Monday, April 4, 2016

Scooby Visit, Winter 2015 - This Place is So Special!

The Beauty of this Scooby Galgo is as Stunning at the Spanish Sky

Right Back In Love Again!
In November, 2015, I made my 10th visit to Scooby Medina del Campo to volunteer, and to bring two galgos to California for adoption through Greyhound Friends for Life. This visit was better than ever in so many ways, but I also faced the most difficult journey yet bringing back the two dogs, all because of KLM airlines. 

Coat Donated from Slovenia - Absolutely Regal!

The Journey to Scooby
This time, flew KLM airlines from San Francisco to Amsterdam. Easy flight with excellent service. Then on from Amsterdam to Madrid, arriving in the afternoon. Had booked a hotel to stay overnight in Madrid to rest up and get my supplies for Scooby, prior to boarding the train the next day.  
San Francisco -> Amsterdam -> Madrid
Spent the First Night in Madrid - Such a Cool City!
Always Enjoy My Time There.
Took a nap and then headed out for a walk-about in Madrid, seeking a nice place for dinner. Went to one of my familiars and had a delicious local dish. Returned to the hotel to rest up for the trip to Scooby. The next morning, awoke with the sunrise and sought a Mercado, where I could purchase my food and beverage supplies to last the week at Scooby, since I would be taking the train, staying at the dorm and not going into Medina.  It was Sunday, so most of the local markets wouldn't open until 11 a.m. or Noon, walked around and luckily found a hybrid type market with take-away food, groceries and even a restaurant. Was able to purchase everything needed (along with a few supplies from the USA that I had brought). Prices in Spain are always reasonable. I was set for the week.  

Checked out of the hotel and headed for the Chamartin train station to get to Medina del Campo.  Ate some lunch at the train station. Enjoyed watching the chess players who are there every Sunday, playing matches. Finally, it was time to board the train. 

I've noticed that Spain is much better about security in transit centers than we are in the USA. Everyone's baggage is scanned and tickets verified, prior to boarding the train.  As we embarked, an announcement came, "We will be serving lunch and dinner and showing two movies."  What? The trip to Medina del Campo only takes about one hour. I panicked, thinking that I must have boarded the wrong train. When I checked, the final destination for this particular train was just north of Portugal, in the northwest part of Spain. Heart in throat, grabbed my essentials and headed for the food car, where I was able to clarify with the staff that I was on the correct train.  Can't tell you how relieved I was to see the Castillo de la Mota and Medina del Campo. From there, I caught a taxi to Scooby, which is only about 2 miles away from the train station. 

There is something that rests my soul when I see the Scooby grounds, smelling the pleasantries of the potato chip factory, seeing the Scooby sign, driving up the driveway, seeing the first sights of the animals, hearing the barking, and then seeing the great people who work and volunteer. There are no words to describe how much I feel at home and at peace. It is truly soulful.
Before I left, I recorded a video to show you what it's like. Hope you enjoy it!

Scooby in 11 Minutes

Scooby in 11 Minutes - What It's Like to be at Scooby :-)

Took the Train in from Madrid and Stayed in the Scooby Dorm. Very Cozy and Comfortable.
Many Serenades from the Dogs During the Day and Night ;-)

Being There
Stayed in the Scooby dorm this time. Had it all to myself. It was comfy and cozy. Only thing you have to get used to are the daily and nightly serenades from the dogs, their barking, growling, crying and restlessness. The dorm is wall to wall with the quarantine kennels. Ear plugs and ear phones may be used as necessary. ;-) After a short time, I always get used to it, and it becomes part of the complete immersion experience that one will never, ever forget. I actually miss it and dream about it after I leave.

Once you arrive, you are in another World and on Scooby time, which is quite interesting because it goes by all-too quickly, but at the same time, seems like it will never end. The first day, I generally go around to meet the staff, volunteers and animals, and then learn from the staff how best to help with assigned chores. It seems that there is never enough time to spend with each and every dog, but it all counts with them.
I Fall in Love so Easily... I'm a Sucker for the Galgos!
Enjoying a Visit and Clean-up with the
Paddock 1 Galgos
Who Could Resist This Galgo Puppy?
Scooby Icon,  Old Amelia, Still Loves to Sun on the Patio.
She Truly is More Loving than Ever These Days.

Scooby Attracts Many Beautiful Souls
I have met some of the best and most lovely people at Scooby over the past five years. They are selfless souls who truly care about animal welfare and are making a huge difference with their efforts.  It is amazing to me that we all come together across the World to help with this worthy cause. We are all different, yet have so many things in common - mainly, our love for the animals. It makes my soul richer to know these people, and I thank all of the volunteers who give of themselves so unselfishly to help: Spain, Italy, Holland, Germany, France, Slovenia, UK, USA and any country that I may not have mentioned. So proud to know you all!

On this visit, I had the chance to work with volunteers Ana (Spain), Melissa and Veronica (UK), and Frank (Holland), as well as the superb Scooby staff, which includes Fermin (Scooby Founder and President), Pablo (manages Scooby), Simonetta (does so many things, I can't begin to list), Nilcelio and Marcus (cleaning, food and many other things) and others who work tirelessly to take care of the animals and facilities.

Why are the Dogs Barking?
Because this Galga Decided to Climb Out of Her Kennel and Jump on the Roof.
Pablo to the Rescue!
Ana (Spanish Volunteer) and Melissa (UK Volunteer)
Discuss the Status of the Oldies that Reside in the Scooby Garden
Veronica (Volunteer Veterinarian from the UK) Checks in on the Oldies

The Saddest Dog at Scooby Finds Happiness

When I first saw this young boy in the quarantine, he was desperate for attention. Screamed very loudly in mental anguish, to the point where I just had to spend time with him. He was so sad... matted worse than any animal I had ever seen, dirty, nails way too long and the poor soul has a defect where he walks on his pads and not on his complete feet, which I understand is very painful.  I pointed out this dog to Fermin, and he asked me and the others to make sure that he was groomed and his nails cut. Now I just needed someone to help...

Enter Frank (Holland Volunteer). I found him cuddling this dog in his kennel and recruited him to help me. Frank located grooming tools and we worked on this dog for several hours, over two days.  Veronica (Volunteer Vet) trimmed his nails. He looked so handsome and much more comfortable, proud and confident after our efforts. The happy story of this dog is that he was fostered by Fermin for a while, but now is in Holland, likely in a loving home at this time!

This Dog was Extremely Neglected :-(

The Poor Soul had the Most Horribly Matted Fur and Nails that had
 Never Been Cut :-(

Frank (Holland Volunteer) and I Gave Him a Make-over.
It Took Several Hours.
Here's the Dear Boy After His Make-over
The Saddest Dog Becomes the Happiest. :-)
He Now Lives in Holland.
Podenco Love!
Scooby now has more Podencos than ever, and I'm loving it! They are so much fun - very curious and affectionate.  Here are some fun peek-a-boo photos from Paddocks 1 & 2.

This Dear Old Grandma Podenco Loved the Sun and Sleeping in the Oldies Garden. She Reminded me of Yoda from Star Wars ;-)

Bringing Stewie and Guelo to the USA
Months prior to my trip to Scooby, our Greyhound Friends for Life group had contacted me to ask if I could possibly bring back a puppy, Stewie, to his adoption home in Berkeley, California. We worked out the details with the Scooby staff, had some drama with getting the carrier, but it all came together.  Here is Stewie's story:

Stewie is a mix, Galgo and likely German Shepherd.  He and his brother, Peter were found in a gypsy camp, thrown away in a garbage bag with their two Galgo sisters and two other puppies. :-( Two of the puppies died, but the two sisters were adopted via Scooby. Stewie is in California and Peter, his brother, is now in Germany.  At least four of these precious ones went into happy homes. I am very sad for the other two...

Stewie Was Adopted by Jack & Greg from Berkeley California.
I Brought Him to His Forever Home and Fell in Love with Him.
Stewie is Smart, Loving and a True Companion Dog.
He is a Galgo Mix.
Stewie and His Brother Peter.
Stewie lives in Berkeley California.
Peter is now Living in Germany.
Meet Guelo. He's a very sleek and handsome boy who came from the Madrid Shelter via Scooby.  He had been in the shelter for quite a long time, so the volunteers were delighted to see him get adopted in the USA. I had the chance to get to know him a bit. He was a bit skittish and shy, but curious.  I believe that he will learn to trust and become the perfect pet.
Handsome Guelo
KLM Airlines - I Will Never, Ever Fly Your Airline With Pets Again
This was the most difficult journey back to California from Madrid ever with the two dogs, Stewie and Guelo.  I specifically chose KLM airlines because, a) everyone said that they were so great about transporting animals, and b) I knew that they would fly them to the USA, even though it was Winter and the temps were low. How could anything go wrong?

Well, it ended up being a huge drama trying to fly the dogs to California. It all started when I arrived at 3:30 a.m. at the Madrid airport for my return flight via Amsterdam to San Francisco. Helena, the kind Scooby volunteer, and two other volunteers, came with the two dogs around 3:45 a.m. We then waited for the KLM Customer Service desk to open. When the KLM Manager opened the counter, we were first in line. I handed her all of the paperwork that we normally provide: Spanish passport, rabies certificate, certificate to travel in various temperatures, other vaccinations. She reviewed everything and then, much to our dismay, kept shaking her head and saying that we did not have the proper paperwork. Huh?

We had more than enough of the paperwork that the other airlines had required, yet she pulled out some sort of rule book and kept pointing to a statement that said that we needed yet another health certificate, a "green" paper, and that the dogs could not fly without it. I explained that the rabies and health information was in the passport and that no other airline had required this, but she stood her ground and ultimately said, "You can board the flight, but the dogs cannot without this paperwork." I appealed to her for assistance. Told her that I had paid extra to fly on KLM to fly the dogs. She took a hard line with me. I said to her, "I need you to help me. I am in a foreign country, trying to rescue two dogs who are going to homes in the USA. I paid extra to do this. Please help me." She did not answer and walked away from me...

Of course, I was furious, but very determined to work around the issue. Called Delta (partner airline through which I had booked my flights) to see what could be done. Their solution was to rebook me three days later on the same flight, but I had to have clearance to take the dogs, thus the three day wait. We also had to weigh and measure the dogs in the carriers (yet again), which was a huge hassle. They did not make this easy, and they did not try to help us at all. I wasn't sure what to do. Should we send the dogs back to Scooby and I would go back to Madrid to stay? Should I go back to Scooby with the dogs? Then Helena kindly offered to have me and the dogs stay at her downstairs apartment about 30 minutes outside of Madrid in Guadalix de la Sierra.

Thank God for Helena (far right)!
KLM Would not Allow the Dogs to Fly Out of Madrid to Amsterdam and Demanded Some New Paperwork.
As a Result, We Spent Three Extra Days in Spain, and Helena Let Us Stay with Her.
This is the Paper that KLM Insisted on Having for Transporting Each Dog.
Helena Took Care of this with the Veterinarians at the Madrid Shelter.
It Repeats What is Already in their Spanish Passports, and Costs 20 Euro per Document.
I had Never Heard of this Requirement from any other Airline.
There are Great and Kind People in this World
Thank God for Helena! Eventually, I was able to rebook my flight with the dogs and we returned to her place to have a restful nap. Her downstairs apartment was wonderful. When all of us awoke, she took me to the grocery store for supplies, and later she took me on a tour of the Madrid shelter. It was lovely! Guelo had come from here, so he was considered a rock star for winning the lottery and getting a home in California! :-) The facilities are impressive. The volunteers are magnificent. The animals are treated royally. Each and every animal is treated so well!

An Angel?  During my stay with Helena, she also took me and Stewie on a hike in the mountains nearby. When she was at work (she's a helicopter pilot for the Spanish military), Stewie and I took a long walk to explore downtown Guadalix. She worked with the Madrid shelter Vets to get us the "green" health certificate that KLM required, paid the 20 Euro each for the dogs, and even drove me to the Madrid airport the night before we were to leave to make sure that we had all of the required paperwork. Once there, I paid for the transport of the two dogs as well. We should have been all set for the early morning flight the next day. Right?

Volunteer, Helena, Let Me Stay in Her Downstairs Apartment for Three Days.
She Didn't Even Know Me, but Opened Her Home and Heart to Help Me, Stewie and Guelo
While We Waited for Flight Clearance on KLM.
Helena's Downstairs Apartment was very Nice and Comfortable, with Gorgeous Views
Stewie was My Bunk Mate for 3 Days.
We had so Much Fun Exploring the Area with Helena!
Here's Stewie with Helena's Two Wonderful Dogs
Helena Took Us on a Hike at Parque Regional De La Cuenca Alta Del Manzanares: La Pedriza.
Beautiful Place and the Dogs Loved it!
Helena and Stewie!
He Crosses His First Bridge with a Little Help from a Friend.
Me and Stewie on Our Hike
Wild Donkeys in the Park
Downtown Guadalix.
Helena Said that a Famous Spanish Movie was Filmed Here.
A View of Guadalix on a Gorgeous Day

KLM Booking and Check-in Disaster - The Drama Continues
Even though we had gone to the Madrid airport the day ahead, paid and they had made copies of all of the dogs information and mine, I faced issues once again. We were first in line with Customer Service around 4:30 a.m. on the day of departure. Noticed that the rep was on the phone several times, so we knew something was wrong. Get this... after everything we went through, KLM only had one dog booked on my flight to Amsterdam and no dogs booked from Amsterdam to San Francisco.  Unbelievable!  The rep was able to get both dogs on the Madrid to Amsterdam flight, but there was no guarantee that the dogs would be accepted for the Amsterdam to SFO flight. I would not know until the KLM offices opened, which meant that I wouldn't know until my arrival in Amsterdam.

Lesson Learned: Don't Book Flights with Pets via a Partner Airline, such as Delta. They don't have the same policies and don't communicate with each other. A big fat mess! Go directly to the Airline that you are flying with.

Helena helped me get both dogs through Security clearance in Madrid. The dogs were taken to be boarded and I had to run to my gate as it was boarding. All seemed well for the Amsterdam flight. Arrived on time and was heading to my gate, knowing that I still was not certain whether the two dogs had been accepted for the flight from Amsterdam to SFO. As fate would have it, it was literally a mile from gate to gate and then my heart sank when I saw that there was a sea of people waiting to get through Immigration to get to the gates. During my wait in line, I called Delta to see if they had information regarding the approval for the dogs, but they did not know for certain. Got to my gate as they were boarding. Ground crew were very nice and were watching for the dogs to be boarded. Was in the last 10 people boarding, sweating it as to whether the dogs had been boarded, and finally, they did confirm. Nice flight to SFO. Great service, food, etc. All seemed well...

Once we arrived in San Francisco, I grabbed my bags and waited for the dogs. Waited and waited and waited -- for more than one hour. Inquired several times with angst regarding the two dogs. They could not find them! After much pacing and stress, they finally found them and the dogs were brought out. Loaded them onto the small luggage carts at the airport (no baggage handlers to help) and Guelo's larger-sized kennel kept falling off. I swear Guelo's fell off at least five times. It was truly a struggle all of the way. Had to get through Customs with the paperwork and then down two long hallways to get to where my Husband and the others were waiting for us. They could see me struggling via the airport cameras, but because of security, could not come to help. It was such a relief to see loving, happy faces once we got through security! We all hugged, and then we handed off the dogs.

Hallelujah! It all worked out! Determination and persistence truly pays off. Both Stewie and Guelo are now in their loving forever homes, and it was worth every single second to get them where they belong.

After all of this, I lodged formal complaints with KLM, the FTA, via Social Media and via their surveys. KLM did nothing to help or address the issues. I will not fly this airline in the future unless absolutely necessary, particularly with pets that are being transported. While their flights and crew are superb, their ticketing, booking and ground crews in various airports are a complete disaster with regard to customer service for animals. Perhaps they need training? Their gesture was to respond to me with a form letter, which had incorrect information. They never have offered to do anything to try to mend their mishaps. Very disappointing that they do not care - at all...

Guelo's "Happily Ever After"
Guelo was fostered by our Greyhound rescue group President, and was just recently adopted into his forever home. The great news is that Guelo, Stewie and every single Scooby dog that I've brought back over the past five years has been adopted into a loving, forever home. :-)
Guelo is Ready for His Long Journey to His Forever Home in California
This is Guelo Running in the Back Yard at his Foster Home in California.
Here he is with Bond, Another Scooby Rescue Adopted by
Greyhound Friends for Life President, Barbara Judson.
Guelo has been Adopted and is now in his Forever Home. :-)

Stewie's "Happily Ever After"
Stewie is now in his forever home in Berkeley, California, living a great life with Jack and Greg. They often send me updates and photos. He is truly one special dog! So happy for him. 
Stewie - Ready for His Long Journey to His Forever Home in California
Recent Photos of Stewie.
Look How Big He is and So Very Handsome too!
It Was All Worth It!
Look How Happy He Is. :-)
Next Visit, April 2016
Next trip is booked! Traveling to Germany to visit Marie for a few days, and then on to Madrid to meet up with Mora and Nancy to travel to Scooby.  We'll spend a few days in Madrid and also plan to visit Char and 112 Carlota Galgos in Malaga on a day trip.  We will bring back two Scooby dogs for adoption via Greyhound Friends for Life: Leonardo and Julietta.  

Leonardo will be Available for Fostering and Adoption
Through Greyhound Friends for Life

Julietta will also be Available for Fostering and Adoption
Through Greyhound Friends for Life
We also plan to bring one or two dogs from a pererra for Hound Sanctuary, now based in Oregon. Stay tuned for more information.

Hasta Luego! Thank you for reading my blog. Bless sends her blessings! Sara sends smiles! Wilma sends kisses and hugs!

Our gorgeous Galga, Bless!
Our gorgeous Galga, Sara!
Our gorgeous Greyhound, Wilma!
Please support Scooby, Greyhound Friends for Life,  112 Carlota Galgos and Hound Sanctuary!

Know an organization that will donate dog food? Please let me know.


  1. Absolutely fantastic to read this - thank goodness there are people that make this world a better place.

  2. I'm interested in volunteering at Scooby someday. While I'm waiting I'm reading about experiences of others who have volunteered. Thanks for sharing!