If you'd asked me a few months ago what immediately sprang to mind if asked to consider Romania I would have said excellent gymnasts, poor fashion choices, extremely dodgy totalitarian leaders who were shot on Christmas Day sometime in my childhood and thus the image of their corpses is stamped on my memory to this day and a boy called Radu who I knew at university.
If you asked me today, I would say the fact that they kill dogs. They torture dogs. They set traps for dogs (and cats, come to that). They perpetuate breeding by not spaying and neutering and they then round up the dogs and they torture them.
You may think I am condemning an entire country for the actions of a few. But I'm not.
The government have passed a law that says all stray dogs will be rounded up by dog catchers - who are brutal in their treatment - and killed within 14 days if they're not claimed.
While they're waiting to be killed they are kept in filthy, cramped conditions. They are left in pain, fear and agony. And they are starved, because hey, what's the fucking point in feeding a dog that's only going to be killed.
I follow many Romanian animal charities on Facebook and online and there are endless pictures of starving, beaten, actively tortured animals. The dog catchers are brutal and these dogs start their lives begging on the streets. They are booted and ignored. They are starved and in pain. Many lose limbs due to being run over and left or by the traps that residents put out. Yep, people put out traps that maim dogs.
The public shelters that the rounded up dogs go into are hellholes.
This law happened over the last month or so and it is enforced. To be honest, even before the law the dogs were on a hiding to nothing.
They are literally born to die.
So, why do I care so strongly about this when there are so many horrors in the world? Because that's a cop out. Shrugging my shoulders because there are disgusting things happening everywhere to animals and people, as if to say: "Ah well, nothing I can do." isn't enough anymore.
I am a supporter of various UK animal charities and will continue to be. But the truth is that we have no idea in this country about the scale and horror of the cruelty that goes on in other countries towards dogs and cats. No idea at all. People don't want to look. People don't want to see.
Of course, many do. And in Romania there are a hardcore group of people with souls who are trying to stem this horrific tide. They are pulling dogs out of public 'shelters' and keeping them in private shelters which, although shitholes, are staffed by people who care. They are getting treatment for the dogs that can be treated and they are rehoming them out of the country. And they are relying on donations.
They are metaphorically sticking their pinkie in a dam. It's an impossible fight but for every dog that is saved it's a stand against this abhorrent and abjectly cruel behaviour.
To do my part I have found myself adopting a dog from Romania. She is called Sushi and this is her just over a month ago before she lost her leg. I'm not entirely clear on how she lost her leg but she has. She is tiny, she is nondescript and she is a perfect example of a Romanian street dog - a mutt who has never known kindness in her short life until she became a lucky saved one.
I saw her picture, looked at her mad ears, and found myself inquiring about her. Showing their desperation to get dogs homed, the charity (K-9 Angels) - efficiently sent someone out to meet me, decided I could give her a good home and then mailed me to tell me the good news. K-9 Angels also save dogs from Thailand who are bred to go into the food chain, by the way. Yeah, that really happens too.
This is Sushi after she lost her leg a couple of weeks ago. The dingy, dark place she is in is the private shelter where she is getting better treatment than she has ever had. She has shelter, she has food and she occasionally has a cuddle. And that is literally the best her life has ever been.
Shit got real and I sent them the £200 to get her over here. She just made it onto the January 2014 van, which is already full to bursting with dogs getting their first chance at a life free of pain. And she will be here, all being well, after a two day journey on 11 January. At which point my friend Mickey will drive me to the dreadfully inconvenient drop off point and we will go and pick her up and I will never let her be afraid again.
She will join Fatman in my tiny menagerie of spoiled rescue animals and I will make sure she has everything she has never had before. Not at all sure how Fatman is going to take this but he can't be the only one I give a home to.
People have told me for years that I should 'do what makes me happy'. This is what makes me happy. And although I wish I could save every single dog in Romania, I will start with Sushi.
If you want to donate to help the dogs of Romania that'd be OK. If you want to adopt one of these dogs that would be OK too. If you'd rather buy some pug shaped Christmas cards with all profits going to help the Romanian dogs that'd be also OK. This is an example of one of these lovingly crafted cards, which happen to feature the face of my nephew Alfie and have been designed and produced by my friend Mickey Rose. Here is where you can buy them.
If you don't want to do any of that then that's OK too. Everyone has their thing that they care about and I know that I can't convince anyone that my cause is better than theirs. Of course I can't. But if you've read to the end of this then just keep it all in mind.
Maybe a friend of yours will mention that they want to adopt a dog and you can tell them that they can save a dog from Romania if they want to. Or maybe a friend of yours is running a marathon (I cannot believe how many friends I have that run marathons) and would like a cause to run for.
Or just tell people about it because these tortured dogs deserve to have their story told.