Q: Elisabeth, we admire you so much for all that you do. Can you please tell us a little about yourself?
A: Sure, my name is Elisabeth Conradi, I was born in Germany, but I had the privilege to come here to the island (Ibiza) very early with my parents and kind of grew up here with all the animals and nature around. I studied international management and decided that that world is not really what I wanted and that I really wanted to do something that changes lives and that is something positive in this world with a lot of negativity out there. Since I witnessed a lot of animals being abandoned, abused, and neglected, especially on the island because I grew up here. I always helped all the animals that I found, since I was a young kid. So, for me, I thought ‘this is something the island needs, the island needs a place where the animals can feel safe and where they can heal from all the trauma that they went through and once they are ready they can move into a beautiful new family that I choose from the bottom of my heart, so that I know that they can have a great future and will never get neglected or abused ever again.’
Q: That's beautiful. So you decided to create a space, what is it that you do? and How did you start this?
A: After saving animals my whole life, in a smaller version that I am doing now, I decided to open Animales del Alma two years ago, in April 2020. I opened here because I wanted to create a safe space where the animals can recover from all their trauma, from being abandoned and abused. What I do is I work with the animals, everyone has a different story and a different path, but I believe they all deserve a safe and happy future. ADA creates this space where they can start feeling safe and overcome all their problems. And once I notice that a dog is ready to move on, I can find the perfect family match for him or her and where they can then spend the rest of their lives being happy. Happily, ever after basically.
Q: Happily ever after, we love the sound of that. Could you please tell us something about the process of how the dogs end up at Animales?
A: Well, every dog has a different story, a lot of animals that I rescue from really bad situations. They can be on a chain or in a cage and are badly abused. In these cases, I go and get them out of there. Some dogs get dropped off because some people have found a puppy at the beginning of the season and they are like ‘a perfect I found a puppy, I think I will keep him’ but they do not think that a dog might get up to like 18 years, after the season they leave the island and leave the dog behind. Some at least have the balls and come and bring them here, some people literally tie them up at the airport or leave them out on the road or even in the trash. There Is all kind of stories, some get thrown over the fence here because people don’t dare to talk to me. But there can also be cases where death is involved, the owners die and the dog needs a safe space where he can come to.
Q: Awfull... Could you perhaps give us an idea of what an average day looks like for you?
A: What an average day looks like for me...*laughs*. So basically, there is no average day. Every day when I wake up there is, of course, this procedure, I get up early in the morning so the dogs get fed by 7:30 in the morning, they get all their breakfast and some get their medicines. Then there is the cleaning, of the whole property, the water, and food bowls, the beds, and all the daybeds are put outside. Then the dogs get their general checkup, to see if everyone is doing fine. Then during the day, once that basic work is done, anything can basically happen.
Q: Wow, that sounds hectic. So anything can happen, could you try to paint a picture?
A: Sure, anything, anytime 24/7 can happen, so my phone is always on alert. There can always be an emergency call of a cat or a dog that has been hit by a car, or someone abandoning or abusing an animal. Next to this, one of the animals here can also get sick. Most of the time every day I go to the vet, there is always something, a castration or vaccination there are always some missions that must be brought to the vet. But there are always certain situations that I cannot know from the moment I wake up, the day always changes variously. And then in the evening, of course, the same again. Feeding the dogs, giving the medicine, putting all the beds inside so their all comfortable, everybody finds a spot. Oh, and during the day I do one on one training with some of the dogs who need it, of course not with all of them every day, that would be too much for one person. But I do my best to work with everyone as much as possible, so they all have their training. Since all the dogs, before they leave, need to have their standard training and need to overcome all their fears before they can start a new life.
Q: You sound like such a passionated person. We can guess, but can you tell us something about what you are passionate about?
A: I would say, to see the dogs happy, in a way like… I love to see the process of when I get a dog that is traumatized and it is really hard work, it sometimes takes me months, even years to get the animal where it is supposed to be or close to where it is supposed to be mentally and physically. So, for me, my biggest passion is to see them evolve and be happy and love life and people again.
And, then of course, my happiest moment is when I find the perfect family and they move into their forever home and get all the love and attention that they have always deserved and needed. Because here, I try to give them all the love and attention but as a single person with 58 dogs, it is not so easy to give everyone all the love and attention that they need all the time.
Q: They sure deserve all the love. Life has its ups and downs, could you tell us something about the more difficult side of what you do?
A: It’s quite interesting, difficult sides… I would say that this work that I am doing, can be very exhausting and very emotional. Seeing people mistreating animals hurts me. It is a lot of work and the dogs do give me everything back that I am doing, but at the same time, there are a lot of people that do not see how much work Is behind this project and how much work I am putting into every single living being that is here, under the name of Animales del Alma. Like I was saying it is emotionally intense, and my private life over the last two years has not existed, I have not had one single day off. Of course, sometimes I get jealous, especially because I live on an island where everybody comes for holidays. So yes, It is not very easy. And as mentioned before, every day is a day that I cannot predict, every day some issues are happening.
Q: We see, Is there any way that people can help? And, of course, we also love to hear what you enjoy most about what you do.
A: Yes, it is all worth it, I am happy about how everything is growing. How people are supporting, like you guys, I was so happy with the jumpers in the winter because sometimes it can get really cold. Any type of support of people, I appreciate more than anything, it can be donating or just spreading the word or even helping here occasionally, all of these things make me so happy and make me have hope in humanity. Anyone who adopts an animal is a hero to me. The happy moments are when there is support, and when I feel the love from the people.
Q: Absolutely, we are so happy to help. Could you please tell us why one should opt for adoption? What are the benefits of adopting a dog rather than buying one?
A: There are a lot of reasons why I would say that you should not buy a dog. These days, having a dog, for a lot of people is a trend and a status symbol. Buying dogs for me would not be an option, loads of dogs are overbred or come from illegal breeding mills and are sold for thousands of euros. I always say; ‘even if we do not focus on purebred dogs here in the rescue center, even that is the case most of the time because many people buy a pure breed and then realize that they do not have the time and energy for the dog.’ Also, most of the dogs are mixed, not a pure breed but they are all so healthy and often live longer than dogs from the breeder.
I mean adopting a rescue you will get so much love back, they know that being loved by a human is nothing that is ‘just happening’, a lot of dogs had a rough path. So, the main thing, trust me; a rescue dog will give you so much love and appreciation for what you create for the dog and it means the world to the dog and to everyone who has the same mission as I do. They will give you so much love back for being a rescuer.
Q: This resonates with us. We are sure people are curious, could you explain something about the process of adoption at ADA?
A: If there is a dog you see on the website or our Instagram page, people can apply for it. On my website, there is an application form, which is basically a questionary that you have to answer out of which I basically get a few details and an idea of who you are. Once I read the questionnaire, which can take some time because as I mentioned before I do everything on my own. Also, especially with puppies, it takes some time as I get more applications.
Then, if I think it can be a good match for the dog and the people, we schedule a phone call and I get to know the people a bit better. Often, because 85% of the adoptions are abroad I do not get to meet the people in person. In case the people live here on the island, I invite them over to meet and talk to them in person. I then also go and check out their apartment or house and see where the animal would be, when abroad I ask for a facetime call or videos so I can see the place where the dog will move into.
Once I talk through all the details and the families and I agree on the adoption, if on the island, the people have a three-day trial to take the dog with them and see if it is a match. Of course, some people own another dog, in this case there might be a bit of an adjustment time. When it is a dog that goes abroad; let’s say the Netherlands, in this case I will book a flight with a flight volunteer, I often do a post online to see if people are flying to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, or Eindhoven. I will get to know them and meet them at the airport, check the dog in for them and give them the passport, and then the dog will be picked up in the Netherlands by the adopters.
Q: So how do you know if you found the right fit? Could you tell us what you look for when looking for a prospective adopter?
A: It honestly depends so much on the character of the dog, if I have a dog whom I know prefers to be one on one with his human, I look for a human who loves to take his/her companion around all day every day and maybe does not have a second dog. If it is a social dog, the dogs all do grow up here very social, but some like to do their own thing, I can always tell. But if the dog is social, I always hope that there is another dog or maybe a cat in the family. What’s more, some dogs are active while others are not. It depends on the character, story, and past of the dogs.
Q: Understandably, have you got any advice for people who wish to adopt a dog?
A: Yes, I mean I always think that people should think about the animal, what is right for the animal. Loads of people want a dog because they look a certain way, but they don’t consider the needs of the dog like; how active is this dog, how much hunting instinct does it have, how big will it get, how social will the dog be and how much time do I have? Having a dog and going to work all day and leaving the animal alone, for me does not make sense just because the human wants a friend when he or she gets home. So, I think it is important for people not to only think about themselves but also about the dog. My tip would be if you know how active you are and how much time you have etc. and if you can also give this in the future.
Q: Sure, we have also seen this lately of course with the pandemic.
A: Yes, we have seen this with corona, they suddenly had time and worked from home but after two years everybody has to go back to the office and realise ‘ah I don’t have time for a dog.’ You have to think and consider that a dog can get old, I mean my dog turned nineteen and I had her since she was three weeks old. It’s a commitment for a lifetime, I spend more than half of my life with my dog and for me, I always enjoyed and loved every minute but people need to be aware of that. You can’t just have a dog for two years and be like ‘oh no I don’t have time’ and bring it into a shelter. That’s just cruel, it really breaks my heart but a lot of people think like that.
Q: We can't imagine... What about the older dogs? you mentioned that the adoption applications for puppies always go fast.
A: Well, a lot of people think they have to adopt a puppy which is stupid, in my opinion. I mean… I currently have two puppy’s in front of me chewing on my t-shirt, they are a lot of work. Puppies need a lot of training and socialization. Of course, every dog does but I think you know what I mean. It does not have to be a puppy to adjust and fit into your lifestyle. I have dogs here that are young, let’s say one and a half to three, I have dogs that are eight or nine and they can all adjust here at ADA, they can all adjust later to their family, and they can be so thankful. And if you know that you don’t even want a dog for nineteen years, then consider an old dog and give the old one a happy end, a nice family where he can grow old and be loved. I don’t think a puppy can only integrate perfectly into your family; all dogs can adjust. It is all about the love, work, and patience you put in.
Q: Great advice. What are some challenges you've personally faced when placing a shelter dog into a new home, and how did you overcome them?
A: So far, I must say that there have not been too many problems over the last two years. And I have had 411 adoptions and 85% were dogs, so far, I only had 4 dogs coming back out of which 3 just simply did not work out and the fourth case went viral, it was about the Shepperd dog Lou, who is an absolute sweetheart and we trained her well. The family who adopted her lived abroad, so I could not go there to help and explain, they were expecting that Lou and their other dog would become best friends straight away. However, you can’t expect this to happen, sometimes you can’t make dogs be best friends from the first moment.
So, it takes some time, it sometimes takes dogs months for dogs to get used to living in a city, house in a different place, different smells, different nature, everything is new. With Lou, they were not patient enough and things happened overnight, it is just like with humans; you can’t always put us in a room and expect us to be friends straight away, sometimes you must overcome some barriers and make sure you understand one another. That was one of the challenges; some people don’t give the animal enough time to adjust and to understand what is happening. The whole journey is a lot; from being mistreated to being at ADA for some months, then to the airport and meeting an entirely new family.
Q: Great comparison. We also see so many success stories on your Instagram, and enjoy these so much. Would you share one of your successful adoption stories?
A: I think a great example would be Rio, Rio is a dog that I got out of a bad shelter here. He was stuck in there for years, in a tiny cage, one by one on concrete without a bed. He sometimes got water, when he was lucky, food one time a day, and cleaning was done from outside, just hosed down, that not even every day so he lived in his feces. Next to him, hundreds of other dogs were in the same situation, barking and getting more aggressive because they never got to go out and walk. Also, they never received medical treatment or anything like that.
So, Rio turned aggressive, even at the shelter they did not dare to get him out, the people got a stick and hooked it on a leash, and left me alone with him. He was overwhelmed by the situation, aggressively growling, and wanting to bite me. I thought to myself ‘this is going to be a long way for him’ but I took him home to Animales del Alma. I knew that this dog needed a lot of space and love, he was not social at the beginning, I started with him in a separate field, then introduced him to my dog ‘Tequilla’ who is my main employee who helps me to socialize all the dogs and to keep fights apart. I had to work hard with him, he even bit me a couple of times, but this is my job and I know he is not to blame but the people who did this to him.
A few months later I had him so far, he was down here with the whole pack doing amazing. Then, one day I had a girl who texted me on Instagram, she wanted to see the project and she walked in and fell in love with Rio. She left the island two days later and a week after that she texted me asking if Rio was ready for adoption. Of course, I was thrilled, but I was also scared because I knew that he was doing great in this environment but the girl lived in Belgium so I would not be there to do the introduction, it was a big step to say yes, but I got such a good feeling and I saw that he was ready and he needed to go. Finally, three weeks later I send him out, and he is the happiest right now. I could cry now because it makes me so happy to know that he is in the best place he could be, he has his own Instagram page so I can see every day what he is up to. He is the best boy, the best dog to the family, to me, this is so important, this dog would have died if he stayed there.
Q: That's absolutely wonderful. Is there anything else you would like to share with our Furmey Family?
A: Yes, one more thing, we have so many dogs out here; there is no need to buy a dog. Even Ibiza, is just a tiny island and I could have thousands of dogs here, but I am alone and I must keep the capacity a bit under control. Even here, on this small island, you can see how many mistreated animals are around, and how many cases of strays end up at the end of the season.
Also, for example, just now was puppy season and I have so many Spanish people who think nurturing, and sterilising of their dogs is not a good thing for the animal but it is. Every 4/5 months I get a call ‘we have a litter, and they basically put me under pressure to pick up the puppies or else they drown or kill them or leave them in the trash’. I then must take them away from their mom at even 2/3 weeks old because they do not want to give me the mom, the mom gets a trauma, and this happens repeatedly. It is not healthy for the puppies; they get sick and don’t even have the milk from their mom. There are just too many dogs that need a safe home, and rescuing them is just really the best option out there.
Q: We believe it is so important to spread the word. Finally, what is your favourite Furmey colour?
A: To be honest? I like all the colours. But of course, it also depends on the colour of the dog, no? I mean my favourite colour, as you can see in my logo, is blue, dark blue. So blue is always beautiful, but beige is also a beautiful colour.
Q: We have this issue all the time, love them all! Thank you so much for all your effort and what you do for the Animals! Catch up soon.