Dear Bijou, I’m so sorry I called you a mutt

BIJOU: The Patterdale terrier (Left) and Fifi with Kath Mason (right) who plans to celebrate her 94th birthday in Benidorm in April.

ALMOST six years ago two small rescue dogs nervously entered our 31st floor apartment.

Acquired from the delightful Linda Jean, who established a charity called For the Love of Cats and Dogs after she settled in Spain in 2009, the pair were discovered in a caravan, along with the corpse of their owner who had apparently died a few days before.

The traumatised animals were a whisker away from being euthanised, and Linda was desperate to find a home for them.

The impulsive side of my nature overcame my concerns that our apartment might not be the right environment for the pair, but when my partner Marcus (now my husband) and I met Bijou and Fifi we decided to at least give them temporary shelter.

If things did not work out, we reasoned, we would have time to find them more suitable accommodation.

Happily, as it turned out, they settled in well, and now are a firmly established part of our family. At the time of the adoption in September 2012 we knew that Fifi was a Miniature Pinscher, but Bijou was a totally unknown entity both to us and Linda.

There was clearly a peppering of terrier in him but the rest of his make-up was a complete mystery.

We assumed he was a mongrel; simply a lovely, affectionate mutt.

Then something happened that took us completely by surprise last week. Marcus and I fell into conversation in Benidorm’s Company Bar with a Yorkshire husband and wife who had come to Spain with a view to retire here in a couple years.

We discussed everything from property prices to the availability of Fray Bentos tinned pies. Somehow we got onto the subject of pets.

I whipped out my phone to show them pictures of our dogs. “Fifi,” I said, “is a pedigree Min-Pin but Bijou is just a mutt.”

“Oh no. You’re dead wrong there. He’s definitely not a mongrel,” insisted the husband.

“What you have is a rare breed called a Patterdale terrier.”

Instantly we began using our smartphones to Google the breed, and within minutes found a host of pictures of Bijou lookalikes on Patterdale websites.

These sites informed us that they were first bred in Britain’s Lake District in the 60’s. In artificial light, Bijou is pitch black except for his white beard and muzzle, but sunlight brings out several interesting details in his colouring.

I perched him on the table and said “you, Mr Bijou Patterdale, will pose for a picture,” so he did, albeit a little apprehensively.

Now I should point out that Linda is somewhat of a celebrity, who features from time to time in a popular Channel 5 series called Bargain Loving Brits in the Sun.

Emma Lewis, writing in her Copy Maker blog on February 16, said that Linda had ‘won the hearts of millions of viewers’ by telling the story of her life’s mission to rescue abandoned and abused dogs from all over the Spanish Costa.

She is far from being the only expat who cares deeply for animals in Spain. Another charity I’d like to bring to readers’ attention is the Easy Horse Care Centre – the only officially registered horse rescue centre foundation in Spain – started by Sue and Rod Weeding in 2008.

From humble beginnings, it now cares for more than 90 horses, ponies and donkeys. The centre says on its website: “Our mission is to rescue and rehabilitate abused, neglected and abandoned horses, ponies and donkeys, while campaigning for the better treatment of animals across Spain.

“We are a no-kill foundation and provide each rescued animal with a safe and loving sanctuary – either here at our centre or via rehoming – for the rest of their lives.”

We’d adopt a pony in a blink of an eye, but our high rise living sadly makes that an impossibility. If you would like to donate to either charity, look them up on Facebook.

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