What happens next for the pets is often improvisation.
While El Refugio deploys rescue missions in Madrid, the fates of other pets in Spain often hang on word of mouth: a neighbor asking around if somebody can help, an emergency worker trying to locate a relative. Typically, if the owner has a chance of recovery, the new arrangement is temporary.
For Antonio Viñas, 46, hospitalized in Madrid, “it just all happened a bit too suddenly” to make contingency plans for his dog, Augustus, a white German Spitz with a cream-colored face. Augustus was placed informally in the home of nearby residents, as many emergency placements have been made in Spain.
The neighbors, Ariel Framis, 15, and his mother, Alicia, had never met Mr. Viñas, but they agreed to take in Augustus after hearing from a friend that a dog in their neighborhood urgently needed care.
Now, Ariel and his mother send daily updates to Mr. Viñas, sharing photos and stories about Augustus that “clearly bring some joy to his hospital bed,” Ms. Framis said.
Ariel has benefited from taking care of Augustus, too.
“We always thought about having a dog, but it didn’t really seem possible because we live in an apartment, my mum works and I’m normally either at school or at basketball training,” Ariel said. “But I’m now stuck at home, and I’m really enjoying playing with Augustus.”
Mr. Viñas is grateful for the foster care, though he longs to be reunited with Augustus.
Hospitalized in early April, Mr. Viñas hopes to be discharged within two or three weeks. When he is fit again and Spain’s lockdown is lifted, he said he would take Augustus for a long walk in the mountains outside Madrid.
“The best way that I can think of celebrating my recovery,” Mr. Viñas said, “is to take Augustus to the Sierra.”
James Gorman contributed reporting.