Rosa is Spanish and works in Information Technology. She’s one of the unsung heroes who has been helping at the animal shelter of La Bienvenida in Ciudad Real, 200km south of Madrid for over 2 years.
‘My parents taught me to respect and love animals’, she explains, ‘and so I need to do something to change the bad things around me. I can’t change the world, but I can do a little to change the world around me.’
Fostering animals at her home and helping them find a forever home, as well as cleaning at the shelter and taking the dogs for walks, was just the beginning. Then she helped with the injured animals. ‘Finding homes for older dogs and galgos is the most difficult, and I try to find homes out of Spain for them’.
The international adoption process began for her when a Swiss lady contacted the refuge through their Internet site.
Rosa continues, ‘the process necessitates taking good photos of the dog, its details and character. This can take a couple of days, playing with the dog, preparing feeds, studying it. Then the information is sent off by email, fingers crossed. Once someone wants to adopt, we have to prepare the dog, doing veterinary analyses, vaccines, passport. And then we have to sort out the transport.’
Usually the dogs from this refuge travel via Madrid and Valencia, to begin the long journey to France or Switzerland.
She explains why she particularly likes to help the galgos. ‘Spanish galgos are very unprotected. Only a few Spanish people imagine the galgo as a calm, tender and quiet dog, sleeping in a home by its master, asking for love. Last year I discovered that a lot of people outside Spain love these dogs. So that is when I decided to contact the associations in France.’
She also helps the oldest dogs, or dogs with physical problems, find homes, mostly in Switzerland and Germany.
There are about 15 volunteers helping to look after the 180 dogs in the refuge. They all have their own lives, families to take care of, full-time jobs like Rosa, but they give as much of their free time as they can.
Not every volunteer can get to the shelter, so they foster, especially animals needing medical care. ‘It can be very tying,’ says Rosa. ‘They might not be able to go out travelling or have other hobbies’.
The refuges are all run on donations, so some volunteers take publicity information round to shops, libraries, government offices. At Christmas they have stands in market squares and large commercial food centres, explaining to people how they can help, that a dog isn’t a toy to give at Christmas.
‘The last meeting we had was to collect money to buy special eating dishes. They are very big and have a system which gives a small amount of food at a time. This means the food doesn’t get wet when the dogs play in the water troughs nearby!’
When I visited La Bienvenida, I was impressed with how well the animals looked, especially considering the number there. But the galgos which arrive there are especially vulnerable.
There is a gypsy encampment nearby. Another volunteer told me that 4 galgos were stolen in September, only 2 were traced. And the volunteers themselves also have to be careful.
They need all the help we can give.