It’s been quite a while since my last blog. Why? Well, it’s been a busy time here in Cave Land. Since Cueva Limon opened in April of this year we have seen a steady flow of guests – family, friends, travellers from holiday booking sites like Airbnb etc. It has been full steam ahead and then more!
We have been proud to welcome many interesting people from all over the world to Cueva Limon. A few lovely guests have given us their own tips and ideas to the what they felt could benefit future guests. We just love constructive feedback.
From our own perspective, we have been able to see for ourselves what works well, which areas we can improve on and any changes we can implement to ensure future guests get the best possible holiday that we can provide.
The little things we have picked up from our guests are; to have a magnifying mirror in the main bedroom; to install the table tennis table inside the wood shed (it was far to hot most days to use the table out in the garden area) and; we have fine tuned the timing of when to prepare the hot water for the jacuzzi (remember it is heated by means of a wood burning stove). These little things keep our guest happy and that is what it’s all about.
On top of these small changes we are proud to announce that 2022 will end with 3 new experiences that we can offer to our future guests.
FIrstly, we are preparing a strip of land to be used for archery sessions. I have always wanted to do archery and, although rarely hit the target, I am really enjoying the experience. I hope our guests will too.
Secondly, we are building a double adult chair swing which will overlook the beautiful views we have at the front of our cave. This swing has been in the planning for quite a while and I purchased the seats two years ago so this is a long time coming. Hopefully, the wood is being delivered next week from Wood2Go and, with the help of a good friend, will be ready to use in a matter of weeks. I cannot wait. This is a similar image but ours will have proper seats to sit and relax after a tiring day in the jacuzzi.
Thirdly and not so exciting to most, is to insert the swing ball post into concrete. The base that comes with the set has not lasted long and is quite inadequate for hitting the ball any harder than a tap. Before you say ‘Isn’t swing ball a childs toy?”, I would reply that it was a fun game for any age. I love it and I’m the wrong side of 60. When it’s firmly cemented into the ground the game can really commence.
Hopefully, with the few minor changes and three good additions to enhance our guests experience, 2023 will be a great year for us all. Please take a look at Cueva Limon website and see what we can offer for your next holiday. Don’t forget, our prices stay the same all year round. My biggest pet hate is that prices rise during school holidays leaving families and people working within the constraints of school terms with often a massive rise in the cost of enjoying a holiday abroad. Take a look and if you have any questions please get in touch. http://www.caveholidays.com
To choose, purchase and install a hot tub is easy isn’t it? I can honestly answer that question with a, ‘Hell no!’ For me it has been a lengthy road from beginning to end with many things to consider at every stage.
My first consideration was on style and size. I had imagined something slightly different from the circular or square tubs but large enough to easily accomodate 4 people. Size was important as I found the advertised 7-8 seater tubs may only be suitable for tiny people that like crowds and that’s not us.
Then there was a decision to be made on the type of hot tub. The all electric tubs ‘jacuzzi’ can be very expensive to heat the water and, in our case, would need a separate electrical feed from the main box, which when quoted for, was a small mortgage. However, after a little investigation I was introduced to the wood burning hot tubs (similar to what you may see in Sweden). With the water heated by wood, the only electricity necessary was for lights and jets which have minimal requirements. After installing an extra electric socket to the garden area where the hot tub was to be sited, we were all set.
I eventually found the perfect 8 sided tub with a wood burning stove, LED lights and lots of bubble jets – except it had to come from Estonia. If anyone is looking to start a new business within Spain then wood burning hot tubs would be a good choice!
After several months the hot tub arrived, and with the help of our local builder Miguel, was carefully located in the rear garden of the cave on top of the concrete base that had previously been prepared.
This is when my fun started. It was time to design the area around the hot tub and make it somewhere for ourselves and guest to relax and enjoy whether you were in or out of the tub. The design was not the only consideration – there was the practical issues too like how do you get into such a high tub!
The outdoor shower was built and floor tiled, the hot tub base was plastered, steps built, statues purchased, plants planted, gravel spread and blue grass laid. I now know that, at my tender age, my knees and back have lowered their limits of usage than ever before! Slowly it all took shape.
I wanted this particular area to be a continuation of the already established back garden keeping a flow all the way through. I hope I have achieved just that.
I am pleased with the outcome and looking forward to many happy hours sitting in the tub with a glass and a good book or just simply relaxing as I listen to the many birds around us. I cannot wait for guests to try it out too when we open Cueva Limon in April this year. Take a look at other photos we have at http://www.caveholidays.com.
As a fairly independent woman I like to think I can do most things for myself. Some of my friends may call this stubbornness but I like to think that it’s me trying out new ideas and ‘having a go’! In the past I have built steps, BBQ’s and fireplaces but, as an independent woman of a certain age, I now know that I have my limits.
I found my new limitations when I decided to build a table within the rear garden area! I wanted somewhere for friends, family and guests to sit and enjoy a BBQ and a good old natter. I began by taking my time planning the design – I will admit that my computer was a little frazzled with the amount of work it was doing as I experimented with ‘artistic’ drawings and random shapes – but it was fun.
My next task was to look at the size, shape and height of each of the six seats that were to go around the table. This was not an easy task as not only is moving breeze blocks from one place to another quite hard, the floor area ran in two different directions. Eventually, by experimenting with the different sized blocks, the seat areas were all marked out and all the calculations were safely recorded for the height of each seat compensating for the difference in floor levels.
Then came the building of the said seats. You may say that building solid shapes would be a fairly easy task. After all, it is just a number of breeze blocks, cemented together, to form seats! How hard can that be? Well, it was hard. Moving and lifting breeze blocks and mixing buckets and buckets of cement does require strength and agility. Apparently I have very little of both. But… I did it, eventually. We now had 6 ‘earthquake proof’ seats.
During one of my ‘I can do that’ periods I decided to buy several packs of mosaic tiles that are soooo tiny you need the patience of a saint to handle them or very fine tweezers. Using these tiles I set out to make mosaics for the six seats, and as the table will inevitably be used for eating, I chose different fruits for the designs. Most of the mosaics are self explanatory but you may need to use your imagination on a couple but who cares, that’s half the fun.
It was time to install the metal framework for the table top. This is when I seriously struggled, physically and mentally. What would we do if we did not have good friends to come to our rescue? I was so lucky to have a great friend who took over the construction of the table and saved my sanity. Without his help I would not have had the table that you see today.
Once the frame was in position and the bardos had been cut and placed inside the frame I could then begin designing the top of the table. Once I had placed a few tiles in different positions and decided on my final design it was a huge relief. I could see the end in sight. Tiles stuck down, grouting complete and the capa fina (plaster) area painted and I’m loving it.
I did forget to mention the mosaics that I added to the capa fina. It was a risk on my part as it I did want an uncomplicated look for the table top but I went for it anyway. I wanted to include a few Spanish words around the table by using my minute tiles. What fun that was! I found the mosaic words easy enough to do, (not perfect by any means but that’s me), but I will confess to reaching a point of desperation to find words without to many letter S’s or G’s in them! I finally went for Espana (Spain), Risa (laughter), Sangria (we all know that one), Amigos (friends), Paz (peace) and Sol (sun). All I can say is that it’s different.
To test the table we were going to have an afternoon bbq but, as it’s summer, the temperatures here in Spain were far too high to eat outdoors without proper shade so a breakfast was a great compromise. On the menu was a full cooked breakfast (selection of cheeses for John), croissants and bucks fizz. Hopefully, all our guinea pigs, (sorry, good friends), enjoyed it as much as we did. Thank you all.
The table is ready to be enjoyed by all our guests, friends and family for many years to come. However, if for some inexplicable reason it doesn’t last the test of time, then I will be buying a table and chairs from Amazon.es. I’ve built one table which is an experience I do not wish to repeat.
On to the next projects – games area and a two person swing!
Cave life continues during this weird and daunting time we find ourselves in. As the virus persists to threaten our lives, John and I are finding our happiness in the immediate part of the world we call home. Our cave has been our saviour. It has given us shelter, room to move, repair jobs to do and new ideas to design and build.
I don’t think we will ever be in a position where we can sit back and say, ‘ We are done’. It’s never going to happen but perhaps that’s a good thing…. it keeps us on our toes and certainly keeps us busy. We may have aching backs and bad legs between us but…. we carry on, as you do.
I have several projects ongoing at the moment. One of these projects is the building of a new table with seats within the rear garden area. The actual design of this table has changed 4 times from when I first sketched out a design on my computer. After transferring the design to the garden by placing breeze blocks to give me an idea of size and shape I decided that the first two designs were a little complicated (and that is slightly understated), How about a circular table with a base to match? All sounds good until you ask the local metal man if it’s possible to make a round frame for the table top so we can fit bardos within the frame and then tile. He simply said no – not possible! Plan B… how about 6 sided table top? That was a ‘yes’ so off he went. In the meantime I had a friend build a circular base for me as I really do not want to try cutting breeze blocks with a cutter. I will try most things and have my tools all lined up in the garage but not a large cutter that was needed to cut these bricks. I have my limits!
As of last week we have had the frame delivered and I have placed it on the base to give me an idea of the size. I am so pleased with the overall look – thankfully. Now… what size should the seats be? That appears to be a straightforward question and one that should be easily answered. So why did I find it so hard? Well, firstly the patio area for the table is not level. It runs down in two directions. As the table will be fairly level, (thanks Steve), the seats around the table will be differing heights. Eventually, I decided that after measuring the height of each of the 6 sides and working out the gap that would be needed between the top of the seat and bottom of the table, it became easier.
Ok, I’ve got the height sorted. Now for working out how far from the actual edge of the table the seats should be? They cannot be too close as someone like me would never get in. They cannot be too far away as smaller people would never reach their food or drinks! It was a few days of measuring and moving blocks about before I decided on what I think will be a good compromise and I’m sticking to it. Anyone that cannot reach the table can sit on my lap! So, the blocks have been positioned and tomorrow I am going to start to concrete them in.
Post note: the seats will have to wait as I was called to have my first jab yesterday and not quite feeling up to cementing today. Perhaps tomorrow.
Yes, builders are back but I’ve found them to be very controllable. Lots of coffee, throw in sausage sandwiches with the occasional KitKat and they are as happy as Larry (Well Darren actually but it didn’t sound right).
All cave owners are aware that each cave house is unique and comes with its own set of problems. We have also learnt that each cave can have different issues within each cave room. Caves need air flow, more so than the traditional homes, and depending on your particular area, constant upkeep. Issues with saltpeter and damp can be a constant headache in some cave. We are lucky as we do not have damp issues. Whether that is our surrounding area around the cave system or if it’s due to the cave system going straight through the hillside giving us a front and a back. It certainly helps with ventilation that’s so important to the cave environment. We do however, suffer from saltpeter in some parts of our cave.
Most of our cave rooms are great and have not been touched in the 3 years we have been here but we have two main areas that need constant attention. One of our corridor walls has had 3 different treatments to try and halt the saltpeter that is seeping through. My last attempt appears to be holding it back but I still have my fingers crossed.
The other main area is our own lounge. The yeso (plaster) does not want to stay up. It appears that it’s reacting to the cement that is on the walls. So…builders are my only option. It’s not a job for a novice like me. We love this cosy room especially in those cold nights when we have the log burner roaring and sitting with a lovely drink with boys at our feet. This room deserve the best.
Darren and co from Top Build plan to take as many layers as they can off the walls, re concrete with added additives and finally a good coat of yeso. Will it solve our problems? It’s too early to tell but Darren is confident it is the best course of action. Am I crossing fingers – yes of course. I’m just hedging my bets.
We are lucky to have our rental cave next door, Cueva Limon, which allows us to use the rooms during the day but we can still pop next door to sleep. It saves the faff of moving cloths etc across and, there’s nothing like your own bed is there! Check out http://www.caveholidays.com and see how far we have come to completing our new holiday rental. We have a couple of great surprise additions coming soon to Cueva Limon so keep watching.
So, by the end of the week we will have the perfect lounge where we can sit and chill with our three boys. P.S. I don’t think Darren is aware as yet but I’ve bolted down the gates so that he cannot escape. I have other work for him to do and I know he is in high demand so…. I should appologise to all the local people who are expecting Darren soon. Sorry, but he has been detained for some considerable time.
It had arrived. We had received notification that our new cave rental, Cueva Limón, was to have an inspection from the Tourist board of Andalucia. All licenced holiday rental properties have inspections at some point and it was time for ours. We were notified 10 days ago of the date and time and given guidance on what to do with regards their visit during these covid times.
We had 10 days to ensure we had all the relevant paperwork in order, registrations, visitors books in place, first aid and fire precautions sorted and all the other smaller things you need to look at when having such an inspection. This all seems relatively simple but not so easy when you are in the middle of a lockdown. We have had the paperwork in order for some time and the forms had been printed off the computer. Amazon, due to lockdown, was the only way I could buy a first aid kit, fire blanket and fire alarm at such short notice. The inside painting jobs we needed to finish off and the building of a garden bench and table in the back garden had to be left half finished due to lack of materials. But at least the inspector could see that we had started and what our intentions were.
Although John is going to our local school twice a week to learn Spanish we decided that this inspection was too important to try and answer any of the questions we would be asked so we arranged for a recommended translator to join us and help with communication. I’m so glad we did. He was great and although we did understand some of what was being asked the rest went well over our heads. Thank you Annie for the recommendation and thank you Guy for your translation during the visit.
When our allotted time of 9.30 arrived we had our first surprise. We did not have one inspector come to see us but two! The fact that there was more than one put our stress levels through the roof. It was going to get very serious we thought – two inspectors aiming questions from both sides. However, it was nothing like what we had imagined. It was 45 minutes of “Muy Bonito” (very nice), lots of photos being taken and many wide smiles on both of their faces. The two inspectors were very happy with everything we had achieved and the projects that we had yet to finish off. The only request was that we purchase a printed pre numbered complaints book from the bookshop in Baza. Their parting words were, ‘We are very impressed and we wish you the best for your future bookings. Muy Bien’.
I will admit to being nervous before their arrival, very nervous on their arrival and a complete jelly on their departure. It will take me a few hours to actually stop shaking. I was in complete shock that the visit went so well.
Moral of the story is … don’t worry about what may happen. It may surprise you and never happen at all and if it does, you can work it out. However, life is not that simple is it? We are all human and we will continue to worry about the ‘what ifs’ in life. Makes things more interesting I suppose, however in my case, it’s given me more grey hairs.
Please take a look at Cueva Limón and we hope you will consider joining us in the near future for a holiday that you will remember, Cave life is the best – come and try it for yourselves. http://www.caveholidays.com
We may have reduced the number of caves we own from 8 down to 2 but my workload does not appear, as yet, to reflect this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, just stating a fact.
If you have been following my blog, you will know that we have a large cave complex which we divided into 2. We live in one and the other has been licenced to rent within the holiday market. In the Granada Province known as the Altiplano there are many cave homes. Some can be seen as you drive passed but the majority are hidden away within the hills that surround us. This area has many spectacular lakes, mountains and trails to explore with a wide variety of activities to choose from. Our own grounds around the caves cover 10,000 sq meters so finding somewhere to relax is not hard. The hard part is which area to choose!
The choice of holiday destinations and accommodation are important to everyone but even more so in 2021 and 2022. The next holiday I personally choose will be especially important for our well being and sanity after what we have all endured, and continue to endure, as I write this page. I will not pick a destination by sticking a pin in a map. I will be looking for relaxation, comfort and something unique which is far away from our everyday life. This is what I am trying to achieve for our future guests here at Cueva Limón.
As work continues at Cueva Limón I now have sight of the finish line, and it’s looking good. This weekend I am attempting to build a work surface and shelving unit that will be at the side of the large gas BBQ. A couple of days ago I purchased the bardos for the selves, I have the bricks, tiles and capa fina (plaster) so, all I need now is the cement. Lockdown will not make this the easy task it should be but…. this lady will get cement!
We have other other areas that we have to finish – the petanque area and a tiled dining table with benches. We may also have a surprise addition to the back of the cave if (and it’s a big if!) I can persuade my other half that it’s a great idea. Do you think you would enjoy sitting in a large spa bath as you take in the afternoon sun or could you enjoy a relaxing spa under the stars during our many warm evenings? I know I would.
The website for our new rental, Cueva Limón is complete other than the final pictures and a little tweaking. I want to ensure future guests have all the information they require to book a cave holiday with us in total confidence and have something they can truly look forward to.
After much thought we have taken the decision to be an ‘adult only’ accommodation during our first couple of years. After that we can revisit the decision and make changes if we feel it is necessary.
So, take a look at the almost finished project and get a taste of where you future holiday could be. http://www.caveholidays.com. Please don’t forget that we have three lovely dogs that share the outdoor areas. They will want to come and say hello to you before they collapse for their very frequent daily naps.
Cave holidays are unique and they start right here. Stay safe and we look forward to meet you very soon.
Our success at selling properties started when over 14 years ago we decided to sell our cottage, office premises and 2 businesses back in the UK. We wanted to relocate to Cyprus but imagined it happening in 6 months to 2 years allowing us time to sell. However, fate had other ideas and everything sold within 2 weeks! The cottage was sold unbelievably quickly, it actually went through within 11 days, that’s from viewing to final completion. Yes, 11 days, honestly. He was a well known footballer looking for somewhere to stay in the area whilst he was seconded to another local team. Apparently…. the whole cottage could have sat in his lounge within his permanent home!
Then, after 11 years in Cyprus, we decided to relocate to Spain the same thing happened. Both our Cypriot properties, Villa and the beautiful rental apartment sold very quickly,
within weeks. It was brilliant but quite scary as we had nowhere to move into. If you have been following our story you will know that we had purchased a beautiful unreformed cave. A cave that was certainly not livable. So the search began for a cave in Spain that we could actually move into.
Now we are selling again but, I hasten to add, not our home. I love my cave home far too much. As I had explained in the last blog (28), we are looking to slow down and not work so hard. I sometimes feel that I am playing catch up everyday and getting nowhere. So, the decision was made to advertise our 6 rental caves on Facebook. Well, I was absolutely amazed at the overwhelming response I received within the first 24 hours. It was a complete surprise.
On the same day as the advert went live I answered a message from one couple who actually told me they were so interested that they were driving over as we “spoke” to take a look. We agreed to drive up and meet them so at least they could look inside and….. they are now the new owners – or will be shortly. Contracts have been signed today, deposits paid but, due to their work commitments abroad, they will be unable to take over officially until 1 April 2021 (may make that 2 April for obvious reasons!)
We cannot be any happier, for us as sellers and for Debbie and Bryan as purchasers. They are an absolutely lovely couple and I have no doubt whatsoever that they will make a roaring success of the business. The ideas they have will only help the business to continue growing making it even more of a success than it is now. Please don’t forget that bookings for Cuevas de la Paz continue so if you would like to take a look please visit http://www.caveholidays.com. When the sale is finalised I will keep you up to date with the new web address giving you choices for your future holidays in cave land.
How do we feel? Being truthful… quite sad in as much as we have worked hard to get the business to where it is now but I also feel a huge relief as I can now put my energy and time into Cueves Limòn which is our rental cave next door to our own cave. Up until now it has only been used for family and friends although it is fully licenced for tourists. Our hesitation has been about our three dogs that share the outdoor space. Should we separate the outdoor area or advertise for dog lovers only? We decided on dog lovers only! So, a new launch of the website for Cuevas Limòn will be happening very soon ready for the 2021 season. This will keep me busy enough but in a more relaxed way if that makes sense.
Take a look at http://www.caveholidaysspain.com but please remember it’s not quite ready yet as there are lots more photos to add and plenty more to say. However, it should give you a taste of what’s to come.
So… please bear with me as I finalise the website of Cueva Limòn. I am truly looking forward to sharing our own piece of cave land with some great people.
Again, congratulations and a huge welcome to Debbie and Bryan. We look forward to good times together.
Lock down has made an impact on all of our lives and that continues throughout 2020. Personally we have had time to re-evaluate our own lives, our workload and what we truly want for our future.
I can honestly say that I have really enjoyed being at home, building benches, tables and pottering about trying to make our waste bank into something that resembles a rockery. I have loved it. We do have a rather large cave and lots of area around us so there is always something to be done. My ‘to do’ list never gets any smaller. As soon as one job gets crossed off another two get added.
I would never have dreamt that I would have said that at the start of this year. We were working hard to build the rental business up at Cuevas de la Paz (CDLP) which were doing so well. Rentals were coming in and I was kept very busy – all was looking great for 2020. Then Covid-19 hit giving me time to sit and think.
It has made us realise what is important, what we need to live a comfortable life and what makes us happy. We have everything we can possible want right on our doorstep. We have a lovely home that has been reformed and designed to our liking, we have a second cave next door, (Cuevas Limón), that has been reformed and designed with the view of renting out for holiday lets and we have our wonderful life in cave land. CDLP was certainly an extra bonus but its success has been our/its downfall. This sounds a little odd but that is what has happened.
Cuevas Limón (our cave next door) has been fully licensed for a while now but because we have three rescue dogs that share the outdoor space we were in two minds of what to do. We have now decided to begin advertising the rental from January 2021 but… only to dog lovers. I am still working on the website so it’s work in progress but take a look and see what we have to offer http://www.caveholidaysspain.com
We are both of a certain age and want to look forward to a slower pace of life, as we had in lockdown. So the decision was made 24 hours ago to advertise the sale of CDLP.
WOW. we did not expect such a response so quickly. We have had so many people wanting further information we were rather taken aback. One couple came to look within a couple of hours of me advertising on FB. We did really like them and talks continue. Other messages have been discounted as we have decided against the ‘Rent to Buy’ option. We have been warned by a few people not to go down this path as it can be very troublesome for both parties and that is what we are trying to get away from. There have been other cash buyers wanting to continue with information which is great. So…..watch this space… it’s all looking promising.
Would you say I was daft if I said that I wanted the CDLP to be bought by people that shared the same dreams and passion as we had – well yes we are daft and a little mad but at our age we are allowed.
All good dog owners will tell you without any hesitation that dogs have feelings, thoughts, intelligence and are filled with love. They ask very little from their owners – just the basics – food, water and to be cared for.
Cave life in Spain is just perfect for our three boys, just as much as it is for us. The grounds that we have surrounding the cave, together with the wonderful area around our land, are ideal for the boys to explore and enjoy. And they certainly do, with tails wagging, noses sniffing and a sprint down to the river, it has to be a dogs idea of paradise.
Good walk for smells.
Back of cave and roof.
When we have the heat of the summer, all three dogs find the cave the perfect resting place as it’s cool and comfortable (until the local goats pass by or the bread lady’s van appears and then it’s a quick sprint outside to let them all know they are being watched). In the winter the cave is warm and cosy especially when we light the log burner on those particularly cold nights. Most dogs love to sit close to a fire so they can warm certain parts of their bodies! Anyone who dares to drive or trot down the track can still receive a stern warning from at least two of our boys. There has to be a special visitor or passerby for Barney to leave the warmth of the fire and go out to give them a what for.
Life was different for us when we lived in Cyprus. As the temperatures went up, the days and nights were far too hot to be inside just as much as it was outside. Aircons and fans were a must. If we did decide to venture out we would get dressed as late as possible because as soon as you considered putting on clothes you were wet through due to the high humidity. It was definitely no fun. Cave life in Spain is so different and I now find that I welcome the heat of the day. I work early mornings outside, and as soon as the heat gets a little too much, I carry on with my long list of jobs to do indoors within the cool walls of our cave. Perfecto.
I am convinced that if you could ask either of our three boys where they would like to be they would choose their home within cave land. Thinking about it, the caves here in Spain were originally shelters for the local animals, (sheep, goats and cows), during the heat of the day and home during the cold nights that we get during the winter. I believe our cave was used by goats and their shepherd for many years. Human inhabitation came much later when a local family moved in (with their herd of animals). The sisters of this family now live in a cave next to our property (minus the animals). Actually, there are caves on the other side of our track that are being used today by the local goat herd.
For those of you that aren’t aware of our three dogs background here is a brief resume.
All three of our boys have different stories to tell, good and bad, but all three have such huge hearts which they give freely, especially when given the smallest amount of attention.
We were living in Cyprus when we had our first dog Charlie. It was not our intention to adopt a dog but I had seen an advert in a local paper asking for people to give a home to one of the 6 golden retriever X pups they had just found. It was for approximately 2 weeks or until more permanent homes were found. The picture that went with this plea was what appeared to be adorable fluff balls. I immediately fell in love with the ‘all white’ fluff ball and decided to go and take a look. I did quickly mention to John what I had planned and just as quickly retreated before he could voice an opinion. Deep down I knew he would have concerns!
Well, the fluff balls where truly adorable particularly the white pup running around like a live wire. They had all been well looked after during their first 3 month of life and appeared to enjoy all that life had to offer, no matter how small. I was there for 45 minutes watching the antics of the white fluff ball but not once could I get to pick him up. Every time I got near he disappeared with another pup. He was enjoying his life of mayhem and nothing was going to stop him. However, during these 45 minutes there was one particular puppy that would not leave my side. He was absolutely golden from head to toe including eyelashes and nose. I could not help but cuddle him and I even tried to get him to join in the fun of racing around in circles with the other pups but no.. he only had eyes for me. My head was telling me I had come for the white pup but my heart was telling me something else. You guessed it. I went home with the golden pup who had, in hindsight, chosen me. Off we went for his two weeks vacation at Villa Horton.
Charlie, (his name was originally Sandy but after seeing him play for a while I was heard repeating “you are a Charlie aren’t you!), so it stuck – it was the perfect name for him. He was adorable and within a few hours John and I knew he had found his forever home – with us. That was just over 10 years ago!
Charlie’s ambition in life has always been to clean anyone he can get in contact with. He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body just this obsession to clean. Some people like having their legs and feet washed but others don’t and that’s when we have problems. Charlie just cannot help himself. He will sit when told but you can see his body tremble as he is trying so hard not to pounce on the nearest human to continue his washing program. So, if you do visit us please be prepared. If you don’t like dogs licking you, wear an all in one outfit with hood and face mask.
Charlie is also a protector and will wait for me outside the bathroom door just in case something happens while I’m taking a shower or on return home from a walk he’ll wait at the gate before entering to ensure we were all home safely and only then will he trot in behind everyone. He talks too, oh boy does he talk. Sometimes he never stops and when you are trying to watch tv it can be a little frustrating but we would not change him for the world. Charlie is the oldest but smallest dog we have.
18 months went by and we had discussed whether Charlie would benefit from having another canine friend as he appeared to be getting a little too attached to us humans. We had a local dog shelter nearby so we popped down to take a look at the 100 or so dogs they were desperate to rehome. We thought perhaps we would find another Charlie type dog so that’s what we looked for. There were three similar dogs at this particular shelter and we played and went for walks with them all. Is it wrong to say that not one of these three dogs did anything for us? We did not feel any spark of excitement or feelings for them at all. As we were ready to leave we found ourselves standing by this large cage full of mixed puppies. It was then that I noticed one particular pup that sat in the corner. He was patiently letting all the other pups run over and around him. He was white with golden patches (or perhaps more like splodges) and had huge floppy ears and large dark eyes. My heart went out to him. I turned to John who had uncannily also noticed this one pup and we both said instantaneously, ‘could he be the one’.
I am a spontaneous person and would have taken him home there and then, but John is not. He needs to consider things, do his research, consider things again, more research and lots of looking at pros and cons. So, off home we went empty handed but I just knew that by the next morning we would be back for this beautiful big eared big eyed pup.
Well, I was wrong. We had been home for only an hour and John said ‘do you think we should go back just in case someone else takes him?’ I didn’t need asking twice. Back we went to see the pup in the same position being climbed over and knocked about by other more excitable pups. We were told that he was one of a large litter of Lemon Pointers that had been severely mistreated of which only three pups had survived. Barney (as we named him later) was not thought to survive but survive he did – against all odds. That was 8 1/2 years ago.
When we picked him up he was thin and had a number of bald patches on his body but he was adorable and funny. We had no idea of the cruelty he must have lived through during his first 6 months but it must have been horrendous. It took a shorter time than we had expected for us to gain his trust, with the help of Charlie of course, but trying to get him out of the house was not so easy. Each time we had to carry him out, closing the door behind us so that he could not dart back in as soon as his legs hit the floor. Eventually the garden became just another safe haven for him but the sound of any children or Cypriot men from the other side of the fence got him in to total panic mode. To this day he will not pass children without getting as far away as the lead will allow and as fast as his legs will take him. But at least, and it’s only been fairly recently, he does not hide for hours when new people arrive at the house. When I say hide I mean putting his head into a plant or bush. His body and large tail are in plain sight but Barney doesn’t know that, bless him.
During the first 18 months his body grew to fit his ears. But he was in obvious pain when he walked which only grew worse. The vet agreed that he needed two separate operations to remove both hips due to dysplasia caused by past trauma. Whatever had happened to him had, and was continuing, to cause him great pain.
Both hips were operated on within six months of each other and each time Barney was an absolute star. Both operations did not go as straightforward as we had hoped and we spent many nights on the settee with him, cleaning infected wounds and giving him as much love as we could. Not once did Barney cry out, yelp or disagree with anything we had to do to him to help him heal. I could not believe it, most humans would have lashed out and hit the roof during the cleaning of the wound and the physio we had to perform.
Barney is now a ‘little’ overweight due to not being able to walk too far hi but other than that he is healthy, happy and a beautiful addition to our family. He also has very clean ears, eyes and nose thanks to Charlie.
Then came along the polar bear!
After moving to Spain we had discussed having a third dog but, for all the right reasons, we decided that it was not a great idea. Walking three dogs would be a problem and we are not getting any younger, money for food and vets bills was another consideration and we had the perfect pair already. Then I saw another advert! Note to self – stop reading adverts!
Eight Spanish Mastins X (supposedly) about 8 hours old had been found abandoned in the hills about an hour away from our cave. Within 24 hours only 2 had survived. The lovely couple that had taken these two home were looking for permanent homes as they already had 2 Alsatians. I decided it would do no harm to go and take a look at the pups who were now 4 weeks old. One pup was pure white with a brown nose and the other was white with a slight creamy tinge to his back and a jet black nose. Me being me, it was the pure white pup I was going to look at.
Within minutes of us arriving we fell in love with both pups. I have never known John to be as certain so quickly over anything but he wanted them both, there and then. The pure white pup was adorable but if I tell you he had been named Speedy, it may give you an insight into his behaviour. He sped everywhere, was into everything and was a puppy maniac. Adorable but truly a maniac. His brother had been named blacky due to the colour of his nose and, although still trying to run after his brother, appeared to be a little more calm. He was what I would call a normal pup, playful and inquisitive but not at 100 miles an hour like his brother. The couple had been told by the vets that they were a cross and would not be more than 30kg. We could manage that we thought but I was not happy with having both pups. I could sense trouble ahead if we did. The two dogs we already had were technically our set limit which we were breaking by having one of these pups so having both was a total over the top and breaking all the rules of sensibility.
After a while the the couple agreed that if we adopted one they would keep the other which made John a little happier about splitting the brothers up. We agreed to go back in 4 weeks once all the injections had been given and collect our new addition to the family.
We purchased a bed which we thought would be just the right size to keep him cosy and warm and help him feel secure. It was perfect for a couple of days! What we had not realised was how quickly Alfie (ex Blacky) would grow and did he grow, rapidly. With hindsight the paws gave him away. Within a few months we had realised that he was actually a full Spanish Mastin and they grew to approximately 90 kgs and are huge. He was already 30 kgs and he was growing by the day. Don’t get me wrong, if we had known this from the start we would have still chosen Alfie to be part of our home – yes we are mad but we had fallen for him and that’s when all common sense goes out the window.
Alfie is now 2 and he is my beautiful polar bear of some considerable size. He sleeps next to my bed, he snores like a man, (he lets out wind like one too), and he loves his walks. When I say walks I should say he loves taking us for a walk – where Alfie wants to go, you go, and he is an inquisitive beast.
Charlie and Barney were not keen on Alfie at all for quite a while which was seriously beginning to worry me as I wanted everyone to get on. Thankfully with time that changed but they are still wary of him and often have to move quickly out of the way when Alfie decides he is sitting down. He gets half way down and collapses so anything that happens to be underneath him gets squished, well and truly. My foot has often fallen victim to the weight of Alfie and once they are under him there is no getting them out. My grandchildren have called him the polar bear which is a perfect description of him really. He is huge, white and has black skin. It has been a while since I was at school but I think that describes a polar bear pretty well.
Alfie often comes home with tree trunks and large thick branches to throw around. It’s what he loves to do. At 6 months he decided to have a look at the pile of twigs we have conveniently added to our front patio. He had great fun with these twigs for quite awhile until we realised what he was doing. Alfie may have looked upon them as a pile of twigs but we called them something different. These ‘twigs’ made up our lovely and expensive outdoor cane furniture that we had purchased for those warm nights when we could sit and enjoy the sound of silence and be amazed at the amount of stars there were above our heads. Luckily, with the help of snippers, I managed to make the furniture a little less of the chewed look, and as it has weathered with time, it is not so noticeable as it was. But as we said, Alfie was being a normal huge dog and playing with the pile of sticks we lovingly left for him. Who could blame him. Gladly the teething period is now well and truly over and after purchasing many hardy large toys (on a regular basis as they still didn’t last very long) he is leaving the twigs alone. As I write this I am crossing my fingers hoping that he doesn’t remember how much fun it was tearing the twigs out of the pile. Bless him.
All three dogs are different from each other. Their personalities, their fur, their eating habits and their routines. Charlie is the one to look after you, Barney is the quiet one who loves to watch and Alfie is the bouncer of us all. And, although so different, they all fit perfectly into our lives. We would never be parted from any one of them. They are part of our family just as much as our children and grandchildren.
If you are considering having a dog, please stop thinking about it and just do it. They ask to be fed, watered and to be kept warm. That’s it. In return they will give you all the love you can handle and with the loyal companionship that a dog is born to give us humans. That will be your reward.
So our life in Spain is never boring. There is always someone to clean, brush and play with and we can never be short of love. Our boys would not allow it!