This being my third trip to Scooby Protectora De Animales , I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the travel end of things. Such as the look of horror on the face of the Delta ticket agent when I rolled up with 6 gigantic bags loaded with over 400 pounds of medical supplies, coats, dog leashes and collars, and the like. Despite paying almost a weeks salary for the excess baggage (which Operation Scooby is generously absorbing), the check-in process went smoothly and I was on my way. The flight to Atlanta and then to Madrid was wonderfully uneventful, and I arrived in Madrid at 9am on October 3, 2006.
Jeff Rayner, my dear friend and fabulous Scooby volunteer, was there to greet me and performed nothing less than a miracle shoving all the bags and the hand truck into his sedan. We made our way to Scooby where I was thrilled to see all my friends Maria Jose, Fermin, Jenny, Gracie, Bag-O-Bones, Blanco and the whole gang. It was a sad reunion, without Larry and the lambs, Messilina, and the others who have left this world, but I still felt like I come home.
I was thrilled to meet Crystal Loh, a 4th year veterinary student from Guelph University, who is a remarkable person and an amazing vet already. Suzanne Stack, the third member of our party, arrived later that night. Crystal and Suzanne stayed in one of the volunteer caravans on the Scooby grounds, and I stayed in Jeff and Jenny's lovely caravan on the other end of Scooby with the wonderful company of their two greyhounds, Dukes and Daisy.
Wed. Oct. 4. 2006 - We started bright and early, organizing the surgery suite, autoclaving instruments, and jumping right into surgery performing 14 feline spays and neuters the first day. It was a blissfully uneventful day, other than one female kitty that had some bleeding problems post-operatively and had to have a snug bandage around her belly overnight. We also spayed and neutered Helena and Vigo, two darling 12 week old galgo puppies who came to the US with me!
The sad point of the day came with Fermin's news that one of his beloved donkeys had died. Scooby has turned into not just a shelter for dogs and cats, but also an incredible refuge for farm animals of all shapes and sizes. There is a lake at the back of the property where ducks and geese play and swim, and the donkeys and sheep wander acres of rich pasture. Fermin has fostered a relationship with a donkey rescue society and Scooby now serves as a retirement home for many previously abused or neglected donkeys.
Thurs. Oct. 5, 2006 - There are some days you look back at and wish you had stayed in bed. Sadly, this was one of them. We started off without any problems, but the day quickly took a turn for the worse when Jeff brought Mrs. Jackson, one of the beloved courtyard galgas, to me because she was unable to defecate or urinate. She had developed a tumor on her vulva that completely obstructed her urethra, and her bladder was nearly the size of a basketball. Due to the grave prognosis, I had to euthanize Mrs. Jackson, who was really a fabulous old gal, it broke my heart, and the hearts of all the Scooby staff.
Our next tragedy struck later in the day. One of the girls we had just spayed, Mindy, a lovely galga brought in with her sister Mandy, was found dead in recovery. I reopened her incision to find that she had been bleeding from her spleen and had bled to death internally.
Shortly thereafter, Christiana, a lovely volunteer from Germany, came to get me because Gracie, the Queen of Scooby, was having trouble. I discovered she had been attacked by one of the other dogs and had a huge, growing hematoma over her shoulder and some wounds on her hind end. Poor Gracie, she was so brave as we tended to her wounds. Fortunately, by the end of our trip, she was looking much stronger and was healing well. The day was not all tragedy, though. We were able to accomplish a great deal, performing 7 spays and 3 neuters.
Fri. Oct. 6, 2006 - We had another rough day, performing only 6 spays. One of the girls had very friable tissues and was very difficult to work on. Our day was slow-moving but not bad until later that evening when, as Crystal and I sat with Jeff and Jenny in their caravan preparing to go to town, Suzanne came looking for us because one of her spays from earlier in the day was bleeding out.
We rushed back to surgery where I performed an abdominocentesis, confirming there was blood in the abdomen. We stabilized the girl with an IV catheter and fluids, and anesthetized her for the second time that day. Crystal and Suzanne explored the girl's abdomen and discovered one of her stumps bleeding. The surgery was tense, no monitoring equipment to monitor heart or blood pressure, and we had to have volunteers from the kennels come into surgery to open individual packs of gauze to soak up the blood.
The big girl pulled through, all the while Fermin, Maria Jose, Jeff and Jenny waited anxiously to hear how things were going. We had them pull Jackson, a big healthy boy who had no tick-borne diseases, and put him in surgery with us so that we would be able to pull blood from him should a transfusion become necessary. Fortunately, his services were not needed.
I assigned this strong wire-haired female who had pulled through such a horrible ordeal the name �Fermina", meaning 'strong". Fermina is now in the United States, and will be adopted out to some lucky family in California thanks to Telma Shaw, dear friend and galgo seamstress.
Sat. Oct. 7. 2006 - Fortunately, a much more mellow day. Suzanne performed 3 neuters (on my puppy friends Rio, Blanco and Marron, who now live in Colorado), and Crystal performed 2 spays and a mammary tumor resection on a Brittany spaniel. All of the surgeries were uneventful and went well, though we did have to re-anesthetize the Brittany to place a smaller drain as the one we initially used was causing some problems.
That night, we ventured into Medina Del Campo for the first time and hit the internet cafe, did a bit of shopping, enjoyed the outdoor food market in the main square, and ran into Fermin and his family on our way to a pizza joint.
Sun. Oct. 8, 2006 - Crystal and I accompanied Jenny into town to visit the huge market outside of the town bullfighting ring (yuck), and returned to Scooby early in the afternoon. We worked on a number of spays (6 girls that day), and tended to various wounds and such. The big excitement came around 8pm when, as Crystal was finishing her last spay, the shelter lost all power due to a massive rainstorm! An amazing vet-to-be, she was able to close the girl up with the light from a keychain light!
Mon. Oct. 9, 2006 - The day before I was to leave Scooby. I spent the day trying to organize the dogs I was taking, check on the kennels we would be using, tag and microchip all the dogs, unpack all the supplies I had brought with me, take pictures, visit with all of my canine friends, and tie up all the loose ends. In the late afternoon I went to the forest with Jenny, Daisy and Dukes. The pups enjoyed a lovely run while Jenny and I relaxed under a tree.
Fermin and I sat in the kitchen later that evening and organized all the paperwork for the 14 dogs returning to the states with me. I was terribly sad as I looked around Scooby just before sunset, knowing I'll be back someday, but wishing so badly that I could stay.
Tues. Oct 10, 2006 - Fermin had arranged for a moving van to take the 14 dogs (in 11 crates) to the Madrid airport. At 545am, Jeff, Crystal, Suzanne, Jenny, the driver and I ran around putting blankets into crates, making sure all the dogs had collars, leashes and coats on, walking the dogs, and loading them into the moving van, along with all of our baggage and a huge bag of supplies bound for Nuria Blanco of Amigos De Los Galgos, a shelter in Madrid.
The drive to Madrid was uneventful, but as soon as we hit Madrid the traffic came to a halt. We had set out at 630am, and should have arrived by 815am. We didn't arrive until 930am, and my flight was at 1125am! Suzanne, Crystal and I bailed out of the car like a bunch of daredevils, Jeff speeding off to park the car. I ran in to the airport while the others unloaded the 11 dog crates onto the sidewalk. The line at the Delta counter was horribly long, so I went to the customer service desk, where I was informed they wouldn't be able to fly the dogs!! I thought I would pass out, I couldn't believe it, not again!! They rang the manag er who came out and said he would work with us, but that he needed to see all the crates. And poor Nuria, so excited to meet all of us, was left in the dust as we had crazy galgo crate races using the free carts the airport provides!
When we had all of the crates assembled in a nice little row, the manager, a truly wonderful guy, said he could either take the 3 giant crates plus one smaller crate, or the seven smaller crates. The rest of the dogs would have to fly with someone else the following day. I looked desperately at my friends. Jeff was returning to England later that day, Suzanne was flying home that afternoon. But my dear, talented friend Crystal was willing to cut her trip to Scooby short by three days and fly to Colorado before flying home to Toronto. Delta was able to change her ticket (originally on Continental), and accommodate all the dogs over two days. It was quite an inspiring sight, half of the Delta team was filling out all of my forms, stickering the crates, checking my luggage, etc. I chose to take the 7 smaller crates containing Mirabel, Madeleine, Aluna, Isabella, Blanco, Rio, Marron, Esparanza, Helena, and Vigo, leaving Crystal to return to Scooby (we had called the truck driver and asked him to return) with Fermina, Bonita, Sol and Amistad.
I ran through security and to my gate, where I promptly boarded and fell quickly to sleep, waking only for short periods during the nine hour flight. I arrived in Atlanta where I had to check my luggage and the dogs back through after taking them through customs, which did not go terribly well at first. I was able to enlist the help of a really big, tall, dog-loving guy named Duane who effortlessly carted the dogs around for me. The agriculture department was very suspicious of why I had ten dogs, and I had to pull out all the stops, the literature, the 501(c)(3) paperwork, the tears, and explain that these were ALL rescued dogs, bound for loving homes in the US! Finally, they let me pass and I rechecked the pups after giving them a tiny bit of water.
I had a 5 hour layover which I spent wandering aimlessly around the airport, trying to keep myself from falling asleep. I finally boarded my plane, fell asleep, and woke up refreshed in Colorado, where the real madness began!! All ten pups made the trip just fine, and it was wonderful to see them all come out of their crates wagging their tails, looking for a cuddle. It was so hard, though, to leave the airport without a galgo.
Wed. Oct. 11, 2006 - Rewind and repeat. Crystal had no trouble in Madrid and flew out with the four dogs, landing in Atlanta where my man Duane was ready and waiting for her and the dogs! She had a short layover and arrived in Denver at 730pm. All 4 dogs were happy and healthy, and Crystal and I left the airport with Mirabel, the dog Crystal adopted (who is, by the way, one of the most incredible little galgas I've ever met, what a doll!).
This was a wonderful trip to Scooby, as always. Seeing all my friends, both two and four-legged, warmed my heart. And of course, new friends were made. I look forward to my next trip, and until then I will dream of galgos, greyhounds, Mastins, pointers, setters, donkeys, cats, sheep, and dear friends all living on the Spanish countryside.