Through our travels in the Douro Valley, I've become acquainted with Jackie Thurn-Valsassina (below), PR manager at Symington Family Estates, a gracious, loquacious, and high-energy woman who has escorted us on visits to Graham’s, Malvedos and Quinta do Vesuvio. On the train to Vesuvio a few years ago, I discovered that she and I have something in common: animal rescue. The day we met, she'd arrived late, with blood on her shirt. Offering profuse apologies for her delay, she explained she had to stop en route to rescue a wounded rabbit that she'd spotted on the road and take a detour to the animal welfare center she was involved with.
Hers is a far greater enterprise than my backyard affair: Called Aanifeira, it involves dozens of volunteers, vets from around Europe coming to donate their services, pet food companies donating food, and contributors from around the globe.
Funny part is, a week after seeing Jackie in May, I encountered a dog that was in dire need of Aanifeira's services. Visiting Quinta Vale D. Maria in the Douro, there was an old, half-starved hound lying on the drive. He wasn't one of their regular winery dogs. “He just showed up a few days ago. I think he’s sick; he doesn’t eat much,” said winemaker Joana Pinhão, looking concerned.She wasn’t sure who to turn to. “I just happen to know an organization,” I said, giving her Aanifeira’s contact info, handwritten on Jackie's card, which I still had in my pocket. Call it serendipity.
I hope that pooch is okay. I know he couldn’t be in better hands. He was one of the lucky ones.