When people think of Spain, they usually imagine the touristy areas full of English speakers, large buildings, incredible sites and delicious food. However, what people don’t usually see are the sandy roads and crowded train stations and, most importantly, the abandoned animals.
I spent 2 weeks out in Spain and, it may not seem a lot to some, but for me it was a perfect length of time for my first solo journey outside of the UK. My goal when I was there was to volunteer in a greyhound rescue centre called Scooby in Medina del Campo. This was not a glamorous trip, I didn’t pack for sunbathing and leisure, instead I packed my oldest work clothes and shoes. I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, I was a nervous mess on the flight from Bristol to Madrid but thankfully I had booked my hotel and airport transfer in advance which saved me a lot of stress.
The hotel room was small but I guess that’s what happens when your budget was 100€ for one night. I got there at 10pm and was very ready for bed. This was the first time I had booked a hotel room for myself so I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived as it seemed like a well kept hotel. I didn’t allow myself to think that the rest of the trip would be like that though.
The day after I arrived in Spain, I took a bit of time in the morning to explore Madrid but I spent most of the day travelling due to Medina del Campo being far away. I had to get the metro train to the main train station and it was a complete maze due to everything being written in Spanish! Once I got to Medina, I had to attempt to speak Spanish to order a taxi and it was nerve wracking! I achieved a B in Spanish GSCE but I barely remember anything from those lessons as I’m sure many other people understand.
So I finally arrived at the rescue centre and I was glad I didn’t get my hopes up. Everything was dusty and dirty and looked like it was about to fall down! However first impressions aren’t always correct. Once I got introduced to everyone, a friendly worker named Hoover showed me around and I was very impressed. They had approximately 500 dogs, about 50 cats, two herds of semi-feral horses, herd of donkeys (if that’s what you call it?!), pigs, goats and a cow (yes, just one). They did not have much but they were resourceful with what they did have.
The accommodation that I was staying in was the best one they had at the camp – a one bed studio. I do admit, it was not glamerous and I was glad I bought my sleeping bag as there was no way I was getting under those covers but it gave me the full experience. The shower was unfortunately cold and I had to walk through a large kennel of dogs to get to the kitchen! Admittedly though, walk past the dogs everytime I needed to get anywhere wasn’t a bad thing unless you had food.
While I was there, the main things I did were cleaning the kennels and preparing the dog food. I had numb hands from opening all of the cans! Due to the small budget, the dogs mainly lived off bread and old canned food – it wasn’t glamerous. Each kennel contain approx 20 dogs and there was a lot of fighting for food so many went hungry and others suffered lots of wounds. It was incredibly saddening to see but I felt as if I was making a difference. It was also good to remind myself that they had a better chance of eating here, and getting medical attention when required, then they would on the streets; epecially the abandoned puppies.
The most heartwarming thing that happened while I was there was when all the dogs being adopted got collected. We had to collect the dogs from the kennel, check their microchip number and put a new collar on them and then load them into a big van! Another incredibly heartwarming thing was how the workers knew every single dog there, and knew most of their names! Considering there is over 500 dogs there, that’s an incredible feat and shows how much they love the animals there.
Overall, I am glad that I went, no matter how home sick and alone I felt at times, because I believed that I helped those animals when I was there, and I hope that I am helping them now by spreading the word and encouraging people to donate and adopt!