Category Archives: Rescue Dogs
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.
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.
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 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.
… 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.