Lieven and Fara

by violalecompte

Lieven Debrauwer is a Belgian movie director, theater-maker and perfume connoisseur. He also has a love for animals, and recently adopted a feisty little dog from Spain through the organization Animal Care España. Her name is Fara, she’s nine years old, and even though she’s only lived with her new owner since Christmas, it’s clear that she’s finally found her “forever home.”

I hope you enjoy reading this inspiring and heart-warming interview with Lieven Debrauwer.

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Did you have any pets before Fara?
When I was a little boy, I was once chased by a neighborhood dog on the way home from school, so, ironically enough, I used to be afraid of dogs. This changed when we took in my uncle’s poodle Fifi (that he had to re-home because he was given a husky puppy). I was fond of this dog, and was very sad when later he had to be put to sleep because of a bad abscess.
A couple of years after Fifi, my brother bought a new dog, a collie, that ended up being more my dog than his… However, when I moved to Ghent into a little studio where pets weren’t allowed, we had to re-home Pasha the collie. Luckily, the grandparents of my sister-in-law were willing to give her a good new home.
Then, a couple of years ago, my ex-partner bought a puppy on a whim: a cross between a Labrador and a Beagle. After a while, he left the dog more and more at my place (we didn’t live together). However, I didn’t have the kind of very active lifestyle that this dog required, so in the end we also had to re-home him. Luckily, my accountant happened to love Joshua and she adopted him, to keep her Golden Retriever company. From what I’ve heard, he’s doing very well now in his new home.
So yes, I have had three experiences caring for dogs, but they didn’t go smoothly. (For the most part because I never got the chance to pick out a dog myself and make sure the dog in question would suit me and my lifestyle).

Why and how did you decide to get a new pet? And why a dog?
The last couple of months, I’ve been doing most my work from home, and it started to feel a little lonely in the house. Too quiet! I thought it would be nice to have some more “life” at home, some company.
And I’ve always liked dogs more than cats… I couldn’t picture a cat in this house.

Why did you choose to adopt instead of buy?
I think it’s a very noble thing to want to save an animal. It’s better to rescue a dog in need than just to buy a puppy for your own pleasure.

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Why did you choose to adopt a dog from Spain, and why through ACE?
When I decided that I wanted to adopt a dog, I spoke to a friend, the owner of a perfume shop “Place Vendôme”. He has six dogs, all adopted through ACE. He recommended that I adopt a dog from them, because the strays in Spain are really being mistreated.
When I read a bit more on the website of ACE I learned about the situation in Spain: unwanted & stray dogs get dumped in so-called “killing stations”, where they’re routinely killed after only a couple of days. The killing also doesn’t happen humanely… So when I saw the fantastic work that Fabienne Paques, founder of ACE, is doing, I wanted to work with her organization.

Was it “love at first sight” when you chose Fara online?
After I had decided to work with ACE, I looked on their website at the dogs they had up for adoption. I was specifically looking for a small dog, that could easily travel everywhere with me. And a quite calm dog, also. For the rest, I trusted my intuition.
When I first checked the ACE website, I picked out a dog that seemed to be a good match, but when I asked for more information, it seemed that he was already reserved. The same thing happened when I picked out a second dog, so then I picked out five other dogs from the site, and explained in more detail what I was looking for exactly in a dog. They told me that Fara would be the best choice for me, because of her calm and affectionate nature, and so they put her in “pre-reservation” for me.

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Can you describe the adoption procedure? How exactly does it work to adopt a dog from abroad/ over the internet?
After I chose Fara, a person of ACE visited me at home to see where the dog would live, and asked me the necessary questions to make sure I would be suited to adopt a dog. All went very well, and so I could officially reserve Fara and go ahead with the adoption. Then a flight was arranged (on Fara’s flight there were nine other ACE dogs, and one cat). All in all the adoption costs 270 euros. This includes everything: vaccinations, spaying/ neutering if necessary, chipping of the animal and providing it with the necessary ID documents…
She arrived December 23rd, just in time for Christmas!

How was Fara when you first got her? And how is she now?
Apparently ACE bought Fara from a “killing station”. When ACE got her, her fur was all matted and in a terrible condition, so they had to shave her. After being saved from the killing station, Fara stayed in foster care with a Belgian lady in Spain, because Fara didn’t interact well with the other dogs of the shelter.
When I got her, I noticed that she was quite apathetic (which could also be because she had gotten a tranquilizer before the flight). She was very calm and followed me into the car with no problem, but she didn’t like being touched or picked up. When I attempted to pet her, she would growl and bite. So then I contacted Fara’s “foster parent” in Spain, as well as my friend from “Place Vendôme” who has six ACE-dogs himself, and both of them immediately reassured me that this was normal: Fara would just have to get used to the new situation. The best thing to do would be to give her some time and not to smother her with attention.
So, the next day, for Christmas Eve, I left her home alone for a bit, while I visited my family, and when I came back home, it was like a Christmas miracle: she jumped off the couch (where she had been sleeping), ran towards me, and licked my hand. She followed me upstairs and slept on the bed with me!
Since that moment, she follows me everywhere… She accompanies me to my perfume lectures, and then she always sleeps under the table. Nobody usually even notices her, she’s that calm.

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How did your life change after having adopted Fara?
Of course a dog is not the same as a person, but still… she brings “life” into my home, and I can bond with her. She’s not the kind of dog that sits on my lap all the time, but she’s very affectionate in her own way. She gets ecstatically happy whenever I come home, even when I’ve just left the house for half an hour. When I have to leave home for a day or for a weekend, she stays with my parents, and I feel that I really miss her then. It’s remarkable how quickly we became attached to one another.

Fara is not a very young dog anymore. Did you adopt an older dog on purpose?
Fara was proposed to me by ACE and she just happened to be nine years old… Her age doesn’t bother me. I didn’t want to get a puppy anyway. I noticed I got a lot of positive response because I adopted a “senior” dog.

What’s the best thing about Fara?
She’s very loyal. Sometimes she will growl at other dogs or people, but I can do anything with her.

Would you adopt again?
Yes, immediately! Because you get so much gratitude from the dog, and also from the organization. I’m still in contact with Fara first “foster parent” in Spain and send her photos sometimes.

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How would you convince others to adopt, rather than buy, a pet? And would you recommend them to adopt through ACE?
I would definitely recommend ACE, first of all because if you know how the dogs are mistreated there, it just makes sense to give those animals a good second life and a bright and happy future, if you can. Even if they’re “just dogs”, they’re still living beings with feelings. Secondly, I’m really touched personally to see the strong commitment of ACE’s founder Fabienne Paques. She’s really made it her mission to save as many Spanish dogs (and cats) as possible, and that’s something we should support in any way we can.
Even though I don’t know much about Fara’s history, I can sense that she’s been through a lot. When you give an animal in need a comfortable, good home, you make another little creature happy. It’s a good deed.
People that want to have a puppy at all costs… It’s kind of selfish. Also, you don’t know how a puppy will turn out: you buy a cat (or dog) in a bag. Fara being a “senior” is actually a really good thing. She’s older, so she sleeps a lot and is calm around the house while I have to do my work. An ideal match.

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Since Fara was quite camera-shy, most photos in this post were provided to me by Lieven Debrauwer.

If you’re interested in ACE, please visit their website, and check this blog for an upcoming interview with them.

If you wish to know more about Lieven’s work, you can visit his website, and check my other blog “Artists @ Home” for an upcoming interview with him.

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