Tuesday the 9th of January 2024
Nine days after the last fireworks and after all the flares have faded Dirk goes to the Madrid airport in the evening to pick up Dirk Buffalo who will bring with him next Thursday the first happy ones of the new year to their adoption family and hopefully to their eternal “vie en rose” in Belgium. It is after 23:00h when they arrive in Casa Belgica but despite the late hour, we drink a glass for 2024 and we talk about everything that concerns us i.e. the galgos and more than 200 animals under our care whose precarious future largely depends on us and the future adopters. Adopters whom we share with organizations that come and go and who do not take the imposed laws too seriously. Witness to this are the regular phone calls from people who adopted a scared and/or sick galgo without the necessary documents and then call GINB to give up the dog because the organization who gave them the dog does not respond and/or has ceased to exist. Incredible that some dogs are randomly given to travelers who travel by car or by plane to Belgium or any other country and who at their arrival pass from hand to hand without the necessary documents!!
Now and then we hear that dogs have been intercepted at airports or at the border but mostly the “rescuers” slip through the net. What is more, this year will be no different. There will be new arrivals and exhausted and scared galgos who are recruited in small “private” shelters and who are brought traumatized in inappropriate vehicles to their destination. Terrible for the poor animals but there is little or nothing we can do about it. Only the government can do this, but they have excluded galgos and hunting dogs from the new “animal protection” law, specifically that law of the dogs, so…. After having given vent to our frustrations for an hour we discuss the fact that after their departure I am left alone in Casa Belgica because after the limited adoption day that is especially organized because of the beach walk in Belgium and to bring the adopters listed their new family member Dirk will fly back to Spain on Saturday evening to come get me. As I told you before, I do not want to fly alone. It may seem exaggerated, but I do not have the courage anymore.
Thursday the 11th, Friday the 12th and Saturday the 13th Januari 2024
Because Marie-Carmen will bring only the 12 adopted dogs, who after the adoption day of the 2nd of December, are already on the list, the two “Dirks” leave already at 9:30h after having loaded our 8 dogs in the direction of Belgium, half an hour earlier than planned! Around 11:30h I received the first phone call telling me that they were in Somosierra and that it was snowing. When I think of the loading this morning I am not surprised as it was icy cold. It is still cold, but it does not snow here, only a cold northern wind is blowing I tell Dirk. During the entire day I am informed of their progress and as I asked them Dirk calls me telling that they arrived at 3:00h at night and that the welcoming team, regional managers Nensie and Martine, are letting the dogs out and that he goes home and around 8:00h he will leave for Hof Rosa Canina to prepare for the mini adoption day. In the afternoon my lonely silence is disturbed by a “video call” from Dirk and all co-workers present who are waving and reassuring me that everything went well and that they miss me etc. It feels like I am immersed in a warm bath. At 17:00h he calls me from the train to Zaventem, an hour later from the airport and hours later from Barracas Madrid informing me that he has arrived and that he will be at home around midnight. The long silent days are over….
Thursday the 1st of February 2024
Because the flights were the cheapest, we flew back to Belgium on Tuesday the 16th of January and on Friday we left with our rental car to the coast to prepare the 21st beach walk. In fact, it is the 23rd time in Koksijde because of Corona we could not organize a walk for 2 years. Anyway, the helpers on duty were Martine and Buffalo, Claire and Raymond, new regional manager Nicole, her husband Vincent and dog Hermes and in the kitchen and a bit everywhere Inge and her son Jordy. Quite a job for so few people but they will manage. Fortunately, Dirk B and Martine who must be in the hall already at 7:00h for the municipality administration had already installed all tables and chairs, a tough job!! Anyway, after the shop was installed and everything was unpacked and displayed (worse than Sisyphean labor) the eating utensils were put in the envelopes, the place mats were placed and meanwhile Raymond was busy with his drink vouchers, a lot of work in fact… Finally, when they all had finished the job, it was lunch time, for the table decoration we must wait till the next day because Yolanda would take care of the plants and wooden fishes etc.
We were still sitting at the table when caterer Chris & Co. arrived and when everything was unloaded, he started with the preparation for the next day. Our job and GINB-team’s jobs were finished, and we left, tired but happy. The next day our work was rewarded with a very busy beach walk. With lots of galgos and their extensive entourage, delicious food, perfect service, a lot of chatting for me, a beautiful “dry” beach walk for the participants and a tombola with a piece of art by Odile Kinart as the main prize. Everything was perfect, apart from one problem… Like all years we could not get everybody together for the usual group photo and we must wait so long for those who had already left and others who were stuck inside that I got a cold even though I was wearing my hat, but it was worth it. When it was over, and everyone had left we chatted for a while with the entire team after the clean-up. Not too long because some of them like Yolanda and big Dirk still had 200 km to drive home. Anyway, when I asked the ”newcomers” Nicole and Vincent, who had “performed” fantastically, what their impression was their answer was “stupéfiant” (overwhelming).
Thanks to all participants for this umpteenth great success.
After the beach walk, we stayed in Belgium for another week to finish our agenda with obligations and doctors’ visits. Dirk had a dentist’s visit; I must see the ophthalmologist and the specialist for my old worn-out back and a pedicure for both of us. Meanwhile I helped Dirk whilst coughing and sneezing with water eyes with the membership cards which were often night work for him. During our busy and productive week, the “ Farmer’s protest” became worse and spread quickly. Because the “Farmers’ news” did not bode well, and France seemed to be involved also we left on Sunday the 28th of January half an hour earlier than usual and we drove shortly after 4:00h to Hof Rosa Canina to pick up our dogs. When we turned onto the highway it was again busy and I wondered agitated where all those people went. We entered France without problems and after our usual breakfast in Aire St. Léger under busy air traffic we drove onto the Paris ring that we left in record time, which was too good to be true Dirk said. Indeed, in Poitiers it went wrong and despite all Dirk’s cursing we must leave the highway to enter it again after a long detour through the inland. This was promising…
Despite the loss of time, we arrived not much later than usual in Castets where not only our hotel was closed due to renovation but also the La Tchanka restaurant which meant that we must eat in our room the “plastic” sandwiches that we bought in the service stop. When we drove onto the parking lot of the “Greet” hotel, a sister hotel from the same owner diagonally opposite of our familiar hotel I wondered if everything would be arranged for the fenced parking promised last time by the hotel receptionist. In exchange for the service, I had promised her Belgian pralines that were waiting in a cool box for an enthusiastic owner.
When we registered in the “Meet & Greet” hotel we were expected and our ticket with the parking code was next to our name in the reservation book, phantastic!! We could walk our dogs with peace of mind and feed them, nobody would disturb us, plenty of time… After the plastic sandwiches and the following relatively good night we passed the “renovation workers” the day after to hand over the pralines to the reception lady who supervised the hotel. She was very happy with her Belgian chocolates, and she promised to give our regards to her colleague, and she was looking forward to our next visit…
Before we left the manager of the “Meet & Greet” insisted to drive via the N10 because the highway and the Spanish border were blocked by farmers, we could not get through he convinced us. And so, we drove via a “shortcut” parallel to the highway in the direction of Spain. After barely three kilometers we saw the end of a monster traffic jam on the highway, and we drove by an endless double row of trucks that were gradually redirected to the inland. Fortunately, we passed this misery Dirk said when we reached the end of the shortcut. Although. Thereafter we must drive for half an hour between the convoy of trucks through “Foie Gras” land passing many farms where thousands of poor geese were force-fed until death. A sad confrontation. As always, I wonder what brain twist a person should have to find a sick liver a delicacy and not to have any compassion with the defenseless tortured animals needed for this delicacy. Understand who can. After a journey of almost an hour we were again lead to the highway to get again off after 10 km and to drive via the center of Bayonne city to the Spanish border. Once we passed the border it was remarkably quiet on the Spanish roads, a few trucks were still queuing in long traffic jams in France to cross the border. After a pitstop for the dogs we arrived around 17:00h in Casa Belgica, at last because I was exhausted and due to my cold, water eyes and sneezing which irritated Dirk, I will need 2 days to recover.
Sunday the 4th of February 2024
Sunday morning. After worrying for days about the “Dia del Galgo” it was finally there, later today the march would take place. I was worried and I still am about the number of participants, about anything and everything. After half an hour it would turn out to be unnecessary when regional manager Natascha de Groote called and showed me how many adopters and participants arrived with their galgos. There were at least 500 people she told us. Dirk and I could not believe our eyes when we saw the group and I was especially relieved. Via the city camera from Bruges, we saw them come to the marketplace and wave at us, even though they could not see us we also waved at them. When they left again it took 7 minutes for the entire group to get out of sight of the camera. Thanks to the many participants, thanks to coordinator Dirk Buffalo and thanks to the GINB team for ensuring everything went well.
Tuesday the 6th of February 2024
Yesterday Marie-Carmen visited us on my request. Because tomorrow is my 78th birthday I want to give myself a present by putting two fortune seekers on the site. Elena, 9 years old and Castro of the same age. Two oldies like me who have been in the shelter for more than 5 years and who did not have an easy life and thus I want to check with Marie-Carmen before putting them on our Facebook. So, today is my birthday, one I will never forget. Dirk surprised me this morning with a trip to Madrid where he booked in my favorite Italian restaurant. When we leave at 9:30h and drive after a few minutes out of our Avenida where we have an overview on the highway and the Calypo bridge we are devastated!!! The bridge as well as the entrance to the highway are blocked by lots of tractors and a crowd of police. The direction to Madrid as well as to Talavera is blocked by farmers who stand in big numbers on the road and walk from one direction to the other to hold up traffic. In fact, traffic jams on both sides. My courage sinks as I feel that we will not be able to leave our island, which Calypo is, without the bridge. But Dirk would not be Dirk if he would not try to find a way out and so we drive via all directions in a diameter of 30 km to find an exit to Madrid, that does not exist, and finally we must find our way back to Calypo via field roads. So far, my birthday…
I want to thank everyone for the birthday wishes.