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Barking mad

My newly chosen lifestyle includes dedicating a good portion of my time to volunteering. I think this is the best way to learn and acquire a lot of skills while at the same time helping others.

One of my favourite times in the week are the two days I volunteer for a local animal non-profit, ANIMALS WITHOUT FRONTIERS. It is certainly not a clean job – if you know what I mean – , and at times it is even dangerous. I’ve lost count of the number of sweaters I have had to throw because of the dogs’ overwhelming love!

This organization was started by my friend Marisa Caride some 17 years ago. They have two shelters near the area where I live now, in northwestern Spain. As is sadly usual, the shelters are overcrowded, and we have our share of horror stories to tell, but there are also the good ones.

Chispas (Sparks) is a good example. She was brought to us after having suffered an accident which had left her rear legs paralysed. At first we thought her chances of surviving were pretty slim, but three weeks and a lot of love and care afterwards she is sitting on my bed as I write this (we had to bring her in to our house, she was so badly hurt), feeling quite satisfied with herself in that way cats have – you know.

Part of the organization’s mission is educating adopters and audience in general about the need for spaying and neutering our pets. We have had lots of puppies who die before the fourth month from parvovirosis, even though they have been vaccinated, just because they are forced to live in an environment which is unhealthy for them – puppies are usually separated from adults in the shelter, but this is not always possible.

Our work would be lost without the help of several vets who help us for a reduced fee or even for free (thanks especially to Carlos and Marcos), and also of a lot of people who help us bringing food, blankets, or journals (a very coveted commodity!).

So I wanted to start this year saying thank you to all of them, and encouraging you to contact your local shelter and lend them a hand in any way you can. Or maybe go to the Animal Prevention Institute webpage and see how you can help
Photo by Sandhu
See Sandhu’s galleries here

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Greener pastures

Greener pastures, originalmente cargada por Vince Alongi.

I wanted to include this photo in my first post, but was uncertain as to how to do it. Its title is “Greener Pastures”, and is one of many fantastic photographs by Vince Alongi. You can see his galleries in http://www.flickr.com/photos/vincealongi/, and his profile in Facebook. Thanks, Vince, for you kind e-mail and the permission to reproduce this wonderful image

Middle-aged woman turns freelance

For seventeen years, I have been working at a stable, well-paid job. I worked only for about 6 hours a day, so I had ample time to pursue any other interests – and I have: painting, crafting, writing poetry, playing the fiddle, horseriding and what not.

The problem with pursuing your interests (the real ones) is that, sooner or later, you get caught in them, and then your paying job becomes a nuisance, something you do only because you have to (we all have to eat, after all).

I realized this last year when I had a car accident that kept me at home for 5 months. At first, I was too ill to even think, and I was having medication which kept me asleep most of the day. As things got better, however, I began to realize I could not, and would not , come back to my teaching job. I wanted to paint and write, I wanted to move back to Ireland, and above all I wanted to escape from the oppressive feeling that was getting more and more at me.

So, after much thinking and planning, I decided to leave. Since my pets – two dogs and a cat- had to undergo quarantaine, I decided to buy a van (which took almost all my savings) and travel through France with a friend until I could take my extended family to Ireland. I would stop wherever fancy took me (I was thinking Normandy) and temp while I waited. I am quite a frugal person (more on that later), so I thought even if I only found a job as a waitress or cleaner or something like that, I could manage. And out we went for our great adventure.

Then, of course, disaster struck. The van’s engine broke down completely and I was left homeless, jobless and penniless. Fortunately, I could have a respite at a friend’s house and mull things over. Then I decided to come back to Spain, where I still had most of my friends, and begin afresh.

I am now living with another friend of mine (a fantastic woman who manages a dog shelter), giving private classes and doing writing and researching jobs whenever I can, sometimes for nonprofits and for free – and I’ve found it sooo liberating.

I am still – almost – penniless, but I feel completely freed from the daily drab. My private classes allow me to plan for students individually, increasing their success rate – something that didn’t happen when I was teaching large classes; and my writing and researching jobs, even if they are volunteering ones, allow me to learn and develop qualifications I didn’t even know that I had!

So I have decided to remain a freelance writer and researcher, and that journey is what I am going to talk about in this blog. Hope it is useful or entertaining to you