would give him the only thing she could – the assurance that his Joyma would be well taken care of. It was distressing for everyone, so emotional. Heartbreaking. The dog was drooling in fear – clinging to his master. Don’t leave me.

The young man left, weeping. His Joyma is safe and will be found another loving home, but that’s of no interest to the old Cocker Spaniel. For he is grieving, pining for his best friend whom he lost today.  As to the young man he too has lost his best friend. He’s lost everything. Tonight he’ll sleep on the street. Alone.

This is the human cost of the recession.

Posted in A.C.E., Blog, Rescue Dogs, Spain, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A year ago ….

I find it almost impossible to believe that just over a year ago, on 19th May to be precise, I had never been to El Refugio, the rescue centre in Spain. It’s called El Refugio for a reason - it truly represents salvation for thousands of abandoned and abused dogs.  They come in all shapes and sizes – some are old, some are hardly born, many are damaged physically. From the moment they come into the Refugio or into foster care, every single dog is treated with kindness and care – a visit to the vet, a nice bath, good food, kind words and above all a cuddle. And, soon, very soon we hope, the golden basket – a loving family of their very own and no more sadness and pain.

I’d left England the day before, May 18th, on a very early flight. 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. At this point I still had no idea of the enormity of what had happened. I soon found out. As I walked up towards the portakabins 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, introduced herself, showed me where to find a sluicer and we just got stuck in.  A generator was brought in.

May 2011


Everyone worked non-stop. All that day, and the next day and the next. People came from everywhere. The phone never stopped ringing from 7.30 am and into the night. The local radio station appealed for help. 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.

May 2012


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 the founder of A.C.E. 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. And the work goes on.

Posted in A.C.E., Blog, Rescue Dogs, Spain | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

And the Oscar goes to …


Courtesy of Dog News Daily

… well we’ll have to wait until Monday to find out. No I haven’t got that wrong. The people Oscars do take place on a Sunday, on February 26th in fact, but this year there’s another very important date in the Oscar calendar. For Monday, 13th February, sees the inauguration of the annual dog Oscars. The Golden Collar awards have been created by Alan Siskind, the founder and CEO of Dog News Daily, a digital-media and marketing company.

Courtesy of Getty Images/Kevin Winter

Uggie has two nominations!

It’s about time.  Dogs have played an important part in movies for over a hundred years. The first being Rover the Collie in a British short, filmed in 1905; he was followed by many more. Some now forgotten, others enshrined in movie memory.  Old Yeller and Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. Skip, Marley and Hooch. To say nothing of the dogs in family films like Hotel for Dogs and 101 Dalmations. They make us laugh, they make us cry. The cinema would be the poorer without them.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/GK Films

Blackie – a dastardly plot?

Of course there’s a commercial element to these Oscars. Not to mention their value in the marketing mix.  Nevertheless, just because that’s true it doesn’t make the creation of the Golden Collars any less laudable. Apart from the recognition it brings to these clever, hardworking dogs and their owners and trainers, there’s another excellent reason for welcoming them. For it’s been announced that all the proceeds will go to rescue charities. And that alone is a good enough reason, in my book. And it’s appropriate since at least two of the dogs are rescue dogs.

Courtesy of Hollywood News

Hummer- how cute is that!

Categories include best dog in a television series, in a reality television series and in a direct-to-DVD film as well as best dog in a foreign film and best dog in a theatrical film. This last category, like it’s counterpart in the people Oscars before it, has stirred up some controversy.  Originally Blackie the Doberman, star of Hugo, was not included. Until the film’s director, Martin Scorsese kicked up a storm in the media, insisting on the stars inclusion in the list.

Courtesy of The Envelope

Cosmo-from Rescue to Film Star

It was unfair he claimed. Just because cute Jack Russell Uggie, star of The Artist, plays a nice little mascot who does tricks and saves his master’s life, whereas Blackie plays a ferocious guard dog who terrorizes children, that was no reason to exclude her.  To add insult to injury, little Uggie actually has two nominations, the second for his portrayal as Queenie in Water for Elephants.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures/GK Films
Charlize Theron – nominated for a humanitarian award


Dog News Daily responded by saying that rather than engage in a war of words about two extremely talented dogs it would leave the public decide, via Facebook. If it received 500 nominations for Blackie by 6th February, Blackie would be in.  He’s in! Joining Uggie and Blackie on the short list for Best Dog in a theatrical film are Cosmo, as Arthur, in Beginners, Denver as Skeletor in 50/50 and Hummer as Dolce in Young Adult. Uggie in fact has two nominations, the second for his portrayal as Queenie in Water for Elephants.

Uggie has already won the Palm Dog Award at Cannes in 2011
The Hollywood Reporter has revealed that 10-year-old Uggie will be retiring this year. But he’ll go out on a high – he’s already rehearsing a very funny skit with Oscar host Billy Crystal. So lets hope he cleans up at the awards too – Go Uggie!
Breaking News! After no less than 3 recounts, it’s just been announced that there is a tie in one of the categories for the Golden Collar awards. This is unprecedented! Now I wonder which category that is!? Watch this space.
Posted in Blog, Dog Oscars, Golden Collar Awards, Hollywood, Rescue Dogs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment