25 Apr, 2022 @ 10:12
4 mins read

Shaggy dog stories: Diary of a volunteer at ADANA animal shelter in Estepona on Spain’s Costa del Sol

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Ian Ryles Adana

BECOMING emotionally invested at ADANA quickly results in a steady diet of bitter-sweet farewells, tears, laughter and fist-pumping jubilation, and early April saw us partying like a government in lock-down, as Harlequin was homed. 

To those who knew him, it was a mystery why Harlequin was ever at ADANA. A huge, calm and affectionate mastin-cross, he was a joy to walk and is perhaps the world’s most photogenic dog; a piece of beauty, able to wrap the rugged, mountain scenery around him, as if he were a 1980s pop-star, in a self-directed music video. 

Calm and affectionate, Harlequin.

Harlequin shared his pen with two other dogs; London, little more than a large puppy, and Clancy, little more than a small idiot. 

At only a year old, London’s presence, at ADANA, is almost as great a mystery as Harlequin’s was.

 A sweet and intelligent girl, she will respond to affection by snuggling in, as closely as she possibly can and rolling over for belly rubs in 3… 2… 1… there she goes. 


It is something that we volunteers should focus on, with London, that we need to temper some of that affection, by preventing her from jumping up, as she is already quite big enough to put her paws on your shoulders and look you square in the eyes, knowing that she’ll get her ears scratched, as a result. 

It isn’t that we don’t know that this isn’t acceptable behaviour for a dog of her size, but rather that it is utterly adorable and we just can’t bring ourselves to do it. 

Clancy has Tigger-like qualities.

Clancy, meanwhile, is a little more challenging. To borrow the official, ADANA description, take Winnie the Pooh’s Tigger, shrink him to the size of a galgo, replace his head with that of a podenco and give him 5 large espressos. 

Clancy is a maniac, although far from an unlovable one. Indeed, if he can stay still long enough, he too loves a cuddle. He’s a soft, little guy, really; just a somewhat crazy one. 

In the absence of Harlequin, I attempted to walk the two of them together. Not ten metres from the shelter, Clancy had wrapped both of my legs around two of London’s and three of his own into a complex ‘cats-cradle’, having discovered which pocket the treats were in and attempting to climb into it. 

The following week, as I began a walk with a single, well-behaved dog, I saw Nando, another, regular volunteer, make the same mistake. I gave a cheery wave and walked on, in the glowing arrogance of my newly discovered wisdom. Good luck unshuffling that pack of cards, my friend! Good luck! 

The homing of one of the large dogs is a massive deal, but there are small wins, too, that can be tremendously rewarding. 

Apollo arrived at ADANA around 6 months ago, a little less than a year old and having spent most of his life chained to a post. 

He is a big, beautiful and friendly mastin, eager to initiate play with other dogs, but too boisterous and without any manners, so that other dogs (and probably bears, rhinos and dragons) almost always become intimidated, leaving him over-excited, frustrated and unmanageable. 

He had always been in a pen, on his own, due to his size and energy but now, we needed to find Apollo a pen-mate and he needed to learn how to dog, properly. 

Dream team: Apollo and Berlin being walked by Ian.

Having attempted to walk him with several dogs and registering only fails, we tried Berlin, a rescued birthing-mother, from a puppy farm. Rather smaller than Apollo but substantial enough, and in no way intimidated by large males, Berlin was prepared to take none of his nonsense. This was when we discovered that Apollo had a ‘type’ – confronted with a confident, robust female, Apollo would roll onto his back, like a puppy. 

Some big guys are like that and I’ve no wish to kink-shame, but it was the clue we needed. We subsequently found two other girls (Janelle and Sari) able to put Apollo completely in his place, while he grinned, happily and melted like butter at an August barbeque. 

With Apollo and Berlin paired, Janelle now shares a pen with my old friend, Wolfy, the amiable scruff, so that two of The Lonely Boys are not quite so lonely as they were. Small wins. 

 All this leaves only three dogs without pen-mates. 

Catch, a magnificent german shepherd who (and you might spot a theme, here) shouldn’t be at ADANA and Zeus, a truly enormous and awesome mastin who (you guessed it) should not, either. 

Catch is very intelligent.

 ADANA offers these dogs security, sustenance, and not a little love, but that’s not sufficient for a dog like Catch, who is very intelligent and requires constant, mental stimulation. 

When walking, he will alternate between perfection (completely attentive, with his head against your hip – clearly showing that he has previously had training) and obsessive, excited pulling, as he approaches water; his favourite thing, even beyond a tennis ball. 

Catch loves the water, to the point that those of us, in the know, will attach two leads together, allowing him to play, while we remain (mostly) dry. 

Zeus walked by 12-year-old Maddie.

 Zeus has been with us around 6 months and represents ADANA’s biggest unit. When he arrived, he had no understanding of what a lead was, and became very frightened if anyone attempted to show him. 

A few months’ work by some very patient volunteers, putting the lead on, taking it off, and offering affection and congratulations, followed by gently leading him around his pen, has resulted in a new ‘leash of life’ for Zeus.

When friends visited, through Easter, Zeus was very happy to be walked by Maddison (12), plodding contentedly along with her, never any trouble to anyone. 

Loveable Lucky

 …and the last of the three most hard to home is, of course, Lucky. It is fortunate, for humanity, that Lucky lacks the mental capacity to wholly bring down civilisation but he continues to do his bit. We remain committed to the belief that Lucky is a real dog, rather than a furry, dog-shaped demon but it is policy, at ADANA, that were someone to adopt him, only to later find that he was indeed a hairy demon, a full refund would be offered. 

If you would like to donate, volunteer or offer an abandoned dog a home, find more information on the ADANA facebook page HERE


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