Tessa Booltink is a 20-year-old animal management student at university in Holland learned a lot during her stay with PAWS-PATAS . She and two of her classmates, Teuntje van Marwijk and Nikki Berkel, chose PAWS as their destination for the 10-week internship abroad prescribed by their course. This is Tessa's account of their time in Spain, in her own words.
"I had heard about PAWS from a friend who sent me a link to a blog on the internet. It was written by a girl who was been there as a volunteer - she described the shelter as a lovely place with the sweetest dogs, very nice people to work with and also a lot to learn. Because I not only love to work with dogs but I am also a huge sun lover it wasn’t that hard to decide!
"PAWS was really helpful with tips about booking plane tickets, and they organised someone to pick us up from the airport, take us shopping and then drive us to the Shelter. We had a guided tour of everything, and were shown our caravan in which to sleep and live for the ten weeks - it was really cozy and fun. It took me two nights to get used to the dogs barking, but after that I mostly slept like a log."
"I have never learned so much on a internship," said Tessa. "You learn a lot about the behaviour of dogs when they come into the shelter, and you see the difference with those dogs a few weeks later. To work on the change of a dog is so rewarding. I really fell in love with two dogs who were in the top section; Spencer (below right) and Jellybean (with Tessa at top of the page). They just had something which I can't really describe - but it was very special.Tessa, Teuntje and Nikki spent the first two weeks working in the quarantine block, but by the end of their stay had helped in every part of the shelter and got a really good all-round view of PAWS.
The girls made good use of their time off, visiting some of the local towns and exploring the nearby hills. "We fell in love with this part of Spain. We went to Turré and Mojácar lots of times, grocery shopping, clothes shopping or just walking through the nature and taking pictures. It is a real culture shock to come from Holland (which is so flat) to this part of Spain but you adjust very soon. "It was heartbreaking when I went to say goodbye at the end of our stay. The moment I went into Jellybean's kennel I just broke down. And when I said goodbye to Spencer he just crawñled onto my lap and lay there, as if he knew why I had come. He had never just laid in my lap before, and when I got up to leave, he just put his front paws on my arm. It really tore me apart. It just shows how much the dogs can come to meant to you in such a short time.
And Tessa has a message for any others considering doing a spell as a volunteer at PAWS:
"My experience at the PAWS shelter was just amazing! If you ever get the chance to work there as a volunteer or as a intern, go for it! You learn so much and get the chance to work with such lovely people and dogs. And of course it is a beautiful place to stay."