Man’s best friends

There are thousands of abandoned dogs in the Algarve that need a better life. How to help them?

In the next few pages you’ll learn about what it takes to run a dog sanctuary and what you’ll need to consider before adopting a dog. Also, there’s a range of super cute doggies waiting for a new home and some fun tips to enjoy time with your canine. 

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine October 2015


A look behind the scenes in a dog sanctuary

Barking, tail wagging, jumping, sniffing, howling, or just looking at you with those big eyes. Arrive at the New Goldra Dog Sanctuary and you’re greeted by 120 dogs, all asking for attention and waiting for a new owner.

Ready to adopt? Click here for the link to page 7 of our October 2015 issue. Want to know a bit more about what it takes to run a dog sanctuary? Read on!


I just kept finding them

New Goldra Dog sanctuary’s founder Jan Henderson (49) came to the Algarve ten years ago. With her she brought six dogs from the UK and one that was already rescued from Portugal. Soon, there were 45 dogs living in her house: “I just kept finding them in terrible conditions; I couldn’t turn my back on them.”

In 2011 she moved to where the New Goldra Dog sanctuary is located, in the hills near Loulé. Currently the place is home to 120 dogs. Jan lives on site: “I don’t care where I sleep, as long as I have a bed.”


Boxes of puppies at the gate

If it wasn’t for space issues, there’d already be 1200 dogs at the sanctuary. “I mostly get calls or emails, but I’ve also stumbled on boxes of puppies that were left at our gate and even discovered dogs tied to our fence posts in the early morning.”

Apart from one German Shepherd, all dogs are mixed breeds, and quite a lot of them have some Podengo (Portuguese hunting dogs). Their ages range from 8 weeks to 16 years; the older ones all stay together in a kennel which has sofas to chill out on. The dogs are divided over 20 separate areas, some only containing two, others almost a dozen. Why these different sections? “Some dogs just don’t get along,” Jan answers. Usually a male and a female dog together make a good combi.


30 kg of food a day

At the New Goldra Dog Sanctuary, the day starts at 8am. That’s every single day, including Sundays, birthdays and Christmas. First, the puppies and dogs that need special medication are fed. Then all the others. Mixing up the food and feeding takes about 2.5 hours – contrary to some other Portuguese dog sanctuaries, at Goldra every dog gets fed in its own bowl to ensure they all get the amount they need. Afterwards it’s time for cleaning out the kennels and for shopping: each day the sanctuary gets through 30kg of dog food, plus 12 tins and some special puppy food.

The rest of the day is spent walking, cleaning and topping up the water. Not all the dogs get walked every day, timewise it’s just impossible. There are six volunteers working at Goldra, from people who come a few hours to fulltime volunteer Vicki Wyatt (28) who helps out six days a week. At 5pm, it’s time for the second feed which ends at about 7pm.



People prefer puppies

When taking in dogs, Jan tries to keep to the Loulé, Faro and Boliqueime area. “But if I hear a particularly sad story, I’ll take it in anyway.” Some of the dogs are unadoptable: an epileptic one that Jan has picked up in the first month she got here, for example, will probably stay with her for the rest of its life.

“Puppies are easy to adopt, but once they get past 7 or 8 months it gets harder.” Still, in the last year, the team has managed to rehome seven dogs that have been in the sanctuary for over three years. In 2014, the sanctuary has done 112 adoptions. This year: 70 and counting.


Sterilisation is key

All dogs that come to the sanctuary are sterilized. According to Jan, the Portuguese attitude to sterilisation needs to change: “If they’d sterilise they wouldn’t be putting bags of puppies in the bin anymore.” Sterilisation is key: the government needs to step in. “If we get a pregnant dog, it gets sterilised and the unborn puppies get aborted. It’s solving future problems.”

“My goal? To have under a hundred dogs here so we can give them all a bit more attention, walk them every day and train them a bit more. My aim is to see every dog in the Algarve sterilised. Well, aim, currently it’s looking more like a dream.”


Money matters!

Jan spends €60 a day on dog food alone and doesn’t receive any government support. How does she afford it all? By a mixture of fundraising events, dog sponsoring, calendar selling, donations and adoptions.

However, the cost of the adoption (which varies, but ranges between €50 for a puppy and €100 for an adult dog) barely covers the costs of the vaccinations and the food. Want to help out, either by volunteering, donating, sponsoring or adopting a dog? Go to their website.


Think before you adopt

Adopting one of the many abandoned dogs in the Algarve to give it a better home sounds appealing. But this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. There’s a lot that needs to be taken in account to ensure that you and your new best friend are a good match. How best to go about adopting a dog? Enjoy the Algarve talks to dog mediator Marianne Abbenhuis for some advice.

“Apart from enjoying the nice weather and the beaches in the Algarve, I also wanted to contribute in a positive way,” Marianne Abbenhuis (50+) explains why she decided to volunteer in the first place. She doesn’t live in the south of Portugal, but visits the region several times a year. During each holiday, she spends some time with 2ndhand4footers, an organisation that rescues and rehomes stray animals. There, Marianne helps with cleaning, grooming the dogs, feeding them and even sometimes joins them for a swim. An equally important part of her work is about attention and socialising, as most rescued dogs suffer from traumas and need their trust in humanity re-established.

A real dog lover, Marianne herself owns five canines: Bica & Hummer (both Portuguese Cão de Serra d’Aires), Saar & Jessie (both mixed-breed dogs from an animal shelter in Greece) and little Freddie (a Podengo mix). Next to taking care of this pack and volunteering at the shelter, she also is a mediator in dog adoptions from the Algarve to Holland. Her main task: finding the perfect match between a dog and its new owner. “For example: an unexperienced first time dog owner shouldn’t pick a big Serra da Estrela (Portuguese mountain dog) or a Rafeiro do Alentejo (Portuguese watch dog), as they can be quite tricky to train,” she explains.

While mediating, Marianne doesn’t only take the breed into account, but also the environment. “Currently, I’m looking for a dog for my father’s retirement home. Naturally, it should be social, sweet and quiet. But also it shouldn’t beg for food or suddenly jump on your lap as some pensioners might be scared. And seeing as most people in the home won’t be able to walk long distances anymore, it should be happy with a small stroll through the gardens.” Although an enriching experience, adopting a rescued dog isn’t for everyone and Marianne visits the new family first to ensure the dog gets an appropriate home: “If I have any doubts, the dog doesn’t go. And if for some reason the adoption doesn’t work out, I guarantee that I’ll always take back the dog to find it a more suitable home,” she concludes.


Thinking about adopting a dog from the Algarve as well?

Marianne gives seven tips:

1. Ask yourself: ‘do I have time for a dog?’
This is one of the most important questions before deciding to adopt a dog. Apart from a loving home, dogs need regular feeding, grooming, exercise, and a lot of attention. Look at your own living situation and ask yourself if you can currently provide those five things. If you’re in a fulltime job with long working hours, for example, it might be a better idea to wait until you’ve got more spare time.


2. Think about what dog would be best suited to you
Do you want to go for an hour-long walk four times a day, or would you rather have a dog that doesn’t need so much exercise? (Do realise, dogs also need to go for walks if it rains). Check if your house and garden are big enough for the dog you’d like to adopt.

Make sure to do a lot research beforehand and don’t decide on looks alone: the big ears of a Beagle are very cute, but they don’t mean this dog’s the world’s best listener. Seeing as it’s a hunting dog, its instinct takes over once it has spotted a cat, no matter how loud you call its name.


3. Get in touch with a reliable organisation
This way, you’ll know that everything is taken care of and you’ll get a healthy dog, with chip, passport and all necessary vaccinations. Dogs from 2ndhand4footers will be trained for the new home environment as they have been following classes at the Pawsitive Dogs school in Loulé. Also, a reliable organisation can give you information about the character of the dog.

Whatever you do: don’t just pick a dog from the street and take it with you. In Portugal, many dogs roam the streets without a collar. However, most of them do have an owner who will be very sad when their pet has suddenly gone.


4. Realise there are costs involved
When adopting a dog, naturally you also have to pay for its passport, chip, and vaccinations. When living abroad and adopting a dog from Portugal, you’ll have to take care of the costs of the transport back to your home country as well.


5. If you’re adopting a puppy, subscribe to an obedience course
Why? The same reason you send your kids to school. The people leading the course are professionals and they can give you good advice on how to properly train a dog. Is your dog already well trained? Brilliant. Do still go to dog training, as actually, this course is mostly meant for the owner.

6. Take your time
When your dog arrives, take a few days off work so you can spend some time getting to know it and adjust to the new routine. Don’t rush the training and/or let your dog off the leash too soon; something might scare it and cause it to run away.


7. Give the dog some time as well
Just like you have to get used to your new dog, the dog has to get used to you. Make sure it has its own place in your house, like a dog crate, which should be solely dedicated to the dog and not a fun place for your kids to play hide and seek.

Puppies usually adapt quite quickly to new surroundings, but older dogs can take several weeks before they feel at home in your house. Don’t rush them; friends for life aren’t made in five minutes.

Interested in helping out? Contact 2ndhand4footers. Also get in touch if you’re travelling to and from the Algarve with Transavia and happy to help with the transport of dogs and or cats by plane as a flight parent. All costs are taken care of by the new owners, just as the transport to Faro airport. Want to adopt a dog or donate to 2ndhand 4footers? Check out their website.


Adopt me?

Looking for a dog? Perfect! Wilbur, Porsche, Spirit, Sax, Bono, Dexter and Johnnie are looking for a new owner. Swipe down to find your new best friend. We promise: in real life, they are even cuter than here on the photos!

All dogs pictured below, and many, many more, can be adopted via the New Goldra Dog Sanctuary. Interested? Get in touch with Jan Henderson by phone (91 889 5791) or email.



sex: male
age: 5 months
weight: 25kg when adult

Wilbur loves toys, other dogs and cuddles. He’s very gently natured and will be great for a family with young children, especially if they have a big garden where he can run around. He’s young, so he still needs some training.



sex: female
age: 6 years
weight: 10kg

Porsche likes walking, people and a quiet life. This lovely lady is already an old girl who has had a lot of puppies in her lifetime. She is great with other dogs and would make a perfect companion for an older person.



sex: male
age: 10 weeks
weight: 12kg when adult

Spirit likes balls, toys and people. He has only been with the sanctuary for a little while, but he’s ready for adoption. Seeing as he’s very young, he needs training and a new owner who can give him a lot of attention.


sex: male
age: 10 weeks
weight: 12kg when adult

Sax likes discovering, playing and people. Just like his brother Spirit, he’s only been with the sanctuary for a little while, but he too is ready for adoption. Seeing as he’s very young, he needs training and a new owner who can give him a lot of attention.



sex: male
age: 3 years
weight: 20kg

Bono loves chilling out and walking on a lead. He doesn’t do drama, but instead is very well behaved and has quite a calm personality. Bono would make an ideal pet for people who want an easy going dog.



sex: male
age: 6 years
weight: 30kg

Dexter adores people and is very good on a lead. He’s also very good around other dogs, but he doesn’t like cats that much. This German Shepherd needs someone who can spend a lot of time with him as he loves to have company.


sex: male
age: 18 months
weight: 16kg

Johnnie is playful and very friendly. He’s very good with other dogs and has a gentle personality. He’s still young so he needs some training and he’d do well with people who have a house with garden and an active lifestyle.


What to do with a dog?

Going for your daily Algarve walk on the beach with your furry friend. Boooo-ring. This month, spice up your exercise round and opt for something more original. Like this:


Dog surfing

What’s even cooler than surfing (see Enjoy the Algarve’s September issue)? Dog surfing of course. Put Fido on your surf board and take to the waves. Just make sure to attach the leash to your foot on one end and the board on the other, not the dog.

Tip: choose your dog’s spot on the board wisely. A Great Dane should not sit on the tip. You will sink.

Picture by Frank Kovalchek


Dog canoeing

Who says you have to leave the dog at home when you’re going canoeing? You do the paddling and Boomer will be more than happy to sit and chill, especially if it can chase the birds on that deserted island afterwards.

Tip: make sure your dog knows the ‘sit and stay’ command. Ever tried hauling a 30kg Labrador back onto the canoe? Next to impossible.

Picture by Marijke Verschuren


Dog Frisbee

Why let Lola chase a ball if you can also play Frisbee? It probably has something to do with the UFO shape, but fact is: dogs that catch Frisbees (no, not those hard plastic ones, they will hurt) are that much cooler than their ball-chasing counterparts.

Tip: Frisbee is like balls for experts. It only works if your dog knows how to fetch. If it doesn’t, you’re better off buying a boomerang instead.

Picture by Marijke Verschuren


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine October 2015

Posted in Features.

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