Camper vans, ex-pats & Spanish hounds

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“Camper vans, ex-pats & Spanish hounds,” by Tania Coates and Sam Morris. Hubble & Hattie. $16.95. Camper vans

When you combine travelogue and animal rescue you know what’s coming: plenty of passion and panache.

This moving English book begins with what was intended to be a three-day road trip to Southern Spain from England for the authors that morphs into much more following the rescue of a beleaguered and emaciated Mastiff mix to be named Pedro during a gas stop in Spain.

While Morris returns to the couple’s London home several days later, Coates, a professional freelance photographer, remains in Spain with an animal-rescue volunteer couple while Pedro is undergoing intensive veterinary care for six weeks and quickly discovers the plight of thousands of Spanish dogs, chiefly Podenco types, cast aside by hunters and owners in shelters and the countryside.

Their compassion and concern for homeless Spanish dogs triggers a move from London to the Wales countryside and the eventual founding of SOS Animals UK, a nonprofit animal-rescue organization, in 2008, that has since resulted in rehoming of 300 Spanish dogs throughout the United Kingdom and Europe.

Complemented with a superb mix of color photos of countryside and canines, Coates’ brief, zippy anecdotes and colorful case histories magnify the cultural differences between the United Kingdom and Spain.

“Finding homes for strays and dogs in shelters is sometimes akin to chipping away at an immense glacier which grows quicker than it’s possible to deplete,” Coates writes.

“ . . . Being a small rescue concern means I can really take care and match a dog with a home: not a quick process, which can be difficult at times when many homes are not suitable for a particular dog. “

Coates emphasizes that every rescued dog is a case study, each with its own unique history. Some of those special cases are characterized in detail.

A sobering homage to canine castoffs, the reflective in-the-trenches documentary ranges from unsettling and sobering on one page to powerful and ambitious the next with seldom a standstill moment in between.