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Retirement couple get cabin fever

Brian and Michelle Jones, the owners of a luxury log chalet, located near the beautiful ski resort of Bankso, Bulgaria, are offering it up as a prize in a unique competition. The proceeds for which will go towards them achieving their dream of building a dog sanctuary.

Brian and Michelle JonesHaving caught the travel bug early on, when the time came for Brian and Michelle Jones to settle down it seemed only natural for them to relocate from Bristol to Bulgaria. The couple purchased a piece of land in a small village that is nestled high in Bulgaria’s unspoilt mountain ranges, near forests that are perfect for dog walking. It took them three years to construct their retirement home, a picturesque three-bedroom log chalet in perfect keeping with its environment, during which time they started planning their next venture.

Not surprisingly, the Joneses did not set out to create a dog sanctuary when they were envisioning their cabin with its stunning vistas. Michelle had always had a slight fear of dogs and though her husband, Brian, had owned many dogs in his lifetime, he was sceptical of taking on any puppies at this time.

The pair grew to love a half Karakachan, half lab mix that they named Harry. Michelle fondly describes him as, “a stunning looking dog, very protective over us both, and when we go on walks every day he roams far and wide, frequently returning to check on us. He is a free spirit in an unhindered landscape and is very much at home.”

Harry was soon joined by the mixed breed Nala, who came to them as a puppy during a storm. The Joneses found her huddled beneath the caravan they were using as an office while the cabin was still being constructed. Sadly, finding an abandoned puppy is not an unexpected occurrence in Bulgaria.

Huge problem

Cabin“There is a real stray dog issue in Bulgaria,” Michelle explains. “With virtually no government sponsoring of animal shelters, and people allowing their dogs to roam unsterilized, the amount of dogs on the streets is a huge problem. According to government figures there are at least 30,000 stray dogs in the Capital Sofia alone, which is about the size of Manchester. This puppy turning up at the caravan turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. If we had taken in every dog we have found, that’s been dropped off, or we’ve just come across, we would have about 200 to date.”
Obtaining the resources required to take care of the number of dogs they have in mind is proving more difficult than they expected. Respect for their neighbours, as well as burgeoning costs, all add to the obstacles the couple face.

“We will be very sad to leave the chalet,” Brian Jones says. “Yet we have big plans to put all our resources and energy into the dog sanctuary, which needs totally different premises away from neighbours! During our time in Bulgaria we have inherited three street dogs, which are now a key part of our lives. We also take in young puppies off the street and re-home them, so deciding to dedicate our future to helping the four legged friends is now a natural transition.”
The couple have now put a plan into action in order to build their next ideal premises - the dog sanctuary. They are offering their log cabin, complete with all furniture, a brand new 4 x 4 and a return flight for two to Bulgaria, as a competition prize. Generously, 20 % of the proceeds will go towards BBC’s Children in Need and the rest will contribute towards the re-homing of potentially thousands of dogs over time.

The competition costs £3 to enter and the deadline is 23rd December 2008, with the prize draw for the snowy wonderland fittingly taking place on Christmas Eve. To enter the text competition, you simply need to answer the following question: what is an Alpine Cabin mostly made of – SAND, STONE or WOOD? UK entrants only can text their answer to 88833 for a chance to win. See website for details.