Cheese-tasting in the Dijon area as we follow the Tour de France route

Couriers J and M set off from the UK, heading towards Spain, and spent last night in the Dijon area of France. On board so far are Bonnie, Nellie, Lola and India.

Tabby-and-white cats Bonnie and Nellie are quite hard to tell apart. These two lovelies have been homeboarding with Animalcouriers for a week since arriving from Wales. They’re now en route to their new home in Moraira in Spain, where their owners Val and David are eagerly awaiting their arrival — Val says once the cats are there it will really feel like home.

At just 8 inches tall, miniature Yorkie Lola must have felt like she was stalking through the jungle on her morning walk. This plucky little girl loved it all — leaping about, walking on her hind legs, and playing with her new chum India.

India is travelling with us from London to the wonderful Spanish city of Seville. She homeboarded with Animalcouriers for a couple of nights before we set off. This was perfect because she’s quite a shy dog, and it gave us a chance to get to know each other.

Bonnie is very relaxed…

Bonnie is very relaxed…

…as is her sister Nellie

…as is her sister Nellie

Little Lola steps out for her morning walk…

Little Lola steps out for her morning walk…

…and comes back a little damp from all the dew

…and comes back a little damp from all the dew

India loved all the sights and smells on her walk. She could sense there were plenty of small mammals around — moles, voles, rabbits and mice — but they didn't care to show themselves

India loved all the sights and smells on her walk. She could sense there were plenty of small mammals around — moles, voles, rabbits and mice — but they didn’t care to show themselves

Our overnight stay in Dijon was in the heart of comté country, with a cave opposite our hotel. We had the unexpected pleasure of sampling some of this delicious French cheese for breakfast.

Our overnight stay in Dijon was in the heart of comté country, with a cave opposite our hotel. We had the unexpected pleasure of sampling some of this delicious French cheese for breakfast.

Even the wrappers for the cheese are appetising!

Even the wrappers for the cheese are appetising!

India was keen to give us her views on the cheese tasting. She hails from the western side of Spain and reckons that the cheese from her homeland is possibly even more delicious than comté.

India was keen to give us her views on the cheese tasting. She hails from the western side of Spain and reckons that the cheese from her homeland is possibly even more delicious than comté.

We told Bonnie (here) and Nellie all about the cheese cave and took them a small piece of cheese to taste. Nom nom, said Bonnie.

We told Bonnie (here) and Nellie all about the cheese cave and took them a small piece of cheese to taste. Nom nom, said Bonnie.

Nellie was so comfy she just opened an eye as if to say, leave it and I will eat it later

Nellie was so comfy she just opened an eye as if to say, leave it and I will eat it later

The grass is always greener… some of the beautiful (and clever) cows whose milk goes into comté cheese

The grass is always greener… some of the beautiful (and clever) cows whose milk goes into comté cheese

A novel method of cow transport — an oversized skateboard!

A novel method of cow transport — an oversized skateboard!

The Tour de France is due past tomorrow

The Tour de France is due past tomorrow

A classy effort by this village to welcome the tour, but not quite up to Yorkshire standards, in our humble opinion!

A classy effort by this village to welcome the tour, but not quite up to Yorkshire standards, in our humble opinion!

Sunflowers on a sunny day — we never tire of this sight however many times we travel through mainland Europe

Sunflowers on a sunny day — we never tire of this sight however many times we travel through mainland Europe

Enjoying the natural and architectural splendours of Greece

On the way to Athens, Animalcouriers has the chance to admire some fascinating sights in Greece.

This view of Igoumenitsa is breathtaking — it's easy to see why people fall in love with Greece and the Greek islands

This view of Igoumenitsa is breathtaking — it’s easy to see why people fall in love with Greece and the Greek islands.

The Rio-Antirrio bridge crosses the Gulf of Corinth and links the town of Rio on the Peloponnese to Antirrio on mainland Greece. The world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge, it looks impressive against a bright blue Greek sky.

The Rio-Antirrio bridge crosses the Gulf of Corinth and links the town of Rio on the Peloponnese to Antirrio on mainland Greece. The world’s longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge, it looks impressive against a bright blue Greek sky.

Old and new together — in the shadow of one of the bridge's huge concrete supports lies a fort; and opposite one end of the bridge you'll find the fort's big sister. Both forts date from the days when stretches of water like these needed defending from invaders

Old and new together — in the shadow of one of the bridge’s huge concrete supports lies a fort; and opposite one end of the bridge you’ll find the fort’s big sister. Both forts date from the days when stretches of water like these needed defending from invaders.

Beware arachnophobes! Overlooking a delta just south of Igoumenitsa are miles and miles of webs, dotted with colonies of very large spiders… that's not black blobs on the photo, that's spiders!

Beware arachnophobes! Overlooking a delta just south of Igoumenitsa are miles and miles of webs, dotted with colonies of very large spiders… that’s not black blobs on the photo, that’s spiders!

One of the huge spiders in glorious close-up

One of the huge spiders in glorious close-up

The view across the delta that the spiders are 'protecting'

The view across the delta that the spiders are ‘protecting’

Lucky from Athens has a new home in Cornwall

Animalcouriers is pleased to be heading off to Greece again this month. Among the passengers waiting to travel back to the UK with us is a little cat called Lucky. Rescued from a life on the streets by Nine Lives Greece, she has a lovely new home awaiting her in Cornwall.

You may find the ‘before’ photo of Lucky hard to look at, but it only makes her subsequent transformation all the more remarkable.

Cordelia from Nine Lives tells us:

“Lucky was found hiding in a crevice under the pavement on a busy Athens thoroughfare. One of her eyes was popped out painfully from untreated infection, she was just skin and bones, and terrified. It took a Nine Lives volunteer some time to manage to grab the poor soul who was darting — spitting and whacking out in self-defence —between her ‘safe’ hole and dangerously into the road. The vet operated to remove the eye as it was past repair, and during her stay at the clinic she transformed into a plump, healthy, and extremely affectionate kitty. She then moved into foster care, where she flourished — initially under the name Cornelius as she was mistaken for a little boy, then with her new name and identity, Lucky, the name chosen by her adopters Gemma and Paul in Cornwall who are excitedly awaiting her arrival!”

Lucky on being rescued, before any treatment on her poor eye

Lucky on being rescued, before any treatment on her poor eye

What a difference treatment, food, love and care make

What a difference treatment, food, love and care make

Like any other cat, Lucky loves a cardboard box to sit in!

Like any other cat, Lucky loves a cardboard box to sit in!

The story of Honey, which demonstrates why microchipping your pets is always worth it

Beautiful cat Honey disappeared from Pueblo Nuevo in Sotogrande over three years ago. Her family searched and searched for her, placed ads in the paper and put up posters in an effort to find her, but to no avail. Distraught, they had to leave for England without her.

Imagine the family’s surprise when they recently got a call from their old vet in Sotogrande, Paola, to say that Honey had been found! She’d been discovered living by herself in Cordoba — around 300km from her original home! Luckily she had been microchipped, so a vet in Cordoba could identify her and trace Paola.

Honey was sent back to Sotogrande where she’s been staying at Paola’s clinic. Paola organised Honey’s pet passport and has been taking care of her during the 21-day waiting period for the passport to become valid. We collected her this afternoon to start her journey to the UK.

As you can imagine, Howard and Samantha are delighted at the prospect of welcoming Honey back into the family in just a few days’ time.

Gorgeous Honey with Paola the vet, who says it's been a pleasure looking after Honey — and that the value of a microchip should never be underestimated

Gorgeous Honey with Paola the vet, who says it’s been a pleasure looking after Honey — and that the value of a microchip should never be underestimated

Paola's veterinary clinic, SotoVet

Paola’s veterinary clinic, SotoVet

Last stop in Portugal before making our way back to Spain

Animalcouriers stopped off in Albufeira to visit our friends at kennels and cattery Animal Inn Guia. Everyone — our passengers, kennel visitors and house dogs — enjoyed a wonderful walk in the campo as the air cooled down.

Striding out with our canine chums

Striding out with our canine chums

Three-legged Buster tags along at the back

Three-legged Buster tags along at the back

Nikita and Buster have a little chat

Nikita and Buster have a little chat

Buster is clever enough to know that if he walks slowly enough, his dad will eventually pick him up and carry him!

Buster is clever enough to know that if he walks slowly enough, his dad will eventually pick him up and carry him!

We thought at first this curious creature must be from a Portuguese legend about a magical beast — half cockerel, half bull — but quickly realised it's advertising a restaurant!

We thought at first this curious creature must be from a Portuguese legend about a magical beast — half cockerel, half bull — but quickly realised it’s advertising a restaurant!

We couldn't resist a breakfast of traditional custard tarts before leaving Portugal this morning

We couldn’t resist a breakfast of traditional custard tarts before leaving Portugal this morning

Stopping off for lunch with Oscar

On our way north through Spain, Animalcouriers stopped off for lunch with chocolate Labrador Oscar. You may remember we delivered him to John and Margaret from his French breeder in January 2011.

Time to play ball

Time to play ball

Time to look super-cute

Time to look super-cute

Time for a nap

Time for a nap

Oscar with John, Margaret and Fergus waving us goodbye. Oscar and John competing for the longest tongue competition!

Oscar with John, Margaret and Fergus waving us goodbye. Oscar and John competing for the longest tongue competition!

Enjoying the sights and sounds of Turkey

Today is a ‘no news’ day for the Animalcouriers trip that’s passing through Turkey on the way to Greece, and hoping to reach Bodrum tonight.

In our case, no news is good news! Having a calm day or two gives us a chance to reflect on recent happenings and remember the people who’ve been kind, helpful and thoughtful during challenging times!

For starters, the owners of the dogs — the intrepid band who accompanied us to Mersin got safely back to Famagusta. From the moment we met them at the KAR office as we limped back from our first abortive attempt to enter Turkey, until they left us at Mersin port, entrusting their precious pets to us, we never heard a single grumble or groan! Everyone pulled together for the crossing from Famagusta, organising visits to the notary, new car paperwork, car insurance, permission to take their cars to Turkey — all at lightning speed. Not forgetting Bob and Lynn, who quickly reorganised for their dogs to fly instead, as they couldn’t come to Mersin with us.

During the crossing from Famagusta, there was plenty of good humour and laughter. A quick rethink when we had to leave Janet’s car behind. Willingness to take the dogs onto the ferry’s open deck in the middle of the night on a pitch-black sea. Coping with the long wait at Mersin, when all everyone wanted was a shower and a cold drink. Then the near panic when we thought they might all miss the boat back to Famagusta. Then when it looked like only Diana might have to stay behind, everyone else wanted to support her by staying behind too!

And although some of the bureaucracy came close to making us despair, the willingness of certain individuals to go the extra mile for us kept us going. Eren and his dad from Petical Vets, who put so much effort into the paperwork. The kind port police who watched over the van for us. The lovely member of the ferry crew who gave us a key to the vehicle deck so that we could check on the dogs whenever we wanted. Then at the port the next morning he found courier J, gave her a hug and handed her a bunch of grapes from the mess supplies!

And of course, the exceptionally efficient senior port officer Aynur, who kickstarted all the officials into action. We told Aynur: “We can’t thank you enough. We hope one day someone shows you the kindness you’ve shown us.” “Someone already has,” she replied, “So I know just how you feel.”

Camel in its Sunday best

Camel in its Sunday best

Off to the shops!

Off to the shops!

Buying fresh strawberries

Buying fresh strawberries

Driving through a large banana-growing area. We were tempted to buy some but haven't got through all the strawberries yet!

Driving through a large banana-growing area. We were tempted to buy some but haven’t got through all the strawberries yet!

Just one of the many handsome mosques we've passed

Just one of the many handsome mosques we’ve passed

A prayer room at a Total garage

A prayer room at a Total garage

A sprawling old fort

A sprawling old fort

Courier M shows off his dog-wrangling skills, while Jasper, Tink and Roxy do their own thing!

Courier M shows off his dog-wrangling skills, while Jasper, Tink and Roxy do their own thing!

Reo hoping for a treat

Reo hoping for a treat

Brandy — one ear up, one down

Brandy — one ear up, one down

When we pulled in for a comfort break, a street dog came up to see what we were doing. We slipped him a few treats before saying goodbye.

When we pulled in for a comfort break, a street dog came up to see what we were doing. We slipped him a few treats before saying goodbye.

Ginger Nuts at the Denizkizi Hotel

Animalcouriers are enjoying the civilised comforts of the Denizkizi Hotel in North Cyprus. They were especially pleased to be greeted by ‘Ginger Nuts’ — a young ginger tom whose clipped ear indicates he’s had the snip as part of Kyrenia Animal Rescue’s neutering programme for stray cats.

Last week he’d spent quite a bit of time sitting on courier M’s lap (who gave him his name). As soon as he spotted us this time, he came straight over, as if to say, where have you been?

Hello, I've missed you!

Hello, I’ve missed you!

The telltale clipped left ear

The telltale clipped left ear

Is this my best side now?

Is this my best side now?

Indulge your love of doodle dogs with a Cyprodoodle!

Many of the dogs rescued by Kyrenia Animal Rescue (KAR) are Cyprus Poodles or include that breed in their makeup. Margaret of KAR has christened them all Cyprodoodles, and many are looking for loving new homes.

Here’s the background on just four of these lovely dogs — all young adults — who’re currently being looked after at the KAR rescue centre. If you have room in your life for a Cyprodoodle, visit the KAR website rehoming page or contact KAR.

Dinky is affectionate, likes to be cuddled and is always ready to put her head on your shoulder — as you can see…

Dinky is affectionate, likes to be cuddled and is always ready to put her head on your shoulder — as you can see…

…Dinky came to the shelter in August last year. Although she did get rehomed, her adopter brought her back as they didn't like dealing with dog hair. She's a confident dog who stands her ground with other dogs.

…Dinky came to the shelter in August last year. Although she did get rehomed, her adopter brought her back as they didn’t like dealing with dog hair. She’s a confident dog who stands her ground with other dogs.

Flopsy came to the shelter last September with a burnt mouth, but has made a full recovery. She shadows people she likes and always tries to go home with them! She's a very loyal dog.

Flopsy came to the shelter last September with a burnt mouth, but has made a full recovery. She shadows people she likes and always tries to go home with them! She’s a very loyal dog.

Nixon has been at the shelter since November 2011. No-one knows his background but he's a very friendly soul.

Nixon has been at the shelter since November 2011. No-one knows his background but he’s a very friendly soul.

Friendly Isa was left at the shelter in a box three years ago. The staff have nicknamed her 'Pogo' as she jumps up and down on her back legs, as though on a pogo stick!

Friendly Isa was left at the shelter in a box three years ago. The staff have nicknamed her ‘Pogo’ as she jumps up and down on her back legs, as though on a pogo stick!

KAR’s new veterinary clinic needs an autoclave and a centrifuge

A couple of years ago there was a big hike in vet costs which caused a severe drain on KAR’s finances. They realised that if they had their own clinic, focusing on neutering street cats and dogs under their ‘neuter and release’ programme, they could promote animal welfare and save themselves a lot of money.

On moving to their new premises they set up a clinic and started raising funds to pay for equipment. They already have good consulting and operating rooms, and will receive more kit from the UK soon. It’s a fantastic achievement.

Among the equipment they still need are an autoclave and a centrifuge. If you can help with those items or contribute funding towards them, KAR will be very grateful and the animals of North Cyprus will benefit directly.

Then it’s just a question of finding a vet to run the clinic. So far they’ve not been able to find a locally registered vet. They’re considering bringing someone in from abroad but will have to get special permission to do so.

The people at KAR are so determined that they’re bound to overcome this hurdle very soon!

The plaque recording donations

The plaque recording donations

The consulting room

The consulting room

Cat weighing scales — quite possibly the only set in North Cyprus

Cat weighing scales — quite possibly the only set in North Cyprus

The operating room — new tables are on their way

The operating room — new tables are on their way

 The clinic's grooming kit

The clinic’s grooming kit