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Our family

Little Belle’s Magical Sanctuary was founded in August 2017 in memory of our dearly beloved Little Belle who passed away on April 25th, 2017.

Little Belle’s Magical Sanctuary

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In December 2004, Irene saw a picture of Simba on the internet and she immediately felt such strong and special feelings for her. Simba was in a shelter in Spain and Irene sent an email to the foundation to ask about her. The answer was quite disappointing because it turned out Simba was just adopted. Irene was very surprised because she had a very strong feeling that Simba belonged here and most of the time her feelings are right. So it felt sad, but we couldn’t change it. Then suddenly, a few weeks later, Irene received an email with the question if she was still interested in Simba. Well, what do you think! It didn’t go well with the people who adopted her, Simba was very scared and they couldn’t handle her fears. So, at the age of 5,5 months, Simba found her forever loving home with Irene, Robert and Noeska.

The first months she was very scared, she didn’t come near and had a deep fear for a lot of things. Irene gave her all the space she needed, with no expectations, just being. One day, after 3 months, there was a wonderful moment which Irene will always remember. Simba approached here for the very first time and there, in that one beautiful moment, was a deep trust. From that day on this trust was unbreakable.

In the years following, Simba welcomed all the new members of our family with softness and understanding. Benji and she became real buddies right away. Together they have a lot of adventures, also during the night when they can go outside whenever they like. Simba loves to explore and to go to the beach and other special places. She is now almost 17 years old, has insulinoma, but is still going strong!

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In August 2008 Irene saw Benji on the page of a foundation in Spain. It was about 3,5 years after Emi arrived and somehow it felt there was more room for another dog in need. And wow Benji! The first time Irene saw her pictures she was not only touched but also had to smile big. The reason for this was because Benji has a very funny look, she really talks via her many different expressions. We don’t know the reason why she was in the shelter, but she ended there at the age of 3 months…

When Benji was 4,5 months old she traveled by plane to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, Irene just became ill, so she couldn’t be at the arrival at the airport, which is always such a special moment. So, Irene her husband Robert, was there when Benji arrived and when Benji came out of the crate she immediately jumped into his arms, and from that day on they have a very special bond.

Benji brings a lot of joy and happiness to our lives, she’s always so happy and often makes us laugh. She is also full of energy and loves to do things together, especially adventures outside. Since April 2020, her eyes developed cataracts and her sight has diminished a lot. Still, she is the happiest dog in the world!

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Jessie joined our family in January 2012 at the age of 3 years old. When she was 1 year old she was found in Spain, severely injured. She was hit by a car and left on the side of the road. She had broken her back and multiple bones and joints in her hind legs. Because she didn’t receive immediate care, her body did not heal well. It’s hard to imagine the pain she suffered… She was first completely paralyzed, but due to swimming therapy, she partly regained some feeling and can now partially use her right back leg.

When Irene first saw her on a picture on the internet Jessie crawled straight into her heart. When she first met her at the airport she crawled deeper into her heart and soon … she deeply embedded in all our hearts! If we have to describe her with one word, then it would be HAPPY with capitals and exclamation! If you only look at her she puts a smile on your face and somehow she is always smiling too. She is very open and happy in life, embraces all with great joy, and walking/running around like life is one big party. Oh, and she is also a very fanatical digger, our whole garden has had a big metamorphosis!

When people hear about Jessie her disability or they only see her briefly in passing by or on a photo, they sometimes give Irene comments that ‘this is not dog worthy, you can better put her to sleep’ or ‘how sad it is for her’ … Well, the nice thing is that if people look better and really see how Jessie experiences her life, they are completely amazed at how Jessie enjoys her life. They also see that we just let her be herself, she is not a disabled dog, but Jessie. She gives great life lessons and we are all very grateful and really happy that Jessie and we came on each other’s path. Jessie is such an amazing soul, so full of life and enjoying every moment intensely!

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We adopted Twix in November 2015. Our little boy had lived in a puppy mill in Belgium for about 7 years. His ‘home’ was a large farm shed filled with 80 kennels. In each kennel, there were 2-3 dogs. The kennels were made of high wooden boards with a small hatch at the front. They didn’t see much of the world and hadn’t had any contact with the other dogs. Inside there was only a rubber mat and a very small amount of sawdust. We don't know exactly what happened with Twix's back legs, but it could be either innate, or his mother who when Twix was born had bitten off a part of his feet due to high stress (this happens more often in puppy mills), or it happened later on due to some kind of trauma. He’s missing a part of his right hind leg and the foot of his left hind leg. In the beginning, we tried a wheelchair, but he prefers to walk without it.

At first, Twix was very scared of a lot of things and situations, and he still can be, but he is learning and growing more and more each day. One day, he decided that Tualek is his best friend and followed him everywhere. Sadly, Tualek passed away in January 2020, and Twix was truly heartbroken… Fortunately, Twix found another beautiful friend in our Jessie, and now they are 24/7 together, and Twix is smiling again!

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Our beautiful strong Stefan arrived in February 2016, when he was 7 years old, at our home, his forever family! For almost a year, Stefan had lived in a foster home in Serbia. His hind legs are paralyzed, probably caused by a hard blow or a car accident. He was found in a factory in Serbia where puppies were poisoned. Other dogs were attacking him and he couldn’t defend himself or find food to stay alive. He was found in the dark and really scared. They made x-rays and it was obvious he had a spine injury. The damage caused pressure in his spine and this was painful, so he needed an operation. They also hoped that his hind legs would improve after the operation, but that didn’t happen.

The most important is that he now enjoys life and he is certainly loving and living life fully! He loves adventures and often people call him Speedy Stefan because he can go very fast with his wheels. With a big smile, he explores the world. He is such a special and strong little man!

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In July 2016, we were very happy to welcome Lulu into our family. Forever home after so many years! We don’t know much about her past, only that she was born in Serbia and at the age of 15, she was abandoned at the front door of a vet. They brought her to the shelter and there she lived for more than 2 years. When Irene saw her, her heart cried for this little girl who spent her days in a little kennel all alone. Considering that she is also blind it must have been very hard for her. The people in the shelter did all they could to give her the best care, but with around 500 dogs they take care of daily, you can imagine there was not much time left.

With us, she now has the best life possible, to be part of a family, to be herself, live in a warm home, and most of all, to feel loved unconditionally. Although she is already very old, she experiences life to the fullest. Our golden girl!

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Kintana was found in June 2016 in Portugal when she was wandering in the streets. She was rescued by Bianca, the organization that saved Little Belle as well. Kintana was in a terrible state; undernourished, limping with all four legs and she had an overwhelming amount of fleas and ticks. X-rays showed that both her hind knees were dislocated and that she had arthrosis in her right shoulder. She needed a few months to regain strength and weight before she could have surgery for her legs. She has had three operations but sadly they didn’t help her at all. In her best interest, they decided to not try any operation anymore. She walks differently, but we think most of you will remember Little Belle's special mission quote: “Quality of life does not depend on what you are capable of, but how you perceive and enjoy life.”

Kintana is now 13 years old and enjoying life fully. Last year, she was diagnosed with Cushing's disease and sadly she can't take medication for this (she got very sick on this medication). We just have to take one day at a time and enjoy each and every day we have together. Our special girl loves life!

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Our beautiful little man, Cloudman, a Mini Pincher, was found on a road in the countryside of Spain. He could barely move or walk. He was clearly in a bad shape, very skinny, affected skin, and his mouth showed some very serious problems. At the vet, it was clear that his lower jawbone had deteriorated due to gum disease. Also, his nose was crooked due to the severe infection in his mouth. He must have been in so much pain. Fortunately, he was saved by wonderful people, so he could receive all the care he needed. With two surgeries the vet had to remove a lot of teeth in order to resolve the bad infection, also with the help of course of antibiotic treatment. The results from the blood test also revealed that Cloudman has Leishmania. He received Glucantime injections and is now on Allopurinol. Besides this, he has a heart murmur for which he receives heart medication.

In the winter of 2017, Irene was, together with Emi and Kintana, in Portugal and decided to make a detour to Spain to meet Cloudman and bring him home! It was love at first sight for both of them. Cloudman, a.k.a. Cloudy, is a very strong boy, quite determined in everything he does, showing such a zest for life. n the beginning, he expressed quite some pain in his hindquarter so we made an x-ray and this revealed something shocking, his pelvis is broken on both sides, it’s completely loose from each other and this will never grow back together again. We went to a specialist to see if something could be done about it but he advised to just let it stay this way. In the weeks and months that followed the pain became less and less, and now he isn’t in any pain anymore. He got stronger each day and now he can even run and play like a completely healthy boy. True love and happiness create miracles!

Together with Rosie, they are known as Cloud007 and Rosie, his spy-assistant-in-training. Their spyventures make many people around the world smile!

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Rosie is a 12-year old Chihuahua who was born in Spain. She was rescued from a puppy mill breeder and was saved by the same wonderful people who rescued Cloudman.

In January 2019, Rosie arrived home at Little Belle’s Magical Sanctuary and she immediately captured our hearts. She is very tiny, only 5 lbs. Rosie misses quite some teeth, that’s why her tongue is often hanging out of her mouth. Her smile never seems to leave her adorable face. Rosie has several health issues; lung fibrosis, vaginal tumors, and trachea collapse, but she is still our very happy girl who is living life to the full!

Cloudy and Rosie are best friends and are having lots of adventures, or better said ‘spyventures’ , together. Rosie is the most gentle and sweet soul, who loves life and being close to mom Irene all the time.

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Boris was born in India and is currently with his foster family in Mumbai. In 2020, he was hit by a train and due to this terrible accident, he lost both his front legs. Our family adopted him, and after arranging all the necessary papers and vaccinations, we are now trying to find a flight for him so he can finally travel home and join his forever family here in the Netherlands. We can’t wait to welcome him home!

It was especially his face that made our hearts jump the first time we saw him. His expression is so gentle, warm, and wise. You will have the best life ever, dear Boris. We love you so much!

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Tommy is a Mini Pincher who once lived in Italy. There, Tommy was attacked by a big dog and was severely injured. He spent a lot of time in the clinic and almost didn’t make it, but this little warrior wanted to live. Because his back was injured by the attack, he needs a wheelchair with longer walks.

In December 2020, Tommy joined our family. He is a very special boy, highly sensitive, very brave, and is slowly getting to know his family and his surroundings. While exploring in our garden, he can walk without a wheelchair. He’s very smart in how he moves around, so athletic and in balance. With walks, he loves his wheelchair and can go very fast, just like speedy Stefan. We love him so much and hope that we will have many more years together with lots of adventures and magic!

In Loving Memory ❤️

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Late November 2013, Irene saw a very special dog on Facebook. His name was Oldy because he was a nearly 16-year-old male who was found on the streets in Romania. Irene contacted the foundation and they told her that Oldy had just arrived in a foster home, but he could only stay there until the weekend. Irene said that she wanted to adopt him, for he has touched her deeply in her heart.

It was December 8, 2013, at Schiphol Airport Amsterdam, the place where Irene met him for the first time in real life and felt him in her arms, it was a magical moment. Irene wanted to give him a stronger name and when she saw him, she knew his name would be Woody. He immediately captured Irene her heart. Woody was a very special strong little big man who enjoyed the intense warmth and love here with the whole family.

On December 23, Woody his left eye popped out and he urgently needed an operation where they had to remove his eye. It wasn't easy for Woody but he recovered very well. He blossomed, such a joyful little man! He enjoyed being outside very much, exploring and walking together, and he could walk very fast! His way of running was quite funny with his hind legs sticking out. He loved driving with the car, always so interested in what was going on outside, so much to see in the world!

The bond between Irene and Woody grew and grew and his confidence in her was so beautiful and very moving. He had so much fun playing with her and then he could do a beautiful play bow. Irene always had to laugh about this and then he became even happier. He could lay down fully relaxed in Irene her arms where she could feel his warmth and softness. She felt an intense love for him and we all did.

After 7 weeks of being together, living together, experiencing so much love, joy and happiness together, Woody suddenly became very sick… Irene had to make the very hard decision, while he was still under anesthesia, to let him go, to avoid any more suffering for him. It was one of the most difficult decisions ever. On the one hand, Irene wanted to say goodbye while he was awake, but in her heart, she felt that would be selfish. So, with a lot of pain and tears, but with all the love she felt for him, she had to let him go…

We are very happy and grateful that Woody has been in our lives. Although it was way too short, we all wished it would have been much longer, he intensely enjoyed his new life with us. And do you know what his special gift was to Irene? A few days after he died, he told her to start with painting, a wish she had for a long time, but she never took that final step. Woody gave her the strength to begin with painting, a beautiful gift she will never forget. Forever in our hearts, dear Woodyman.

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In June 2000, Noeska and Irene came into each other's life. They had a wonderful time together, but Irene was wondering if Noeska would like to have a (canine) friend. So she started to look in local shelters, but couldn’t find a dog that matched with Noeska. One day she was looking on the Internet and suddenly she was deeply touched by a picture of Simba, a dog from Spain. It opened a whole new door, which led to many more friends, and special places.

Irene often called Noeska her ‘teddy bear’ and her big friend. They had a very strong bond together. Almost 2,5 years ago Noeska her hindquarter became less strong and finally, she got paralyzed. Since then she had a wheelchair. Right from the beginning she was very happy with her wheels, drove around a lot, exploring and enjoying the world in a different way. She could go very fast, running with her friends, together with Irene, going uphill and downhill and she especially loved the water and swimming. Irene also loved to go swimming with her and this will always be a very special memory.

In the last weeks of Noeska’s life, she was becoming weaker, she had more difficulty with standing and walking in the wheelchair. And then, one morning, she suddenly had a high fever. With medication, her temperature eventually got down a bit, but she remained too weak… Irene had to make the hard decision to let her go. Noeska was lying with her head on Irene her lap and Irene told her, with intense emotion, that she had to let her go. At that moment, Noeska did something that made a very deep impression. Although all this time she was too weak to lift her head, she looked Irene straight into her eyes, lifted her head and gave her two warm soft licks in her face… telling her that it was okay … With tears in Irene her eyes and in her heart, she held Noeska in her arms and embraced by love Noeska went to the other side …

Thank you beautiful Noeska for who you were (and still are), for being in our lives, to make our hearts whole, you were and always will be very special.

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When Raquel was about 5 years old, she was found on the streets and was brought to the shelter. People in Spain then adopted her. After almost 6 years the shelter received a phone call from the adopters, they wanted to bring Raquel back because they were moving out and they couldn’t bring Raquel with them… The volunteers of the shelter went to the house where Raquel lived all these years and when they arrived they were in tears… because it turned out Raquel had lived all that time in the garden, she wasn’t allowed to go in the house, they didn’t walk with her and she was very skinny. They immediately took Raquel with them and gave her all the care she needed.

When Irene saw her on the website of the organization in the Netherlands (who works together with the shelter in Spain) at the end of 2010, she was deeply moved by the look in Raquel her eyes, so soft but also sad. It was just around the time Irene was thinking about giving a home to an older dog who really needed a safe place and all the love they most probably never experienced. So, it’s obvious Raquel came here.

In the beginning, she was very withdrawn, didn’t dare to show herself. Express her own feelings, because she never was allowed to just be herself. Irene will never forget the moment when they were outside and Raquel was just standing there, like she did every day, not knowing what to do or what was allowed. Irene was just talking with a happy voice and walked a bit around, giving Raquel all the space she needed. And suddenly, Raquel began to walk… , then walk a little bit faster…, then all of a sudden she went in full gallop! After a few meters, she stopped, looking around, a little bit confused like ‘What did I just do?!’ Then she heard Irene her voice, a very enthusiastic tone but at the same time a soft sound. She lifted her head, with a gleam in her eyes and went again in a beautiful gallop. Soooo happy! And so fast! She made turns and crazy moves and had a big smile on her face. Irene was in tears, you can imagine… From that day on Raquel knew she was home, really home!

In the last year of her life, Raquel had a wheelchair because her hindquarter became too weak to stand or walk for longer times. She was very happy with her wheels, enjoying this wonderful help with walking.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015, was the day we had to say goodbye to our dearly beloved Raquel. Her spirit was till the end very strong and therefore it was hard to let her go, but she passed away in the arms of Irene, surrounded by our profound love and so she went very peacefully. We are happy that she had almost 5 years full of joy and happiness with us and she will always be treasured in our hearts. Run and fly free and happy!

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Sun had lived in Romania for about 6 years, partly on the streets and also in a horrible shelter. She was hit by a car and they probably drove over her left front paw, that’s why she walked on 3 paws. Her journey to the Netherlands began in June 2012. First, she stayed for half a year in a shelter and at the end of 2012, a family adopted her. But it didn’t go well there, according to these people she was aggressive, unpredictable and had bite incidents with dogs and humans. Even a vet agreed that putting her to sleep was the best idea… Well, that’s where Irene came into the picture. She disagreed with everything, she didn’t see Sun as aggressive, but she saw a dog that was very uncertain and clearly Sun had been through a lot!

At first, the family was planning on giving Sun back to the foundation/shelter in the Netherlands. But Irene could not let them take Sun back to the shelter, after all she’d been through. So Sun came to our home to join our family. The first idea was to offer Sun fostercare and then find her a permanent home. But well, when an animal arrives at our home they never leave, they are all from the beginning embedded in Irene her heart.

In all the years she was with us, Sun has grown a lot. She got all the space she needed and she liked to be on her own a lot. When the weather was nice she liked to be outside for almost the whole day, it was her favorite place to be. She only trusted Irene and Robert, they were her best friends in life. She had a very soft nature and it is a great joy to know she enjoyed her life here with us so much.

One day, Sun suddenly had a lot of pain. There were X-rays made which showed spondylosis on a bad place and severe damage at the transition lumbar vertebrae and sacrum. But the symptoms were strange. When the medication didn’t help and the pain got worse, we went to see a neurologist in the animal hospital. Sadly the MRI showed that Sun had malignant cancer. Before the MRI scan Irene and Sun had a very special moment together, so deeply connected, expressing their love for each other and Sun gave Irene some gentle licks on her face, so very touching. Irene knew what she was saying… At the moment we had to make the decision to let Sun go she was still under anesthesia because of the MRI scan. We decided to not wake her up anymore. It did hurt Irene a lot that she couldn’t say goodbye, once more feel her, look into her eyes and, although she always tells us this a million times, to tell Sun we loved her so much. But for Sun this was the most loving thing we could do, no more pain and go in peace. We were with her at her last moments here on earth and embraced with our love she gently passed away.

It all happened so fast within 2 weeks that it can still feel unreal. Though our loss is painful and our grief is great, we can also feel this enormous depth of our love for Sun and know how happy she was with her life with us. We will always love you Sun, you will always be our Sunshine, in our lives, in our hearts.

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Our special boy Tualek lived for more than 4 years in a shelter in Thailand. Before that, he had a hard life on the streets. The organization Care For Dogs found him and took wonderful care of him. In the beginning, he was very scared and not healthy at all. He had obvious hair problems and he had a big wound and a tumor on his back. He got all the necessary treatment and his hair grew back at some parts of his body.

It was April 2014 when Irene saw Tualek on the internet and she immediately fell deeply in love. His whole expression was stunning and in his eyes Irene could see what he had been through. Because it takes a lot of preparation to organize all the necessary vaccinations and paperwork, we had to wait for more than 4 months till Tualek could travel to the Netherlands. A very exciting time. Tualek his new life began in September when he finally traveled to his forever home with us, a long journey for over 12 hours. His arrival at the airport and the first meeting between Tualek and Irene were very special moments.

His whole life changed and he grew a lot, from being a lot inside to more and more exploring the surroundings outside, all at his own pace. Tualek was such a happy dog and always very talkative, expressing his feelings in a very funny way.

In January 2020, Tualek got the diagnosis: Lymphoma. Only 6 days later, he passed away. We tried everything to help our beautiful little boy, but this was a cruel and unfair fight we couldn’t win. Irene was with Tualek in the hospital in his last moments. In her arms, he passed away. Our beautiful special boy, for always and forever with him.

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In April 2018, our beautiful big brother Rex joined our family. At the age of 14 years old he was abandoned in the streets in Portugal by the husband of the owner after she passed away from cancer. So very sad and heartbreakin. Shelter Bianca, the organization that rescued Little Belle and Kintana too, took care of him and arranged his travel home to us.

Rex had Ehrlichiosis and Babesia for which he received treatment in the first weeks at home. Because the Ehrlichia was attacking his liver he had a very hard time and there were some moments where we thought we would lose him. But he recovered very well, a real miracle. He also had cataracts and a heart murmur. Because he had some problems with walking, especially his left hind leg was in really bad shape, we made extra x-rays. These showed that his left hock joint is completely loose and this explains the way he walks.

We tried a custom-made brace to support his hind leg, later on a wheelchair, and a back brace, but this didn’t work out well for him. Rex felt so much more comfortable when he could walk the way he probably had done for many years, and his whole body had adjusted to this. Irene always tries the best for every dog and sometimes it just turns out different than we first thought and hoped. The dogs themselves always know best what’s best for them and we always listen to them. Rex was a very happy old boy and known forever for this big smile!

On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, Rex suddenly passed away. From one moment to another, he was just gone. While he was sleeping, he peacefully went to the other side. We miss him so much, but we can still feel his big smile in our hearts.

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A few weeks after Simba arrived, in January 2005, Irene saw Emi on the internet and her heart immediately did go out to her. She had such a ‘damaged’ soul, and this while she was still so young, only 3 months old. Together with her little brother, she was thrown into a deep trench in Spain, where her brother broke his leg. They were found and taken care of and at the age of 3 months Emi traveled to the Netherlands to a foster home.

At first, Emi was very scared and did keep her distance. She wa such a sensitive girl. But on her own time, she found out more and more that she would never be hurt again. The only one she trusted for 100 % was Irene. She didn't like other people so much, she just watched them from a distance. That’s okay, she could make her own choices.

Over the years, she got a lot more confidence and above all, she enjoyed life! She was a happy girl with a big smile and bright shining eyes. Because of kidney failure, on Friday, June 5, 2020, our beautiful girl Emi passed away. In Irene's arms, she went very peacefully to the other side.

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