Barcelona Bond: A new Nutmeg partner

BARCELONA – When you finish climbing the long, winding road, through the leafiest, most affluent area of Barcelona, you’re rewarded at the summit with the most spectacular view of the elegant Spanish city. Look east, over the miles of magnificent architecture and across the sparkling blue Mediterranean. Breathe in the clean, salty air, marvel at the sight, and imagine living here year-round.

Some of Barcelona’s wealthiest citizens call this place neighborhood home. Fittingly, for the past several years, so have some of the city’s most destitute, thanks to an uncommonly generous woman named Mercedes.

Barcelona cats_2Originally from Colombia, she visited Barcelona several years ago with a Danish man she was planning to marry. They paid a visit to the city’s animal shelter – such as it was – and she was appalled by the conditions there. Determined to improve the lives of the homeless animals of Barcelona, Mercedes stayed, while her betrothed returned to Denmark.

Mercedes had nothing – no money, no friends, no help of any kind. All she had was a genuine love of animals and a desire to provide for the least fortunate of them.

Years later, she’s now managing the most successful shelter in Barcelona. She and a small staff and volunteers care for some 300 animals (two-thirds of them cats, the rest mostly dogs, plus a few rabbits and a goose).

The animals she takes in were mostly homeless and feral. She routinely receives calls from concerned citizens saying they came across a homeless animal and could her organization please come fetch it. Mercedes and her staff respond right away and bring the animals back to their loving facility overlooking Barcelona. The animals are free to live there with them for the remainder of their days, unless they can be placed in suitable permanent homes with loving families.

Barcelona catsDuring my first visit to Lliga Protectora d’Animals de Barcelona (the Barcelona Animals Protective League) earlier this summer, I saw first-hand how well the animals are treated by Mercedes and her staff. In a terraced system of housing, the dogs occupy the first couple of levels, while the cats get the upper sections, which they share with the rabbits and goose.

They are well-fed, as food is something Mercedes is fortunate to have in sufficient supply. She’ll always welcome a donation of food, as she did when we delivered several shopping bags’ worth, but what would really help the animals of Barcelona is a structural upgrade to parts of the facility, including new flooring (some of it was badly damaged, as I clearly could see).

In addition, Mercedes informed me that while all the animals receive necessary veterinary medical care, the doctors who treat them always leave behind a costly bill. Serendipitously, just before arriving in Spain, Nutmeg was introduced to a husband-and-wife team in Rhode Island who venture to the Caribbean frequently to provide medical care on a charitable basis to homeless animals. They have contacts, they told us, with other veterinary professionals who might be interested in doing similar work in other parts of the world.

When we told Mercedes about this, she was thrilled. The possibility of helping her defray the costs of medical care for her animals by providing doctors who will perform the work free-of-charge is something Nutmeg is currently exploring.

Our initial visit to Barcelona was a productive one. Throughout much of Spain, animal welfare is still lagging far behind places like the United States. However, the region of Catalunya, whose capital is Barcelona, is the most progressive and forward-thinking in this regard. Which makes us even more determined to return there often in the future to help Mercedes and her animals. ETS