One of the fine qualities that I greatly admire in British and other expats living in Spain, is their willingness to share their home with a stray dog or cat. Many newly arrived expats quickly recognise the plight of stray and unwanted animals in Spain.

Unlike the UK, there are few animal shelters and animal welfare charities dedicated to caring for and rehoming unwanted dogs and cats. Over the years, the situation has improved, thanks in many ways to the dedication of expats who have taken it upon themselves to establish charities and to raise funds to support rehoming and education projects.

For us, a bedraggled puppy that looked much like a fruit bat, burst into our lives fourteen years ago, following an announcement on a radio programme that I was involved in whilst working in the Costa Blanca. Bella, as she was named, quickly became a much-loved part of our family, sharing her new home with our loveable, yet stubborn corgi, Barney, and later with Mac, a house cat, who sat firmly at the top of the family chain of command.

Over the years, Bella has become an intrinsic part of our expat adventure and now lives with us in the Canary Islands.

We are often told that, if we are fortunate, we live longer than our ancestors, which is why the age of retirement has been extended and why we are all now expected to work longer. However, with advancing years comes the health problems associated with ageing that our ancestors did not share. It is the same for animals too, and this is the stage that Bella has now entered. For many years, Bella has been a fit, healthy and lively dog, visiting the vet each year for her annual check-up and vaccinations.

Over recent years, we have modified her diet to accommodate the ageing process. Last year, Bella lost her hearing, which did not seem to trouble her unduly. Although she could no longer respond to our voice commands, her sense of smell rapidly improved. Instead of listening and responding to voice commands, Bella simply followed our hand signals and seemed to sense what we wanted her to do.

Several weeks ago, we noticed that Bella’s sight was also failing. She occasionally fell off the edge of a pavement when she was out for a walk or she would walk into a plant or a post. Inside the house, she behaved normally, even running up and down stairs without any problem at all.

Our vet advised us to take Bella to a specialist, since the surgery was not equipped to deal with major eye issues and suggested that we take Bella to see a consultant at the University Veterinary Hospital, which is where vets are trained.

The veterinary hospital will only see animals that have been referred to them by local vets, and they offer a limited number of appointments. Bella was seen by an ophthalmic specialist, accompanied by a number of final year veterinary students. It was impressive to listen to the clear diagnosis of Bella’s condition by the specialist and the depth of questioning and treatment suggestions from the final year students.

As well as a thorough eye examination, Bella had an echogram, during which it was found that much of Bella’s condition was age related.  However, an ulcer was found on her eye, which was causing her discomfort, and might require surgery. Due to Bella’s advancing years, this was the least preferred option.

Over a period of the next four weeks, we administered antibiotics and pain relief drops into Bella’s eyes four times a day, as well as encouraging her to drink liquid medicine. This was not an easy process, which we dreaded as much as Bella. The snarling and growling when administering drops indicated just a little of the discomfort and anger that Bella was so forcibly expressing.

Each time we returned to the veterinary hospital, there was an improvement. The specialist finally confirmed that the ulcer had healed and that Bella was no longer in any pain and would not require surgery. It was a huge relief and we are grateful for the care and specialist support that Bella has received. 

Sadly, Bella has lost nearly all of her eyesight with just a little peripheral vision remaining. However, as I write this, she is soundly asleep and snoring. Bella continues to be interested in all that is going on; she enjoys her food and eats well. She plays with some of her toys and enjoys a very short walk on a lead. Although we know that our time with Bella is limited, we are certainly going to make the most of the time that we have left with her.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at my websites: and or read my latest book, ‘Living in Spain and the Canary Islands’ (ISBN: 9780995602724). Available in paperback, as well as Kindle editions.

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