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Alongside donating to multiple charities annually, SMTP2GO staff members are encouraged to take a day once a year to volunteer with a charity close to their heart. Louise chose to support Pat’s Rescue Retreat in Malaga, Spain, as it’s an organisation that means a lot to her. 

“I live in Madrid, and in my spare time I work as a dog trainer (Doctor Loulittle Dog Training). I also volunteer with shelters, and foster abandoned kittens and puppies. We have a mini-zoo of rescue animals (two dogs, three cats and two chinchillas) and I run a Facebook group that helps to find foster homes and adoptions for abandoned pets.

A few years ago, I stayed at Pat’s Rescue Retreat in Malaga while doing a dog training course, and there I met Pat and saw first-hand the incredible work that she does. She’s from Ireland, but moved to Spain a few years ago to retire, although she shows no signs of ever slowing down! One day, a little dog turned up who needed help. Pat couldn’t say no, and then slowly, one by one, others began to enter her life. Some were abandoned, others were favors, and others were found. She now single-handedly cares for up to 90 dogs and puppies, as well as donkeys and horses on her beautiful finca. Some of the dogs live in modern, purpose-built kennels with heating and home comforts, many of the dogs run free through the orchards, and others live in her house with her. When there’s a storm, she brings as many dogs as she can into the living room so that they don’t get scared. Even though she’s given up on having a sofa (I’ve lost count of how many have been eaten!), no dog goes without a comfy bed. After 6 years of working with rescues in Spain, I have seen good shelters, bad shelters and everything in between. But nothing compares to Pat’s Rescue Retreat. 

some of the dogs at Pat's Rescue Retreat in Malaga

If an adopter wants to spend some time with the dogs before choosing one, she has a beautiful house where they can stay, complete with a swimming pool, so they can truly get to know the dogs before adopting. Most of her dogs are Spanish Mastiffs and hunting dogs, the cast-offs of Spanish society. As it can be difficult to find homes for them in Spain, many are sent to live with families abroad. 

For the last few months, two friends and I have been running a donation drive for food, blankets, beds, toys and medication for the dogs in her care, as well as things to sell in the rescue’s charity shop. When we finally had enough, Melanie and I packed her camper-van to the roof, and we set off for the 6-hour drive to Malaga from Madrid. When we arrived, Pat met us at a local restaurant because there was no way that the camper-van would have been able to cross the arroyo (riverbed) where the rescue is located. In true Pat style, she wasn’t alone when we got there. A woman had gotten in touch to say that she had to leave Spain and couldn’t take her dog with her. Unfortunately the dog was quite nervous around people, so she had struggled to re-home him. We slowly tempted our new friend Chico into the back of Pat’s 4×4 and drove back to the retreat.

 

Once there, we introduced him to some of the garden dogs and took him for a walk to get him used to his new temporary home. He was nervous, but soon started to relax. We unpacked some of the donations and said hello to the other dogs. I groomed Trubuco, a Spanish Mastiff who was a true gentle giant, and helped to feed the dogs who lived in Pat’s bedroom. There was a podenco with a broken leg, and a little fluffy girl with a fractured hip who had a litter of puppies. Afterwards we spent some time with the Spanish Mastiffs who had taken over Pat’s living room.

 

Afterwards Pat showed us Bella, a little puppy who had been dumped in a rubbish bin with parvovirus. Since rescuing her, Pat was giving her round-the-clock care, syringe-feeding her, giving her an IV drip and keeping her warm. Unfortunately soon after we returned to Madrid, we got the bad news that the little puppy had passed away, but at least she knew what it was to be loved and cared for during her last few days. Despite her poor prognosis, Pat fought to give her the best chance that she could.

That night, we stayed in the rescue’s guesthouse, and despite having a “strict” no-dogs rule, Chico, the new addition, and Sasha, one of the permanent residents, snuck inside with us and curled up on the sofa. When it was time for bed, Chico made himself at home and slept in Melanie’s room. At Pat’s, even if means bending the rules sometimes, the dogs are always the number 1 priority.

The next day, I visited some of the other dogs and met a little Spanish Water Dog called Obama. As I have a Spanish Water Dog myself, I have a soft spot for them, and it was really difficult for me to leave this old boy behind. Obama had spent the last 9 years of his life chained up, and since being rescued he was very wary of people and other dogs, and his coat was a mass of mats and knots. Once I returned to Madrid, I arranged a fundraiser to buy a clippers to make him a little more comfortable and one generous donor offered to buy the clippers for him. When I first went into his kennel, he hid in his house growling and barking at me. After a few minutes of just sitting in silence, and giving him time and space, he slowly came out to say hello, and a moment later he was lying on my lap looking for scratches and belly rubs. Obama’s story isn’t an isolated case: there are thousands of dogs like him all over Spain who spend their lives in isolation and neglect, and without the dedication of a few individuals like Pat, they would never learn to trust.”

If you would like to follow Pat’s work or sponsor a dog, you can join the Pat’s Rescue Retreat Facebook group.

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