Dit verhaal werd door een Engelse vriend van mijn ouders geschreven om zijn emoties te ventileren nadat één van de Golden Retrievers van mijn ouders in een diepe mijnschacht was gevallen. Het verhaal en bijhorende foto's staan eveneens op de facebook-account "Itas Xanto". "THE WILL TO HOLD ON" (For Chris and Marc) It was the day of the 4th of January 2011 that we set off from our campsite near Cartagena to walk in the hills at Portman. There were ten of us, three golden retrievers ( Brechtje, Alaric and Irko), a sausage dog Taz, Chris and Mark (the owners of the golden retrievers) and JP and Tina (the owners of Taz) and my wife Susan. We climbed the hill to the lighthouse enjoying the views, blue skies and sunshine. Ten very good friends enjoying each others company and the magnificent scenery. It was a joy to be alive. The path along the cliff top turned away from the sea and into the woods and became a broad track. The golden retrievers were racing through the woods excitedly exploring this new and lovely environment. We stopped walking and called them. Taz was with us and soon Alaric and Irko joined us. One minute became five and five became ten and Brechtje did not join us. The nightmare had begun! Brechtje was the mother of Irko and the partner of Alaric his father. She was almost human, she was everybody’s friend and we all loved her; so you can imagine how much more her owners Chris and Marc loved her. She was at her happiest when she was running off the lead in the hills and woods and chasing wildlife. She never caught the wildlife and she always came when called. Now she was lost and I felt a growing fear we would not see her again. I retraced our steps, running while Marc followed me calling her name. I arrived at the top of the hill overlooking the car park but could see no sign of Brechtje. When Marc joined me he looked worried and told me that this must be serious because she always returned when called. I decided to run around our proposed route in the opposite direction, one of our fears was that she might have been abducted so using the road I hoped to check cars and ask people if they had seen her. After 2k of uphill, winding road I reached the broad track that goes up to the gun battery on top of the hill, no cars had passed with dogs in and the people I met had not seen her. I then ran up the long track that zigzags to the guns. I met several groups of people on the way. To the Spanish I showed the lead I was carrying and said, “ me perro…vamos!” (languages are not my strong point!). I showed them the height with my hand and said, “golden retriever” and said, “colour” while I pointed at my gold ring. I pointed at them and then my eyes and said, with a suitable hand movement that they could phone the number on the dogs collar. They were all sympathetic and indicated they would phone. The Dutch and German were no problem they all spoke English. Each of these encounters helped me recover my breath. When I arrived at the guns there were only a few Spanish people, I went through the miming and bad Spanish routine with each but none had seen Brechtje. I phoned Susan to let her know where I was and my lack of success. I went down the steep path calling her name and completed the loop at the place we lost her with a very heavy heart and tears in my eyes. I phoned Marc and said that I intended checking more of the paths but he asked me to come back to the car park. I ran back as fast as I could. There was a discussion in English and Flemish the outcome was that we would split up, I would stay at the car park in case Brechtje came down that way, JP and Chris would return to the campsite to get the dog’s microchip identification number and the mobile phone and Marc, Tina and Susan would go and make the necessary reports to the Spanish authorities. 2 I watched them go and thankful for the rest from running I sat down hoping that either Brechtje would come down the path on her own or with someone. Some Spanish people I had seen on the hill returned to the car park and one of them, a young man, told me in good English that they had not seen the dog but they had told people they met to look for her. I realised that I was stiffening up after my run and that I may need to run some more so I paced up and down until Marc returned. I could tell Marc was terribly upset. Whatever happened now I knew I could not leave the area unless I was totally exhausted, I needed to know that I had done everything I could possible do to find Brechtje, how else could I live with myself? I proposed that we did one more search and Marc agreed. We left Susan and Tina to await the return of Chris and JP from the campsite and headed back up the hill taking with us Alaric and Irko. When we reached the place we lost her we split up I took Alaric to run the tracks and Marc kept Irko to check the area around the last point we saw her. Alaric did not want to come with me at first, he sat down! I patted him and gently pulled and he seem to make a decision that ok he would come. He was brilliant he had to run slightly behind me because the track was narrow and surrounded with thick vegetation but I knew if Brechtje was lying injured out of sight he would smell her and let me know. Every ten seconds I called her name. The track wound backwards and forwards and up and down through the woods surrounding the hill, after running for about 2k I heard Marc shouting something so I turned back shouting that I was coming. When I had ran nearer I shouted again and I could hear Marc shouting, “ Ian I have found her”. My heart jumped for joy and I actually punched the air and shouted, “yes!”. I ran some more, the path took a route sometimes going towards Marc and sometimes going away, I was running as fast as I could. I stopped and shouted, “Marc have you found her?” His reply hit me hard, “ Yes….but it is not good!” I thought she must be injured and will need carrying off the hill. Now the route of the path was frustrating me as it kept turning away from the direction of Marc but finally we met him. Marc had tears in his eyes and he led me to a wall just off the main track, as I approached the wall Alaric tried to jump it almost pulling me off my feet. On the other side of the wall was a large deep hole, so deep you could not see the bottom, the surroundings were too dangerous to get to the very edge of this hole so you could not see beyond a depth of about 15m. Marc through his tears said, “she’s down there, I can hear her, first some scratching then a sound from her”. It was obviously hopeless, even if she had only fallen the depth that we could see she must be horribly injured. I dragged the dogs away from this dangerous hole, and sat down on a big stone and cried my heart out. Alaric and Irko gently pushed their heads next to mine and lifted their paws onto my knees and licked me. I could hear that Marc was in no better state than me. Marc said, “she’s finished!” I told Marc I would phone the emergency services and see if they could help. This idea gave me hope and something to do, I pulled myself together and dialled 112. To every Spanish response I got I said that I must speak to someone who can speak English and eventually I was speaking to an English speaking controller for the Spanish Fire Brigade who agreed to send a fire engine to the car park at Portman if I could meet them there. I told Marc and as I set off to run back to the car park he shouted, “ Its Urgent!” I ran as hard as I could back down to the car park where Susan and Tina were waiting. I told them the awful news and that a fire engine was on its way and then I broke down again! 3 My hopes were raised when I saw the fire engine turn off the main road and within a minute it pulled into the car park. There were only three men in the fire engine, two did not look fit to me and the third was a young guy wearing Nike running shoes and Kapa training bottoms! They asked me how far was it to the mine shaft, I told them about 3k. This information did not go down too well with the guy in charge. I said we need ropes and that I would carry some. He said that I was to show the young guy the mineshaft and he would assess the situation and report to him. I begged him to let us take some ropes but he refused. The young guy and I ran up the hill and I thought to myself, this is only going to waste more time. After 1k the young guy was finished and started walking I stopped running and pointed at myself and said, “ pensionista, come on, vamonos!” he laughed and managed another 100m then stopped and asked how far. I told him 10 minutes and he kept walking, after 5 minutes he asked again, so I told him 5 minutes, eventually we arrived at the mineshaft. Marc’s face dropped when he saw who I had brought, he said to me, “is that a fireman?” The fireman walked around the hole and then with signs and gestures explained that he had been told that if the shaft was more than 15m deep (and it obviously was) and there were no sounds from the dog then they would not go in, if there were sounds then he was to phone headquarters in Murcia for a decision. Marc called Brechtje and there was a faint but definite response. Now this gave the guy a problem! He said he had to move to get a mobile signal; perhaps he did not want us to hear his conversation but anyway when he returned he said that the decision was no! Marc angrily asked if he was supposed to just throw a big stone in on top of her! The guy held out his arms as if they were tied and we got the message. He too was clearly upset and wanted to shake my hand. I shook his hand he then offered his hand to Marc and to his great credit Marc took it. I think we both realised that it was not this young man’s fault that he had been part of what was clearly a ‘token gesture’ response from the fire brigade. The English speaking controller told Susan, who was still in the car park, that they were very sorry but the hole was too dangerous for a rescue attempt and under no circumstances was anyone to go into the hole. The young man left us and Marc and I cried some more then we decided it was best to leave. We walked down the hill with very heavy hearts, I said to Marc that she must be very badly injured and would soon go unconscious and die and at least they would know what happened to her bad as it was. My analysis was very bad but sadly it was the best way I could look at this terrible set of circumstances but of course it was of little comfort to Marc or me. I was so grateful that Chris had not witnessed the full horror of the sight of that hole and the sound that came from it, that burden was Marc’s, her trauma would be hard enough to bear without that. We arrived at the car park to find that Chris and JP arrived and then had gone back up the hill by a quicker route than the one we had been using. I was so grateful that JP did not know were the hole was and soon they returned back down the road and Marc and Chris ran into each other’s arms. I cannot begin to know what awful gut wrenching feelings they shared knowing where their beloved Brechtje was and that she was dead or dying in that terrible hole. 4 I will never forget that long silent journey home to the campsite Marc, Chris, Susan and I all looking straight ahead and not at each other avoiding eye contact and deep in our own thoughts. I just could not cope with my own grief how much harder it must have been for Chris and Marc? Susan and I did not sleep that night. Lying in my comfortable bed in my motor home I could not get the idea out of my head of Brechtje lying alone in that hole in the dark, badly injured and slowly dying and abandoned by those she loved. (The next day JP and I were concerned that Chris would ask Marc to take her to the hole and that if Brechtje had survived the night Chris would have to suffer the anguish of hearing Brechtje without seeing her or being able to save her; if the hole was silent then the horror of a visit would be greatly reduced. We asked Marc if he wanted us to secretly go and check if there was any response from the hole and report back to him. He said yes so JP and I went in his car to Portman. JP had not seen the hole and I led the way to it and both of us were hoping that there would be no sign of life. We stood next to the hole and called her name and a clear wimper of distress came back to us out of the darkness. She sounded stronger than the day before! I cannot describe the feelings of frustration and gut wrenching helplessness. I felt we had failed her we had no way of getting her out or explaining to her why we were leaving her there to suffer and die. JP measured the depth of the hole with some string, it was 25 metres deep! We took some photos and left. We could not stay there and allow her hopes to rise so we turned our backs on the hole and a dog we both loved and moved far enough away to not be heard or smelt by her and phoned Susan at the campsite, who fetched Marc to my van. At first I thought I would try to soften the news but how can you not tell the whole truth in such a situation? I told him Brechtje was still alive and if anything was louder than the day before. I heard him sob. I advised him not to bring Chris anywhere near to the hole. All this was done without the knowledge of Chris. JP and I returned to the campsite. Marc looked a broken man and Chris was trying to put on a brave face but her eyes gave her away she was suffering very much. They both decided that we should all walk to the local tapas bar/ store and have a drink; a brave attempt to try and move on from a hopeless situation. We all tried very hard to be our normal happy selves but our hearts were not in it and I had, at one stage, to go to the toilets and cry. Susan and I had thought about all of the options open to Chris and Marc we both hoped she would not go near to the hole for some time to give Brechtje enough time to die. Tina and also a Scot called John Jack had mentioned that perhaps the climbers who climbed the cliffs at the camping site could attempt a rescue but Susan and I both felt that we could not ask some young climber to go into a hole that the Fire Brigade had said was too dangerous for anyone to enter, what if a climber died trying to take out a dead or mortally wounded dog? We felt sure Marc and Chris would have also had these thoughts so we did not discuss this with them. On the 6th of January, two days after Brechtje fell down the hole we were all sitting outside Marc and Chris’s motor home when John Jack arrived on his bike and asked 5 us what was happening. We told him nothing so he asked us why we were sitting there doing nothing and why hadn’t we tried to do something instead of doing nothing. “Like what?” we asked and before he could answer I told him that it was very difficult for Marc and Chris (the actual words I used were a lot stronger). He ignored this and said have you tried the climbers. No we said and he then said why not! At this point I said to everyone lets leave Chris and Marc to talk and we all walked away. So it was thanks to John Jacks well meaning bluntness that Chris and Marc decided to visit the climbers and the climbers said they were willing to go and look. I saw only David before we left for Portman. David was young with thick curly hair held in place with a cloth band he had a thick beard and wore beads but most of all he had bright eyes full of joy. I thought does this young man have any idea how dangerous the hole is. I invited him into my motor home and showed him a photo of the hole he just looked straight into my eyes and smiled, I knew then he was going to the hole. Marc, JP and myself in Marc’s car met the climbers at reception in their car and we headed off to Portman. I can remember being so grateful that Chris was not with us, after all the most likely outcome, if a rescue was successful, would be that a dead or dying dog would be recovered and the very act of pulling her out of the hole could cause her much suffering. When we arrived at Portman David, Paco and Pagi got out of their car. Three smiling faces! Paco was a man probably in his forties, short with a powerful looking body and was a climbing instructor, my hopes were raised. Pagi was a pretty young lady, athletic in appearance and had a lovely smile. Paco asked whether there were trees next to the hole, we answered yes and an even bigger smile spread across his face. The boot of their car was full of climbing gear I offered to carry a rope and with arms full of equipment and hope in our hearts we six climbed that hill to that dreadful hole. When we arrived at the hole Paco took charge, ropes were attached to trees, climbing belts put on and equipment shared out. All of this was done with smiles and jokes but Paco was watching these preparations with the eye of an expert and he did not miss a thing. They measured the depth of the hole as they let out the rope; it was 25m (82 ft) deep! David and Paco eventually moved backwards on their ropes and with feet on the unstable sides of the hole they entered it. David was slightly lower than Paco when he looked up at Paco, the smile had gone. When asked about this afterwards they agreed that at this defining moment they realised just how dangerous the hole was and that the dog was alive; it was decision time! To their immense credit David continued down and Paco smiled at us and followed David. This precise moment was captured on Pagi’s camera one of many photos she took while she was minding the ropes. After some time Paco’s smiling face appeared and he said, “perro ok”. I looked at Marc and said lets not raise our hopes too much. We asked Paco, “perro ok?” He indicated that her front legs were broken but the rest of her was ok. I wanted to believe this but I did not allow myself to believe that it was possible to fall 25m down a mine shaft and not have serious internal injuries. I put Paco’s analysis of the situation as ‘wishful thinking’, a product of his positive and cheerful character. When Paco arrived at the top he was smiling and encouraging us to believe the impossible. He then sent the only helmet they had down for David who up until then 6 had risked head injury; the equipment they had was not complete because they were not expecting to climb that weekend. Paco then organised JP, Marc and I into a team to pull up the rope that they had tied Brechtje to. On Paco’s command we pulled up the rope in half metre pulls I was surprised at how heavy the dog felt. Suddenly the tension in the rope went completely and for the first time I saw concern in Paco’s and Pagi’s faces. Paco shouted down the hole to David and when the reply came he smiled again and told us its ok. Pagi explained that Brechtje had fallen out of their makeshift harness but only a small height. We then all had a discussion about how to make a harness and in the end it was decided that the biggest rucksack we had could be put over her shoulders and her front legs tied together. Paco and all of us could not see David or Brechtje because you could not approach the very edge of the hole so Paco spent several minutes instructing David while unable to have any visual contact. Eventually we were told to start pulling again. We now know that the method was that we pulled Brechtje up about 2m, then David climbed up to her and held her out from the wall of the shaft while we pulled the next 2m. This was to avoid causing parts of the wall collapsing and to also prevent further injury to the dog. It took a very long time to haul 25m and my anxiety was increased by the failure of the first attempt and the knowledge that a failure of the system now would surely result in a long fall and her death. My position in the rope pulling team was number two directly behind Paco and I was thrilled to see the Brechtje’s two front paws come into sight, then the blind folded head and finally the limp body, if she had been dead she would have looked no different, she was perfectly still. Pagita who was taking photos said first in Spanish and then in English for our benefit, “today is the day of the Three Kings and this is their gift to us!” One last pull brought her over the unstable lip of the hole, her body dragging across the loose sand and stones and then, unbelievably she was lying on her side at our feet. The blindfold was removed and her eyes were open, the haversack removed and her front feet untied and she responded to our stroking and words, tears of joy streamed down my face and I turned to see Paco, David and Pagita high fiving and hugging each other their faces beaming. Closer inspection of Brechtje showed no significant outward signs of injury to her body apart from her front legs which were clearly broken and her paws were dislocated, she was clearly very weak because she remained lying on her side and did not attempt to sit up. Her eyes were fully open and she made the little noises of contentment that we all knew so well. I remember thinking so far so good but surely after falling 25m and then lying for over 48 hours serious damage must have been done to her internal organs. We offered her water and she drank. The climbers recovered their ropes and equipment and Marc and I took turns to carry Brechtje down the hill followed by JP carrying all our bags and the climbers all of us with new hope in our hearts. We made her as comfortable as possible in the car and I sat alongside her stroking her and talking to her and the Spanish told us to follow them to Cartagena. They made all of the necessary phone calls and eventually we ended up outside of a vets and he brought a stretcher to the car and then assisted by the climbers she was carried into the treatment room. Their presence was essential not 7 only did they interpret but also assisted the vet. When David put on a protection smock before entering the X-Ray room we all laughed at his resemblance to one of the Three Kings. The X-rays showed that both front legs were broken just before the elbow and both paws were dislocated and broken, her left being the most damaged. The vet shaved her tummy and then used ultra sound to check her internal organs. First one kidney, ok; then the liver, ok; we rolled her over, second kidney, ok; bladder, ok The vet then indicated that there was no sign of internal bleeding and said it was remarkable after falling 25m that she could be in such good condition. The ultra sound was of course a rough check and only time would tell if all of her vital organs would function correctly. Then a wonderful moment, Chris arrived and saw her Brechtje for the first time since she went missing; the climbers just beamed at her proudly and happily observing her joy and accepting her thanks. The vet then arranged by telephone for Brechtje to be admitted to an animal hospital in Murcia the following day. Her front legs were bandaged and we carried her back to the car on a stretcher. We drove back to the campsite, a very different journey to the silent one we had made two days previously. On arrival both Alaric and Irko were at first a little too boisterous in their welcome but Brechtje gave each a warning growl and they then kept an inquisitive distance. David who lives in Murcia stayed at our campsite that night so he could show Chris and Marc where the hospital was the following day. Susan and I looked after Irko and Alaric. When Chris and Marc returned it was without Brechtje she was kept in for observation the surgeon was not going to operate on her broken legs until she had shown that she could pass urine there was a 95% chance she would but if she didn’t it would be an indication that her kidneys had failed and there would only be one awful conclusion to this story. The whole campsite was aware of this. Brechtje was trained not to pee indoors and Chris and Marc both knew she would hold on as long as she could so we all waited and hoped for a pee. Eventually somewhere in Murcia a golden retriever bitch passed urine and a whole campsite celebrated! Soon after this good news Brechtje also demonstrated that her bowels were in perfect working order! The operations took place over the following two days, metal pins and plates were used to hold together the broken bones and on her left side a network of metal pins protruded from her wrist to hold in place the reconstructed paw. The climbers visited her in hospital and even presented Chris and Marc with a harness they had bought for her. The girlfriend of David was called Melissa and was half Spanish and half Belgian and was able to translate for Chris and Mark. They had all become very good friends and had been out to a restaurant together in Murcia. The climbers refused to accept any kind of payment for the wonderful job they had done. Marc and Chris asked me to go to Murcia with them to bring Brechtje home and of course I willingly accepted. This was the first time I met Carlos the veterinary surgeon and I was surprised at how young he looked he painstakingly explained the dosages and times of the tablets and told Chris and Marc that Brechtje was not to stand on her front legs for more than three very short periods a day. He told them also that they had called her Brigit Jones because they could not say her name! A very professional young man with a happy nature. We all carried Brechtje to the car and so it was that 8 we happily returned to our campsite and on arrival Marc and Chris took their car immediately to John Jacks bungalow, they wanted him to be the first to see her. For a tough talking Scot he was clearly very moved by this gesture. On arrival at Marc and Chris’s motor home Brechtje got a cautious welcome from Irko and Alaric. In the days that followed many people visited Brechtje but by an amazing stroke of luck the German lady in the motor home behind Chris and Marc’s was a retired surgical nurse and Angelika requested to assist in dressing the wound. I helped to hold Brechtje down during some of these painful procedures and was very impressed at Angelika’s firm, gentle professionalism and the way that despite the pain she inflicted Brechtje clearly liked her, it was as if she knew that it was being done for her benefit. The wound on her left front leg was an enormous open hole with bones and sinew clearly visible and everything held in place by metal pins which protruded several cm outside of the wound. When the surgeon saw how well the wound had been looked after he was full of praise for Angelika and assured Marc and Chris that the hole would eventually close. It was Saturday the 16th January a warm, sunny day at the campsite. Chris and Marc had been so moved by the concern and help given by many that they issued an open invitation to anyone to bring a glass at 1330 if they wanted to come and thank the climbing team for their bravery . A very large number of people turned up and the guests of honour were:- Paco, David, Pagi, Melissa and Carlos the surgeon. There were snacks and Cava and a wonderful atmosphere and much interest was shown in Pagi’s photos of the rescue. Then Marc’s speech was read in Spanish by a German friend of his and then Marc read it in German and English but only with help from Chris not because he wasn’t proficient in these languages but because he was overcome with emotion. There were many people in tears, men and woman, on hearing this speech from the thankful hearts of Chris and Marc. The guests of honour were loudly clapped and received bouquets of flowers and a picture of Brechtje with their faces superimposed and the words “unidos para siempre” (united forever). Out of sight Chris gave a bouquet of flowers to John Jack who attended but kept a very low profile throughout although Marc had thanked him in his speech for the part he had played. As I write this in my motor home I have just looked out of the window at my neighbours sitting eating their lunch and at their feet dozing in the warm sunshine are three golden retrievers one with a large bandage on her front leg. I don’t know how full a recovery this wonderful dog will make but her experience has united a multinational group of people in a very special way and for those closely involved, who experienced an emotional roller coaster ride and witnessed first hand the best of human behaviour and Brechtje’s will to live, they have had their outlook on life and friendships changed forever. 9 What Brechtje did is well described in Rudyard Kiplings poem ‘If‘………… ‘If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew To serve your turn long after they are gone, And so hold on when there is nothing in you Except the Will which says to them “Hold on!”’ A fall of 25m, isolated and abandoned with broken legs and no food or water for two days at the bottom of a mineshaft and yet she hung onto life and hope and survived! I will never forget her and the lessons I have learnt and the ten good friends that set out for a walk at Portman that January day have now become very special friends united by their involvement in this wonderful story of a very lucky, brave dog and we will forever be thankful to Paco, Pagi and David for their skill and bravery and the support given by so many others. Ian PS The part of the story written in italics on page 4 was written 10 months later because it was only then that I was told by Chris that she new about the visit that JP and I made that awful day, we deceived her because we love her. I will never forget that second visit to the hole.
Ik was nieuwsgierig door de topictitel, maar deze lap tekst, zonder enters én in het Engels... daar begin ik niet aan, sorry
Hier hetzelfde. Ik ben eraan begonnen, al erg mooi hoor, maar toen ik zag wat ik nog allemaal moest lezen ben ik ermee gestopt. Jammer.
Jemig wat een lap tekst! Engels ben ik al niet zo goed in. Dit lezen is dus voor mij al helemaal niet te doen .
Als je t kunt vertalen naar het Nederlands voor mij, dan zal ik het zeker lezen.
Ik heb geen probleem met de Engelse taal, maar dit ziet er niet uit.
Misschien kun je een samenvatting maken voor ons?
Ik heb het wel gelezen en vindt het een mooi verhaal van hoe een hond mensen bij elkaar kan brengen en hoe moedig een hond kan zijn.
2 dagen met gebroken voorpoten die uit de kom zijn in een diepe put, arme Brechtje toch Hoe is het nu met haar? heeft ze er wat aan over gehouden?
Het is zeker de moeite waard om helemaal te lezen, indien dat je lukt in het Engels. Ik heb gehuild, wat een verhaal... Ik ben er stil van.
Het naar boven halen met die rugzak zal ook wel heel pijnlijk zijn geweest voor Brechtje.
Wat een verhaal zeg
Ik heb echt dubbele gevoelens erover.
Ik zou niet naar de camping kunnen gaan als ik weet dat mijn hond daar ligt om te gaan sterven.
Ik ben blij dat ze toch terug zijn gegaan wat een knappe hond zeg!
idd, denk dat ik er met slaapzak zou blijven slapen en haar continu zou toespreken.
Maar de dingen zijn nu eenmaal anders gegaan en gelukkig is het goed afgelopen.
Is het nog niet helemaal goed maar te lezen
omg wat een verhaal
so he asked us why we were sitting there doing nothing and why hadn’t we tried to do something instead of doing nothing.
Dit kwam eerst ook wel bij me op moet ik eerlijk zeggen. Maar gelukkig dat er uiteindelijk toch aktie ondernomen is en Brechtje gered is.
Hoe is het nu met haar?
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