29th Jan 2018
Our search for a dog started in the UK and we did consider adopting a dog from the many charities that operate there. However we had heard so many stories about the great quantities of unwanted dogs in Spain and Portugal that for us emotionally it felt better if we searched there. For sure, our travels had shown us that dogs in some cases are certainly treated and valued differently in these countries and you often witness poorly treated dogs roaming the streets just concentrating on surviving, something you rarely see in the UK.
Therefore starting with the internet we identified several dog refuges in Portugal and seemed to favour BambooAlgarve, NewGoldra, DogsofPortgal and 2ndhand4footers. The sheer quantity of dogs is mind blowing, for example dogs of Portugal have over 700 in their care and for this reason we were often bamboozled with choice. Bearing this in mind we found the smaller dog sanctuary websites easier to peruse and in particular 2ndhand4footers as they gave background information and also practical information such as weight. In October we decided to bite the bullet and we sent an exploratory email to Marie at 2ndhand4footers asking if they had had any experience with placing dogs with people who motorhome and if they had any objections or advice. I also raised the question whether a Podengo type dog would be suitable as in our inexperienced opinion this breed seemed to fit the bill physically as we had defined our criteria as female adult dog, short haired and of small/medium build.
A Portuguese Podengo. An ancient dog breed, often used by hunters of wild boar. We just love the ears.
It was at this point we learned the importance of contacting a reputable dogs home as we leaned heavily on Marie and Adrian’s vast experience of dogs. Unconditionally she stated that a Podengo would not suit us as they were far too energetic and if we had not been given this advice we could of ended up with a type of dog completely incompatible with our life styles. Luckily though, Marie and Adrian also were familiar with motorhoming as they used to travel themselves with several of their own dogs (Serra Da Estrelas no less, these dogs look like mountain bears and weight 40+Kgs). They had no objections to dogs in motorhomes, as long as it was the right dog.
An adult Serra da Estrela (Portuguese mountain dog). Marie and Adrian used to travel with several of their own Serras. Needless to say their motorhome was much larger than ours and Marie will tell you that the Serras used to enjoy it. Surprisingly she never mentioned whether their motorhome ever got broken into….
Enter Rita, who initially was Marie’s suggestion as she knew the dog well and in fact she had been promoted to the top tier of refuge life and was actually living in Marie’s house along with a number of other dogs. This highlights the second learning point:- since we were inexperienced dog owners it was invaluable to us that Rita’s temperament was known. It is possible with larger refuges that this is not always possible due to the sheer numbers they have to look after (nearly always by volunteers) meaning that we could of ended up with a dog with an unknown character which is certainly not a good idea if you have little dog handling experience, like us.
At this point we left our search alone and we said to Marie that we would visit her in January but please don’t hold Rita for us if there is any other serious interest. We must admit though we did check the website out several times on the run up to Christmas verifying that she was still available.
So once we arrived in the Algarve we made contact again with 2ndhand4footers and arranged a visit for the following week. We were also advised that Rita had some interest from Holland and it was possible that she would be exported there. I remember feeling slightly crestfallen, and maybe this was detected by Marie as she said, “Don’t worry, come around for a visit – Goldra dog sanctuary is just up the road and they currently have 120 dogs, there are plenty more Ritas there”. So we had resigned ourselves to our back up plan of volunteering at the larger dogs home in view of getting to know the dogs better.
Upon our visit to Marie and Adrian (see post ‘Meeting Rita’, Jan 2018) we were told that the Dutch interest had gone cold and that Rita was free to be exported with us. This brings me onto the next important point: knowledge of the export requirements. It is important that the new owner knows the requisites of the export process i.e vaccinations, health check and Pet Passport etc and in our case all of this was handled by 2ndhand4footers and also importantly explained to us in detail. At no point in this process did we feel uncomfortable and we always knew what our responsibilities were/are.
To reach a happy ending we all agreed that we should take Rita on a trial. Even though it is obvious that Marie and Adrian love all their dogs and that ultimately they want them to be re-homed, they are also very pragmatic, black and white with their view that the dog has to go to the right home and environment. If there are any slight complexities such as with us with a MH, or if there was another cat/dog/infant at the home then a trial period is agreed before any official adoption paperwork is raised and signed. She also encouraged us to be practical and if we thought it was not working then Rita would have to come back to her, after all she had a decent standard of life back at the refuge already. Their priority is the long term happiness of the dog. For more on how our week trial went please see ‘Meeting Rita’ post.
This is little Rita and the big long haired Knoffle, one of Marie’s own dogs. She uses Knoffle as sort of teacher and since this was the first time for Rita in a motorhome and therefore Knoffle came too, showing Rita calmly the way. Knoffle was a super well trained dog, she even came out with us on our first walk together.
For us our trial period ended happily and by listening to Marie’s advice and using her knowledge of her dogs we have ended up with the lovely Rita, the right dog for us as she seems perfectly happy and compatible with our life.
So, to end, the Eurosuntor team now becomes three and we are certain that Rita will add to our travel experience and we are very pleased to have her aboard.
When we returned after our weeks trial it was bedlam. Rita had to say goodbye to her friends, especially Roberta (half of Roberta is shown mid left) whilst others where trying to enter the motorhome hoping for a spell of doggie holidays. In fact one of Marie’s Serras did manage to get in via the passenger cab door and was found sitting in the back seat. Apparently he just loves vehicles!!!
Hopefully Rita won’t be a handful!!! On our way from 2ndhand4footers with the adoption papers signed, the team becomes three.