Return to Paradise - February 2006

Galgo RescueJust four months after my last trip to the Scooby Animal Sanctuary in Medina Del Campo, Spain, I found myself back on the road to adventure. This trip was much less fraught with "excitement" on the travel end of things! I flew by myself to Washington DC for a short visit with family, and left DC on February 13th on a very uneventful flight to Atlanta, then on to Madrid. Other than the bizarre coincidence that my sister was on the same flight to Atlanta as I was, the only excitement was in trying to haul nearly 280 pounds of medical supplies, dog coats, collars, and leashes around various airports!

I arrived at the Madrid Barajas airport at 930am on February 14, 2006. Jeff Rayner, an Englishman living with his wife Jenny and their two greyhounds, Daisy and Dukes, at Scooby greeted me. I had the privilege of meeting Jeff and Jenny on my last trip to Scooby, and had been invited to stay at their caravan on the Scooby grounds! We made our way from Madrid to Medina Del Campo, and I was more than happy to jump right into things!

First I must tell you of all the hard work that has been going on at Scooby. The staff and volunteers have been working tirelessly to fence the entire perimeter of the sanctuary. Also, two portakabins were recently donated and were installed along the front wall of the refuge. The smaller of the two portakabins serves as a much-needed office for Fermin, as well as an adoption center where new parents can purchase collars, bedding, and toys for their new additions. The second and larger portakabin was under construction, being prepared for additional vet clinic space. Also in the works are space and equipment for an education center to enlighten the people of Spain about
animals and the environment.

I toured the ever-changing facility and was amazed at all the changes. Paddock eight, previously one large containment area, had been expertly divided into smaller yards that better facilitate the animals' needs. For instance, a group of wild little ruffians occupy the corner yard and happily jump on each other all day long. At the other end of the paddock the Great Dane who arrived at Scooby in such horrible condition lives peacefully with a husky mix in a much more "sedate" environment. New cabins have been built in each yard for the dogs to have shelter from the elements.

I think the most incredible and emotional part of my return to paradise was being reunited with friends, both 2 and 4 legged. Seeing Fermin and Maria Jose again, running off to find my old friends Gracie, Eden, Bag-of-Bones, and the whole bunch, I felt like I had returned home.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was a veterinarian there for me to work with. As a veterinary nurse there is a great deal that I can do, but I can't perform surgery. Emma, the veterinarian, had been at Scooby for a couple of weeks performing spays and neuters all by herself and was happy to have assistance with the task. We got to know each other and quickly jumped right into a busy surgery schedule which included many spays and neuters, a bilateral enucleation (removing both eyes) of a dog with advanced glaucoma, and laceration repairs.

In between surgeries I wandered through Scooby looking for the two dogs that would return to the United States with me. I found Presto immediately. He's a tiny black and white male with a slightly rough coat. I laid eyes on him and knew he just had to come back with me! I took him from his paddock and brought him to the courtyard where he went from fairly shy to adventurous and almost outgoing within a day's time! It took me a little longer to find the second dog, but it was love at first site when I saw her. Francesca is also a little black and white wire-haired galgo, and it was her tremendous grin that won me over!

On Thursday we brought Blanco the Mastin into surgery. Blanco had been diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes when he arrived at Scooby. Being totally blind, he is defensive about his food, but otherwise he is a very affectionate and sweet soul. Emma did a wonderful job during his surgery and he recovered flawlessly. He will look a little funny now as his eyelids are sewn shut over his empty eye sockets, but he is no longer in pain!

Another character at Scooby wiggled and snorted her way into my heart this trip. Chatta is a very old little beagle/pointer mix. Her great passion in life is blankets. Give her a blanket and she will be happy for hours. Chatta had been living with the aforementioned group of wild ruffians in paddock 8 and they were being too rough with her. After I found her getting picked on for the second day in a row, I brought her to the surgery with me in hopes of talking with Maria Jose about moving her to a more peaceful location. Of course, Chatta was still in the surgery suite days later when I departed Scooby, she had become the "surgery mascot" and official post-op galgo warmer!

As Emma, Jenny and I sat in the caravan on Thursday eating lunch, we saw a horrifying sight. A male galgo who had just been brought to Scooby had somehow managed to jump the tall outer fence and was running loose! We made chase, but there is little hope of catching a scared greyhound or galgo on the run. We followed this poor boy for quite some time, and I was very impressed with Eva who ran like lightening through the fields after the dog. I took Gracie out on a leash (she is one of Fermin's girls and one of the oldest ladies at Scooby), but even that failed. We set a live trap to catch him, he kept returning to the grounds, but the boy was too smart. But this tale has a happy and very surprising ending. After we lost track of him, he managed to find his way home to the galguero who had brought him to Scooby just the day before. The galguero was so touched by the dog's return that he called Scooby to inform us he would be keeping the galgo as a pet!

On a lighter note, comic relief at Scooby was provided by Larry, a young lamb found in the fields near Scooby. Larry and three other younger and smaller lambs (Harry, Carry and Barry) had been left behind while herders had moved their sheep across the fields, and the people of Scooby once again showed their great compassion by bottle feeding and hand-rearing them. I have to confess that I have never thought of sheep as being particularly "smart". Larry proved me wrong. He is a sneaky, mischievous, goofy, rotten little devil, and I absolutely adore him! He believes he is a dog. He is as sure if this as I am that the sun sets in the west. He lives with the "courtyard gang" and wears dog coats, runs down the hall, sneaks into the kitchen to steal food, gets into EVERYTHING, demands constant attention, and the little bugger even growls when he is dissatisfied!

I was lucky enough to steal a bit of Fermin's and Maria Jose's time to visit while I was there. We walked out to the far end of Scooby where the farm animals live. Carlotta is a beautiful old lady donkey who was badly treated by a band of gypsies. Fermin, whom I was told had always wanted a donkey, has provided her with a huge pasture to retire in. She is definitely fond of Fermin, and she gave me the opportunity to rub her muzzle for a bit. Also out in the field are Bonnie and Clyde, two adult sheep. I can't remember which one it is, but one of them absolutely hates dogs and relishes every opportunity he/she gets to chase one! There are a number of ducks and geese as well, including Leticia, a goose with only one man on her mind, Fermin. She seems to dislike everyone else. While we were out in the field, Maria Jose brought her crew of little dogs and Gracie out to see us. As I mentioned earlier, Gracie is an old lady, and my heart soared when out of nowhere a fast-flying Gracie bolted towards us, obviously thrilled to be on the run!

On Saturday morning we had a bit of a crisis. A spaniel (whom usually could be heard barking at all hours) had been found injured in his paddock and brought to the courtyard. He had apparently been drug by another dog by his foreleg, causing a great deal of damage, we suspected, to his brachial plexus (nerve damage which caused lameness). But he was even more badly injured than that sounds. He was profoundly shocky when we found him, and had bizarre neurological signs that really didn't fit with the type of injury he had sustained. It was also very hard to hear his lungs, and I became concerned that one of the wounds had entered his chest cavity, causing air to enter his chest around his lungs. I performed chest taps on both sides of his chest and was relieved when they were both negative. But still, pain meds and fluids didn't seem to get us anywhere with him, he co ntinued to worsen throughout the morning while we worked on spays and neuters. Finally, we decided to give him a whopping dose of steroids to combat the inflammation. Within hours, he was up and walking. I received an email from Emma after returning to the US, in which she reported that my spaniel friend had made a full recovery!

I spent Saturday afternoon feverishly trying to finish all the things I hadn't yet accomplished. Preparing Presto and Francesca for departure, taking last minute pictures, getting the required paperwork together for the dogs, and the like. Jeff used his incredible handyman skills to "convert" a crate so that it would be just a weensy bit taller for Francesca (those pesky airlines and their requirements, I learned my lesson last time!). After running around for hours like a chicken with my head cut off, Jeff, Jenny, Emma, a new volunteer arrival from Holland and I all went out for a relaxing dinner in town.

This trip was far too short, and even so, I haven't done justice to all the people, animals and experiences I was given the privilege to enjoy. Jeff and Jenny are two of the most awesome folks I have ever met. They never complained about driving me around, Jenny fixed FABULOUS meals each night, they provided such wonderful company and I miss them terribly! Emma, a South African native, broadened my horizons with her cultural differences - and similarities, and is a very good vet, I was impressed by her skills! Fermin and Maria Jose! Well, what can I say. They are remarkable people and I wish I had had more time to spend with them. Eva, Hespa, Nico, and Konstantine, all great to be around. The people of Scooby and the animals of Scooby are forever in my heart.

So, despite my desire to get home to see my family, it was with a heavy heart that Jeff and I loaded up Fermin's van early Sunday morning and headed for Madrid. Jeff, ever the good friend, stayed with me until the dogs had been checked in and I was on my way through security. My anxiety level was through the roof, but the dogs were checked in without a hitch. I boarded the huge plane and watched through the small window of the plane as Spain got smaller and smaller until it finally faded away.

I flew into Atlanta where I did a whirlwind venture through customs. I had to claim the dogs, cart them through customs, and then recheck them onto Denver. I wasn't even allowed to take them from their crates! I was in tears as I watched their carriers be loaded back on a conveyor belt and disappear into a little hole in the wall. I went up to the concourse to wait for my departure. And wait, and wait, and wait. The arriving plane was nearly 90 minutes late, and again I felt my blood pressure going up, up, up as the temperature in Denver kept going down, down, down. Delta posts that they will not allow animals to fly in weather under 45F unless they have a certificate of acclimation. Fermin had been able to acquire them for me, but the airline still would not let them fly if the temperature got below 20F. The weather in Denver had been atrociously cold during my absence, and by the time I boarded the plane, the screen on the wall was reporting 14F in Denver.

I was like a cat basted in gravy in a room full of dogs; I was so edgy waiting for the flight crew to find out if the dogs had been allowed on the plane. I stopped every flight attendant that walked by to ask, and I imagined myself getting arrested as I delayed the departure of the flight because of my protests! Finally, a flight attendant came to me to tell me the dogs were onboard, and I instantly fell into a coma, I was so exhausted.

Fast-forward three hours, the plane landed uneventfully in Denver. I made my way to the baggage claim where I was greeted by my father, (the faithful doggy au-pare), and the stars behind the scenes, Judy Greenfield, Charmaine Settle, and Bev McInis of CGA (who gathered a wealth of medical supplies and made the immigration of the dogs possible). And a cameraman from 9News! I did my best to do an interview, we'll see how it turns out! Finally, Presto and Francesca were wheeled in and I said my good-byes to the dear dogs I had grown so fond of over the past days. I had tears in my eyes as I watched the kids being led off by their new families.

So once again I am in the position of asking "what's next?" Well, many things! I am currently doing a fundraiser for Operation Scooby selling 2007 Dogs of Scooby calendars, I'm working with some folks to facilitate the purchase of a bunch of kennels for Scooby, and working on collecting supplies. And of course, there's next time!