The Labraventures of Carbón, Spanish (ex-) foster dog extraordinaire


Mama Red HOT Pepper
Señor Carboncito finally gets his own thread! He’s been telling me that I’ve missed out on sharing way too many adventures over the past few months, so here’s a place for stories old and new. Plus asking for training advice, sharing his accomplishments (and maybe a frustration or two). There may also be some whinging about my current struggle with German bureaucracy (you’ve been warned).

I’m guessing if you clicked here, you already know Carbon’s story. If not, here’s the not-so-short version. Feel free to skip to the cute photos at the end if you’ve heard this bit!

It actually goes back to last autumn’s Labratour (tm @snowbunny). The Labratour was my whirlwind tour of the UK to learn about Labradors, meet a lot of great people and their dogs in person whom I already knew from ‘online’ (ahem) and research Labrador breeders. I went back in the winter – “Labratour Part Two” - and through an amazing stroke of luck, had the opportunity for a puppy with an excellent breeder. Then, frankly, I went off the rails.

To make a long story very short, I made the very difficult decision that I wasn’t ready for my own puppy or dog yet. It was a very rough patch that’s not quite over yet and I’m so grateful for the support from my rather amazing Labratour friends, both in person and online.

As part of my ‘pick myself up again’ plan, I decided to walk dogs at a couple different shelters in Spain. I was NOT going to foster again. I’d had Toby the Bodeguero (now Alf – and still a Bodeguero) as a foster the prior year and saying goodbye to him just about broke my heart. I figured that I was way too fragile at the moment to go through fostering again, but there were still ways I could get my dog fix. I’d walk dogs and a LOT of them – that way I wouldn’t get too attached to just one.

The very first day at my local shelter, Charo, a volunteer who remembered me from last year said, “You need to look at Carbon. He just came in from the kill station. He’s perfect for you!”.

“No, I’m not looking for a dog for myself – just here to walk whoever needs walking most.”

“Well…he needs a walk,” she said with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye, hurrying away to wreck havoc elsewhere.

I walked several dogs that day, but the shelter worker, Yoli, didn’t forget that Charo had said I needed to walk Carbon.

“I’ll go get him for you,” she said.

“This is NOT a good idea,” I thought. Famous last words.

It was not hard to spot Carbon as he sailed his way through the bodies of 80 other dogs, all doing their rambunctious thing in the center courtyard. First of all, most of the dogs were native Spanish breeds (podencos, galgos, mastines, bodegueros). You get some Labs mixed with those breeds, but not too many purebreds. Carbon was not that. Carbon was a rolly-polly sturdy blocky little Lab. He cut his way through the other dogs like a hot knife through butter. The canine crowd just parted, there’s no other way to say it. That dog had moxie.

“Why the heck is he in here?” I asked. “He’s a purebred Lab!” Now, I know that’s not fair to the Spanish breeds (which I absolutely love) but usually a Lab wouldn’t even make to a kill station, let alone a shelter. Carbon had been surrendered as a puppy to a kill station, been transferred to another kill station, then finally – at a year old – had made it to the private shelter. How he survived the kill stations didn’t make any sense – they don’t call them that for nothing - but neither did why he’d not been adopted.

“He’s black. People here don’t like black dogs – it’s stupid, but it’s true,” Yoli shrugged as she handed him off to me for our first walk.

It was pouring rain and we walked for an hour. He was just about the happiest dog I’d ever walked. The tail didn’t stop….thump, thump, thump…thump, thump, thump.

For a month of rain, Carbon and I walked and walked and walked. I walked a lot of dogs at two different shelters and a few of them became very special. Gorgeous silly boy Messi, the big mastin/yellow Lab cross who had to be bribed every three steps with a treat. Charlotte, a purebred mastin who had been used for breeding and whose body was tired but who loved her walks and a good brushing. Little Bodeguero Paul, who was Carbon’s best buddy and kennel mate through at least two shelters.

However, from that first meeting with Carbon, I kept thinking of all the black Labs I’d seen in the UK. Maybe the Spanish didn’t like black Labs, but that surely wouldn’t be a problem over the Channel. I also kept thinking of @Beanwood’s recent wonderful chocolate Lab foster boy and the perfect home she’d found for him. I contacted her (ok, I hounded her) and over the next month, we started to form a plan.

Six weeks after that first rainy walk with Carbon, it was time for him to come with me as a foster. It was another horrible rainy day, wind howling and thunder booming, and I couldn’t stand to leave little Paul without his best friend Carbon for comfort. I decided to bring them both home, thinking Paul would be with us for ‘just for a few days’. Paul went back and forth to the shelter a few times after that, but after about ten days, I threw up my hands and surrendered. Paul came ‘home’ for good.

After I’d sworn not to take on any more foster dogs, I now had two!

There’s a lot more to the story, including what I fondly call “Paul-gate” over the struggle to find the little man a home. But it all ended - or started, depending on your point of view – with Carbon, Paul and me trekking from southern Spain to the UK over a week of very close quarters – and a LOT of wee and poo. There was a lot of Paul trying to fling himself off of beachside cliffs and Carbon hoovering up unmentionable items from every pavement. There was also Paul keeping us both up by running laps around every hotel bed and me being so tired that I didn’t know whether to cry or sit and laugh like a loon. More importantly, there were three-hour beach runs and two happy, sandy, goofy dogs.

At the end of the travel odyssey there was yet more untiring support from the @Beanwood crew and a new family for Paul.

The little man is now called Vizzy and lives with his new canine sibling, Polly. His family booked him a beach holiday before they even met him just because he’s a Spanish dog and they thought he would like it. Guess what? He DID like it…a lot. Happily ever after. Not ‘the end’ because he’s got many years ahead of him and even – hopefully – a reunion with Carbon and me this autumn in his future.

Even though Carbon is not without his own prospects for his forever family, I couldn’t bear to part with both him and Paul at once, so he continued on with me to Regensburg in Germany. It was also a plan that Kate and I agreed on earlier this spring when Carbon’s general health and Leishmaniosis test results weren’t looking so good. Back then he couldn’t walk more than 15 minutes without having a rest, so having a summer to build him up seemed like the best plan.

My, how times have changed - now I can’t keep up with him. He now needs an hour swim a day and at 1-2 hour of walks or free runs. One thing that hasn’t changed – that tail is still going ‘thump, thump, thump, thump’!

That’s Carbon’s story so far. The long/short version at least. Right now it’s training (for him), studying/battling bureaucracy (for me) and a lot of long walks for both of us. I’ve got a boatload of photos and videos from our time in the UK and even our Spanish travels that I’d still like to share here, plus whatever we get up to in the next weeks here in Germany and our autumn travels as Carbon makes his way back to the UK.

Labratour Part Four, anyone? :LOL:

Our very first rainy walk together

Walking Paul and Carbon together at the shelter

Carbon's first trip to the beach

And he's out of the shelter and officially a foster dog with his own sofa and kong - look at that tail thump

Now Paul's out too and we're doing day trips with plenty of rests for Carbon

On our way to the UK and Paul's new home, here they are at Cathedral Beach in northern Spain

And one last beach romp in Calais before heading under the Channel

Carbon LOVED Beanwood and all it's inhabitants - including Remy, the Cat of Unusual Size

Then it was time to travel on without Paul, but at least Carbon had his Beanwood Bunny for comfort

And now Carbon is officially a Bavarian dog, at least until it's time to head back to the UK!


Mama Red HOT Pepper


Alberta, Canada
Great to have Carbon’s story continuing here :)

He is so lovely, Emily! So glad the two of you have each other in this time of transition for both of you.


Mama Red HOT Pepper
what is the significance of the statues emily?
Do you mean this one?

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I don't actually know. It's just on a wall in a residential street. I was really intrigued, which is why I took a photo. But there are all sorts of sculptures around Kallmünz plus all the different Catholic things that are fairly typical in any small town in Bavaria. This one, for example:

Screenshot 2018-08-05 21.27.00.png

But there also other non-religious sculptures throughout the town, so it seems it's just a very artsy little place. And the 'artsy factor' is not as rare as you would think. For example, I regularly visit another town along the river called Essing, which has an entire outdoor sculpture garden along the river, even though the town seemingly has less than 100 inhabitants. I took Carbon there last week, so need to post some photos of that trip as well.

There are really some little hidden jewels around here, that's for sure. :)