Archive for the ‘Netherlands’ Category

posted by Michel on Jun 19

Every now and then, kind people donate stuff for our animals that is extremely welcome. This ranges from rather mundane sounding items such as bed sheets, blankets and towels, to dog collars and leashes, baskets for the animals to lie in, tennis balls to play with, cat litter boxes, transport cages, medical supplies and so on and so forth. There’s only one problem though: how to get all these things to the Philippines for a decent price? Well, as it happens we found a forwarder who specialises in transporting so-called balikbayan boxes that has a heart for animals and agreed to do his thing at a discounted price.

First of all, we had to sort through all the items and divide them over the 3 Island Rescue Organization locations: Cebu City, Catbalogan in Samar and ourselves in Kalibo.

Sorting through donations for the 3 IRO locations: Kalibo, Catbalogan and Cebu

Next, everything must be packed in cardboard boxes so that it withstands the trip overseas in a 30 or 40 foot container.

Everything packed and ready to go.

Finally, our van is loaded up to deliver the goods to ELJO Balikbayan Box in Belgium.

Off to Belgium to catch the next container.

None of this would have been possible without Nanda de Jong, Dierenasiel Rotterdam, Stichting Streekdierenthuis ‘t Julialaantje and Elvie and Johan of ELJO Balikbayan Box, pardon the shameless plug but they deserve it! ;-)

posted by Michel on Oct 10

The Dutch animal enthusiasts’ magazine “Hart voor Dieren” (heart for animals) has featured AARRC in its November 2010 issue. Their Dutch site can be found at: If you can read Dutch, it’s well worth a visit!

The text reads (see the original print below):

Animal Welfare Humans for animals

Animal suffering in the Filippines

Making oneself strong for the weakest

Philippines – AARRC (Aklan Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Center) is a private initiative by Michel van der Kleij and his wife Neressa to help animals in the Philippines. People there often do not have easy lives and animals are treated badly, largely due to ignorance. There is very little money available for nourishment and veterinary costs, so sick animals abound. AARRC catches and sterilises stray pets, mostly dogs and cats, and return them to where they came from after treatment. Injured, abused or sick animals are given the necessary medical care and are put up for adoption whenever possible. Dogs and cats will be socialised and trained by the couple. Old dogs that have outlasted their “usefulness” for people have their special interest and are allowed to live out their days peacefully and in comfort. An awesome initiative from these animal lovers. Michel and Neressa feel it’s important that the local people benefit from their work too, so they work together with the veterinary faculty of a nearby university, visit schools for education and information as well as help fight Rabies in both humans and animals through their sterilisation and immunisation projects.

To sustain the AARRC shelter (catteries, dog kennels, clinic) and sterilisation, medication and medical care, immunisation and food, a lot of money is required. Because they depend on donations, every help they can get is more than welcome. The Philippine stray animals will be so grateful. In the pictures you can see their small dog Arwen how it was found and after treatment. What a difference!

Donations: Argenta Spaarbank N.V. Rekening in the name of M.J.L. van der Kleij. See (English language) for more information about the projects.

The article about AARRC

The article about AARRC

posted by Michel on Oct 1

Together with personal friend and fellow dog trainer (we attended a fabulous course together) Nicky Jenken, we’re running a special training course for people that are afraid of dogs. 100% of the proceeds go to AARRC so we can do more work for needy animals in the Philippines. The program consists of both theoretical and practical knowledge. The practical sessions sport some even more special trainers … our own dogs!

The web site (in Dutch) is here: Bang voor honden (afraid of dogs)

Our trainers

Our trainers

posted by Michel on Apr 1

OK I admit I couldn’t help myself. Guilty as charged. No excuses. Well perhaps that having walked her a number of times at the Rotterdam shelter and looking into her eyes had something to do with it. So we gave in and decided to have her adopt us …

Meet Ginger guys! She is an (estimated) 10 months old German Shepherd (Deutsche Schaeferhund) that was found wandering around Rotterdam and was brought to the shelter by the police. As is often the case, nobody came for her, so after two weeks she was up for adoption. Being a volunteer at the shelter, I had already walked her a number of times and she had become my favourite.

Admittedly, I did have some second thoughts. After all, we already have two old timers Jackie and Tessa and 5 cats. How would they react? Ginger is such a beautiful and young dog, she would have little trouble finding a home. Or would she?

Ginger during a walk. Just look at those eyes!

Ginger during a walk. Just look at those eyes!

She’s very, very energetic (well, she’s still a pup technically speaking though weighing in at 33kg) and has been taught next to nothing. She’s not been trained to walk on a leash since during my shelter walks it became apparent that she missed out on a great career opportunity as a sledge dog. So perhaps she would not have been that easy to re-home after all. In any case, we decided to adopt her to give her a nice life away from people that abuse the breed and so I can work on my dog training skills. Yes, I AM a certified dog trainer but our Tessa and jackie are such fabulously good dogs that I haven’t been getting much practice ;-)

Such a beautiful German Shepherd

Such a beautiful German Shepherd

One final word though: as of Ginger’s arrival our Dutch home is officially pronounced “FULL”. With 3 dogs and 5 cats this is about all our house can take. Of course AARRC in the Philippines is in no way affected by this statement! ;-)

posted by Michel on Jul 23

Ok, I admit: guilty as charged! We simply couldn’t resist the sweet look on this little guy’s face. But being rational sort of people, there had to be some good reasons to adopt a second dog. So we started thinking. Company for the aging Tessa so that she would be stimulated a little. The chance to practise my recently acquired dog training skills. Give another somewhat older animal a good home. Well, these seemed like pretty convincing reasons at the time. Then came the doubts. But what about our 5 cats? Would they accept the newcomer? Max, the tomcat that was found wandering around the horse riding club that I frequent, is not exactly known for his kindness towards canines. His attitude became apparent when he scratched poor old Tessa over the eye and we had to treat her eye for weeks with a special ointment. Thank God that all turned out well. And how about our trips to the Philippines? It’s a doddle to find a good spot for our ever good and easy Tessa, but how about the new guy. Anyway, after having walked him a few times, tested him with a cat in the shelter where he was staying at the time, and test-driving him for a day in our home (where he didn’t chase the cats!), the decision was made. So here he is, Jackie!! He’s a Jack Russell Terrier that will turn 9 this August. How do I know his age? read on!

Jackie, our latest adoptee

Jackie, our latest adoptee

As nearly always, there’s more to the story. In the shelter (that shall remain nameless) they had told me that although he was chipped, they couldn’t trace his owner because the phone number listed to his chip was never answered or didn’t even work. Hence, after two weeks in the shelter, he formally became their “property” (I hate that concept) and thus available for adoption. So, after taking the little chap home, I wanted te re-register the chip to my name. Here in the Netherlands, there are a number of databases of these chips but fortunately there’s one web site that unites them all. I tapped in Jackie’s number (we were still calling him “Neo” at that time by the way) on the web site’s form and hey presto, a couple of mobile phone numbers AND the name “Jackie” popped up on the screen. “Hmmm, two numbers”, I thought, well it probably wouldn’t hurt to just try them, what the heck!

The first number was already BINGO! Here’s the conversation:

Me: “Hi there, this is Michel. I’m a volunteer for an animal shelter. I have here on the couch right next to me a Jack Russell Terrier …”
Lady: “That must be Jackie!”
Me: “Jackie. [as I said that name, Jackie's head turned towards me immediately, so I knew right away that was his real name] Yes, that’s the name the chip is registered with. So why didn’t you pick him up from the shelter or tried to find him some other way. He was there for 2 full weeks!”
Lady: “Well, he’s run away from home so many times, we decided that if he wanted to go, he should go. And he’s always come back so far.”
Me (astonished): “But, but, have you any idea where they found him?”
Lady: “Nope”
Me: “He was wandering around in a Metro train all by himself!!!”
Lady: “That’s not all that surprising really. One day we had to pick him up all the way from Schiedam.” (some 15km away from where she said she lives).
Me: “Well ok, but he’s officially mine now, so what do you want to do?”
Lady: “Well errrr, to be quite honest we had already started to say our goodbye and with two small children I guess he didn’t get all the attention that he needs here.”
Me: “I can imagine that is why he kept running off. He was probably in search of a bit of entertainment.”
Lady: “Yes, well we do miss him of course. We had him since he was a puppy. But you might as well keep him then, he seems better off with you” …

After that we chatted a bit more about his age, habits etc. and then I politely terminated the conversation. Imagine that eh! Looking after such a nice little fellow for 9 (!!!) years since he was a puppy and then simply lose interest … How often do you think this sort of stuff happens? I can picture the scenario right now. A guy gets a dog because he feels lonely. Then he meets a nice young lady and they get married. Too young still to have kids they wait for a few years, but as soon as kids (almost inevitably) arrive, there’s no more room for their little pal. How sad!!!

Admittedly, the shelter should have done their homework a bit better. If I can find a phone number that works first time, so should they. Having said that, perhaps the rightful owners would have picked him up and he would have felt compelled to run off again after a while. Perhaps he would have ended up in a far worse situation in that case, who knows?

Fortunately, Jackie has found a nice new home now. He’s turned out to be very playful for his age and he’s an incredibly cheerful animal. So far, he’s learned to respect the cats, ESPECIALLY Max ;-) and he’s been friendly towards Tessa who indeed has livened up. Welcome home Jackie!

Tessa and Jackie

Neressa, Tessa and Jackie on the beach

posted by Michel on Jun 16

As an avid cat-lover, I lacked the theoretical and practical knowledge to deal with the many stray dogs that we encounter in our animal welfare business. Until recently that is! My current employers allowed me to take a couple of courses in dog training, starting with the ethology of dogs module, followed by the dog training instructor module so that now I am fully certified!!! I took the course at Quiebus whose web site unfortunately is only in Dutch.

Course mate Nicky demonstrating the Look! command

Course mate Nicky demonstrating the "Look!" command

Both modules provided INVALUABLE information into how a dog’s mind works and these courses should really be attended by all sincere dog owners. Surprisingly enough perhaps, in many ways a dog thinks the same as we do and it is this character trait that we use when training them using positive reinforcement. Like us, dogs react very well to compliments and rewards but strongly resent being punished, the latter causing them to feel scared or even angry. So what do you think is the best strategy for getting a dog to learn the behaviour that you, the owner, wants? Reward or punishment? Simple really, isn’t it? And for those who feel a dog should learn all these tricks and perform them over and over again only for love of the owner, I would ask to consider how long you’d be willing to work for a boss who doesn’t pay up at the end of the month …

How does this work in practise? Well, a full dog training course is hard to summarise in just a few words and even though “positive reinforcement” will give you many results on an Internet search, theories differ. In our case it means that we use ONLY positive associations and avoid using force. E.g. when you want to teach the dog to sit, take a treat (small piece of sausage or cheese, use your dog’s favourite) between thumb and index finger with a closed fist, hold treat in front of the dog’s nose and slowly move the treat over the nose to the dog’s forehead and over the head. The dog will follow the treat with his or her nose and eventually assume the sit position. Once the dog grasps the idea, say the command “Sit!” in a gentle and PLEASING way and Bob is your proverbial uncle! Important is that you don’t force the dog’s hind quarters down by pushing, since that gives unpleasant associations. We want to be positive remember!

There are a few general priciples you can follow:

  • Learn the meaning of dog-language, in effect the way they communicate with each other (it’s a lot more complex than you’d think!) by reading a few books, especially on how they communicate dominance, fear, confidence etc. This will help you interpreting your dog’s behaviour while training.
  • Start associating a word of praise (“Good!”, “Good boy!”, “Well Done!” or whatever) with you giving the treat, so that in due time you can cut down on the number of treats. It’s a good idea to still keep giving treats every now and then.
  • Once the dog knows your word of praise, use it AS SOON AS the dog shows the behaviour you want, the treat may be delayed a little.
  • Use the dog’s name only for positive things, like calling for attention, NEVER in an angry voice for punishment.
  • Reward good behaviour, ALWAYS and that very moment! This means that when you call your dog and he doesn’t come right away, don’t punish him for not coming, but REWARD for the fact that he did show up in the end! (yes, I know this is hard).
  • Similarly, when you find your house in ruins after you return and having left the dog alone, DON’T punish the dog! (yes, I know this is even harder). He will associate your arrival with your angry response while he was so happy to see you again. Simply prevent the dog from being able to tear into your couch by using a bench, a nice warm spot in the garage or whatever.
  • When you must “correct” behaviour, use dog-language only instead of meaningless (but unpleasant)  human methods like slapping or shouting, which will only serve to teach your dog to be scared of and avoid you. Dominant gestures (e.g. hand over nose, hand on shoulder, leaning over the dog) are a good means of conveying your message in a way he understands and by his nature, accepts.
  • Use dominant gestures only when you have to.
  • Like with praise, a correction must come AT THE VERY MOMENT that the dog is engaged in the behaviour you do not approve of. Any later and the effect will be zilch, nada, niente!
  • Refrain from using dog collars that have pins or other dog unfriendly attributes: they are unnecessary from a training point of few and only serve to instill fear in your dog, which complete opposes your training efforts. Even gentle-leaders and the like are a bit suspect but still way better than the spikey collars.
  • Make sure that you, the owner, are the fun-loving, friendly and enthusiastic leader that a dog will always love to come back to!

Having said all this, there’s no substitute for learning all this for yourself together with your own dog, so please do go attend a good course on dog-friendly positive reinforcement techniques or buy a few books on the matter.

Have fun!

Training should be fun for ALL!

Training should be fun for ALL!

posted by Michel on Dec 25

This is the first Christmas EVER that I will be spending without my Dad, who sadly passed away last August after having been ill for around 8 months. It is such a strange feeling to lose someone so familiar and well loved, that I can hardly understand (let alone, believe) it …

Luca was Dads biggest fan

Luca was Dad's biggest fan

This year, sadly we also lost our sweet Jessica, only very recently. Her untimely death was the subject of a previous post and especially during the festive season, we miss her very much. In the Philippines, our 9 month old puppy Tosca fell victim to heartworm and sadly died. She too will be sadly missed but fondly remembered.

However, Christmas being Christmas, we decided that it should still be a happy time, no matter what was endured during the year. And what better thing to do than rescue a soul in need and provide it with a warm and welcoming home? So off to our local shelter we went. Helping out there every Sunday morning, I already knew that there was (sadly enough) a plentiful supply of needy souls. Well, to cut a long story short, we took home Nora! She is a very colourful cat, in every sense of the word. She’s very small (like Jessica in fact) but very calm and collected. Very sweet thing too, so we’re quite confident she will fit in nicely with our 3-strong team back home.

Nora, our colourful beauty

Nora, our colourful beauty

But, Christmas being Christmas, there would be a bit more rescuing to be done … Last Monday, 22 December, I went to my usual horse riding session at the local stables. The club houses two cats, Tine and Gizmo, who were both sound asleep in the cafetaria as I passed them on my way in. As club members, we’re supposed to do our chores around the stables, so I started shifting hay with a wheelbarrow. It was already dark and quite chilly outside, when I noticed a cat nearby. This is highly unusual since the stables are quite far from any houses. The stranger turned out to be a friendly, sturdy but hungry tomcat, without any obvious identification. So I decided to temporarily abandon my horse riding plans and take him to the vet to see if he was chipped. Two helpful girls, who named the stranger “Puck”, came along after helping me catch him (easy job!). Nope, no chip, so back to the stables we went. After having secured Puck in a more comfortable travel cage in the back of my van, I caught up with the riding lesson.

While riding I considered the options. Puck was obviously well fed and in good health as far as we could see. He was also sterilised and used to being handled by people. So he MUST have been cared for by people until recently. But the nearest houses were quite far away. I decided to conduct a little search myself and register him with Amivedi, a wll known Dutch organisation that registers lost and found pets. If his owners would look for him, they would certainly start there. Of course, the search turned out to be in vain: none of the neighbours had ever come across Puck before, so the poor fellow had to come home with me.

Puck, found wandering outside

Puck, found wandering outside

Puck has settled in quite nicely too now and lives up to his promise of being a good natured and friendly chap. His appetite is undiminished even after a few days … Yesterday, I extended the search area and approached even more people in the area of the stables, still without success. One of the neighbours, living on a farm, offered to take him in because their cat had died recently. So whatever happens, it looks like this wanderer is sure to end up in a nice warm stable this Christmas.

Which is, after all, what Christmas is all about, right?

posted by Michel on Dec 12

When I originally wrote the text for Do animals go to Heaven? and the sad story about Zorro, little did I know that soon this would become so topical for ourselves. Our dear little friend Jessica died last night, only about 8 years old!!!

Our always affectionate friend Jessica

Our always affectionate friend Jessica

Jessica was always very affectionate. Although she didn’t enjoy being picked up or held closely, there wasn’t a single moment in all her live that she was grumpy or didn’t enjoy a little kiss and a quick hug. At bedtime, she would always jump on our bed and come to us for a kiss and a cuddle. Often she would then retreat to te far end of the bed and fall asleep. In short, she was a great friend, always! In addition, she was also a very brave cat. Surprisingly enough, despite her small stature, she was the only one of our cats who would defend our garden against trespassing felines. Our other cat Luca was her best friend. They would frequently visit one another’s resting spot and engage in a bit of mutual cleaning, which was always a very amusing sight, two of these happy cats indulging in a cat bath.

She didn’t have a very easy childhood probably. An acquaintance found her in a shelter in Belgium because she looked so much like her first cat. Although thin, she appeared in good health at that time apart from the fact that her breathing always sounded as if she was snorring. After she came to us, we had her examined extensively at the University of Utrecht’s clinic and the conclusion was that as a kitten, she had suffered cat flu which her then owners had failed to treat properly, so that it became chronic. The conclusion was that there wasn’t a lot that could be done about it. And although it appeared to us, mere humans, as if she had trouble breathing, it never stopped her from playing or venturing outside.

Jessica with her friend Luca

Jessica with her friend Luca

Wat happened to our precious little lady, we don’t really know. Monday and the weekend before, nothing seemed wrong with her. As usual, she tried to steal kisses as I was tapping away at the keyboard in my study. Monday night she had still been outside for a while. However, Tuesday morning she failed to turn up for breakfast, an event she would only rarely miss. I still went to work but when I returned home in the afternoon, I asked Neressa whether she had seen Jessica at all. When she said she hadn’t I knew something was amiss, so I searched the house. Eventually she followed me up the stairs, having been hiding under the bed in the guest room. She immediately lay on her side gasping. NOT a good sign. So we took her to the vet straight away. After quick examination and a few blood tests, it appeared that she was undercooled and suffered severe anaemia. The vet thinks that this rapid degradation of her health could well be caused by rat poison, as e.g. described here. He gave her a shot to fight the adverse effects of any poison as well as some prednisolon-like agent and we went home being VERY worried.

Brave guardcat on duty

Brave guardcat on duty

And not without reasonas it turned out! The next day the situation only got worse as her strenghts clearly diminished. We went back to the vet and he confirmed what we feared, but he also believed that the prednisolon might still “kick in”, so he advised us to wait till the next day. That night, our faithful darling passed away in our arms, as she was laying in bed with us. We will NEVER forget you my dear, never!

Jessica happily patrolling her territory

Jessica happily patrolling her territory

posted by Michel on Dec 11

This is a tribute to a beloved neighbourhood cat, named Zorro. Traffic through our residential area got him in the end …

Zorro, friendliest neighbourhood cat

Zorro, friendliest neighbourhood cat

Zorro belonged to Tommy, the kid next door. He was an incredibly friendly cat with a very adventurous nature. It was this character trait that led to his untimely demise. Our neighbours got Zorro as a kitten from an animal shelter. As he was Tommy’s cat, he got to name him and after due consideration (with a little help from the colour of his fur) it was to be Zorro. Zorro used to play with the neighbourhood kids as well as with other cats, including our own Luca. His friendly nature made sure that he was loved by everyone. But even as a youngster his adventurous streak would get him into trouble. Once he went missing for a few months. Of course, Tommy was inconsolable and his father spent weeks posting notices in nearby supermarkets and inquiring with shelters and vets. We helped looking for Zorro too, by going for walks every night circling in ever wider circles through our area. Then one day our neighbours received a phone call from the family that had adopted Zorro during his time away and who, finally, saw one of the notices. Apparently, the little fellow lost his way and wandered off into the wrong direction until these friendly people found him, some 5km away. Because he didn’t carry any obvious identification (Zorro WAS chipped however!), these people assumed he was a stray and took him into their own home, totallu unaware of the search that had started closeby.

Zorro liked a room with a view

Zorro liked a room with a view

Needless to say, after his return, the neighbours kept Zorro indoors for a long time before they felt confident enough to let him roam outside once again. A year and a half passed by with our furry friend enjoying the company of his neighbourhood’s friends and his own family. Until 28 November 2008 … At around 16:15 he was hit by a car in his own street, just 50 meters away from his own home and died on the spot. My neighbour was one of the first to find him and was, once again, heartbroken. He would also have to be one to tell his son that his faithful friend had died.

Zorro will be sorely missed by the entire neighbourhood. We can only hope that the Lord intends to send more beautiful souls like that our way to enlighten our days …

Zorro helping with household chores


posted by Michel on Oct 19

I really do like sheperd dogs! They are strong and very obedient when they are well trained. This senior fellow, a cross breed Dutch Sheperd Dog, is exactly that. Just think “sit” and before the thought has completed the journey through your brain, his hind quarters are already touching the ground. “Down” is also executed in minimal time. Impressive stuff! For his age, Cas is still quite a strong dog and he will pull the leash unless you instruct him to “follow”. Not a problem, he just follows his nose and does his thing while I enjoy the walk. The shelter’s neighbours are the Neptunus baseball club and they appear to have some sort of youngster-tournament and music fills the park. On top of that, the weather is very nice for an autumn day, so Cas and I take the scenic route.

Cas, a great Dutch Sheperd Dog