Out Of The Madhouse And Into The Doghouse. Social Worker escapes the UK rat-race to work with dogs in Spain

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Book by Mary Markstrom

I’ve Written my Memoir.
It is the story of my escape from a stressful job in the UK to working with dogs in Andalucia. I hope the book will appeal to people who move to Spain from the UK, and who love dogs.

If you’re stuck in a soul-destroying job and dreaming of down-sizing to a warmer climate then this book may be for you.
Having said that, what I write here is more of a, ‘how NOT to,’ rather than a ‘how-to,’ escape the rat-race. I made many mistakes and if I had to do it over I would have planned it better. Despite that, I can’t say I have any regrets.

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After more than two miserable decades I gave up my social work career in Glasgow. With the menopause snapping at my heels, I headed for Spain in a battered old caravan where I ended up caring for dogs. Our four-legged, furry friends are always overjoyed to see us, wagging their tails and showering us with unconditional love. All I ever got from the people I tried to help in social work was drug and alcohol-fuelled abuse. I was kicked as well as having food and shoes thrown at me till I knew I had to quit for my sanity.

I shilly-shallied until a maliciously false complaint put my career in jeopardy. Feeling let down by unsupportive management, I finally snapped and told the Social Work Gestapo what to do with their rotten job. I’m usually a cautious type but when pushed too far, I can be impulsive. I act first and then think, ‘Oh my god what’ve I done?”

For the first time in my life I was jobless and homeless at the age of fifty. It was scary.


In these pages I write, amusingly, I hope of the many dogs and humans I became involved with both in the rain-soaked Glasgow streets and among the stunning  Andalucían mountains covered in olive groves.

Firstly, I introduce the reader to Pluto, the starving, abandoned mongrel I rescued from a gang of teenagers who were throwing stones at him.  Pluto protected me from a dodgy situation but then his big soulful eyes almost caused me to ditch my travel plans. Among the many dogs I looked after in Spain was a muscle-bound apology of a Pit-bull who allowed himself to be terrorised by a tiny, cheeky Chihuahua. That little furry tyrant nearly cost me my job on my first day in the kennels.


We needed eyes in the back of our heads with the escape artist, Harry Hound-ini. He was a fluffy ball of terrier mischief which no kennel was strong enough to hold. Most of the humans I describe were no less interesting like my social-work boss, affectionately known as, ‘Cruella,’  who always peered disapprovingly through her, ‘John Lennon,’ spectacles. She had this eerie ability to materialise from nowhere whenever her name was mentioned.

The bane of my life was the pint-sized receptionist Wee Meg. She teasingly reminded me that I was no spring chicken and that if I wanted out of social work I’d better get a move on as I was nearly too old and senile. My travelling companion to Spain was the charming Max, a multi-lingual musician with big, ‘Bambi’ eyes. Max had a mysterious past and his eccentricities ensured that our journey was eventful.

The Spanish I befriended were all very sociable helpful people and I loved them. Unfortunately, there were a few exceptions such as Miguel. I couldn’t believe that this gaunt old pensioner with his over-ripe banana legs was the most powerful man in the area. One clue was his nickname, ‘Miguel Mafia,’ and he proved himself worthy of this title. Miguelito, his oily son, had a plump, oval face which reminded me of a giant olive which split when he smiled and his hard, little eyes were like olive stones. I feared he was turning into one of the olive trees which covered the land. Together they conspired to cheat me out of my dream Spanish home and leave me penniless.

In Andalucía boarding kennels until I met Olof. We were brought together by his magnificent Rottweiler, Tessy. We eventually married and ran our own kennels for eight happy years. Olof spoke English with an endearing Scandinavian accent, using words and phrases like, ‘my godness,’ and ‘helvetta.’ His culinary speciality was garbage (cabbage) soup.

Eventually, a motorway plan forced us to move on. Ten years after arriving in Spain with Max I was on the road again with Olof looking for adventure in a more modern caravan…

Out Of The Madhouse And Into The Doghouse’, by Mary Markstrom.
Available on Amazon paperback and kindle.

I will donate 10% of sales to a dog rescue charity.




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