Actin Spain

A day in the life of an animal rescuer in Spain

Blog post   •   Apr 04, 2013 16:18 BST

I woke up to my Birthday without much excitement but more trepidation – certain events were due to happen, Birthday or no Birthday and I was feeling worried!!  Plans of doing anything else exciting had been shelved anyway, as the night before our departing retreat guest had lost her passport and so couldn’t fly home to the UK. So the car was commandeered by my partner, in order to take the guest to the embassy in Alicante.

So what about those foreboding events that I was so worried about?  A few days before we had heard about two dogs, abandoned by their hunter owner and condemned to starve, he simply didn’t want them anymore, they were surplus to requirements and as is the general behaviour of these types of people, he just didn’t care. This is not unusual in Spain and especially after the hunting season, there are many dogs needing rescuing.

The younger generation in Spain, seem to have more empathy towards the plight of these animals and this guy’s Goddaughter had heard about our Association and she asked for help and advice. We don’t often come into contact with the type of person like this girl’s Godfather; they are usually
long gone by the time their dogs are rescued, if the dogs are lucky enough to still be alive!  The owners are often brutal and vicious men, without conscience of what they do to their dogs and have been known to retaliate towards anyone who challenges them about their behaviour, or reports them. So it was with shock when the dogs arrived to my village and to my gate, that the shameless owner was in tow.

I had to let them come for me, as I had no car! If only I
had known!

‘Four hundred euros’ I asked for, under an angry breath. Did he think in this terrible economic crisis, that he can dump dogs on us, a charity and leave us to pay for the dogs’ board, their sterilisation and the poor thin and sick looking creature’s vet’s bills, now he had discarded them?  We are not even a rescue charity but an Association trying to make changes for the animals in Spain. However, we were determined to prosecute and the only way, is to try to save the dogs first. The danger with reporting to the police first, is they could confiscate them to the pound and they would probably die anyway. So it has to be done this way around but properly of course and every case is different.

He was scary, I was nervous, but for the dogs’ sake and his poor Goddaughter, I remained calm. Anyway once this was over, I could go to lunch with my rescue best friend, who has been rescuing in Spain for 10 years and dedicated her life to it. And I could forget and be happy that the dogs would be safe. The phone had rang just before the girl was due to arrive with the dogs, and it was my friend Jayne. ‘I don’t think we are destined to meet today’ she said, ‘someone has dumped new-born kittens in a box, on my doorstep’! …..’oh God, okay’, I said, ‘why not take them to the vet to get them checked and stop off here on the way back’, we’ll have  a sandwich and a quick catch up. All arranged - phew, I will still get to say hello to my favourite mate on my Birthday!!

Dogs installed safely, and calming down, I returned to the house.

I had gone in the car unwittingly sitting next to, what was for me a complete nightmare, sat next to a Galguero, (a Spanish hunter), that uses dogs for hunting and in general they have a reputation for the most unbelievable cruelty and murder of thousands of hunting dogs, at the end of each season. Dogs are hung, with their back legs just touching the ground; it is slow and painful deaths for these beautiful dogs that have done nothing other than serve their masters. The Spanish government still insists on ignoring the truth of this, whilst us rescuers, associations and many people protest and beg for it to end.

Hardly anyone knows what goes on, or to what extent and how bad it is. Well there is a lot to tell… but back to my day.

There I was sitting next to this man, with my skin crawling, a feeling of intense hatred and my whole being filled with all of the anger I felt towards every galguero whose dog I have seen dead, mutilated, or suffering, as a result of their pure malicious and immoral actions against living creatures. What was I to do? My mind was running wild, but I had to respect the poor girl who had persuaded her Godfather to give up these two poor souls.

We got to the refuge and got out of the car, the dogs were in a trailer, behind the car, enclosed inside and transported like pieces of equipment, the typical way of transporting these dogs. I should have known as soon as they arrived, that animal carers would not transport dogs like this. I was under the misguided belief, that the driver must be an animal lover, who they had commandeered to
help them get the dogs away. I was still astonished about who he was!!

The dogs, they looked terrible!! I was upset to the core but held my tongue whilst my heart beat out of my chest.  We took the dogs and the hunter/criminal didn’t even offer to drive me back but just left me there stranded. He later told his Goddaughter it would have been less trouble for him to shoot the dogs. I calmed down and the proprietor of the kennel drove me home.

There was my Jayne my animal lover/rescuer friend, who is nothing other than a saint for animals,standing at my gate with a box...we are always so stressed in animal rescue, some days it’s relentless, one animal after another that we don’t know what to do with, but we
always find a way to save them. ‘They’re not kittens’, she said with a grin, they are puppies’, and so for her to make this mistake - well, we just curled up, we both just had to laugh. We had a
hug and went inside and then another knock at the gate....and here is another animal rescuer, she had come to collect the huge Vietnamese pig that was abandoned at my gate.... so we all spent the next hour trying to get the pig in the trailer...much to the amusement of our Spanish village neighbours, who had already told me earlier that day that we could just eat it!!

So Miss Peggy pig was rescued and off to the shelter and safe; two more abused dogs (to add to the 4 from last week, and the 4 from the week before), were now safe. AND five new-born puppies now had to be bottle fed, whilst Jayne and I had a glass of cava and caught up and still managed to laugh at the irony of it all. We live just 20 minutes apart from each other but spend all of our days rescuing.
And when I’m not rescuing, I am campaigning, writing in my website, writing letters to get awareness and banging on doors asking for help. Trying to run my retreat has to fit in around all of that!!

When will it end, when will their day come? When it does, maybe Jayne, me and all of the
other stressed animal rescuers in Spain, will have time to celebrate our Birthdays.
Oh - Jayne and I are planning a weekend to Dublin soon; we have been talking
about it for 3 years!!! 

Viv
wharton

President
of ACTIN Association