Our recent visit to Spain started in the Andalucía region, in Malaga. We first visited Vera Thorenaar Reddering of Galgos en Familia. Vera, originally from Holland, has lived in Spain for many years and in recent years has got involved helping the galgos in her area who are abandoned and end up at the local dog pound, known locally as the “killing station”.
She rents a small piece of land in Alhaurin de la Torre where there are some kennels, with runs, and a small paddock where the dogs can run and play. When we visited she had fourteen galgos to look after and they all looked very well and happy. Two or three were a little nervous of us to start with, one was happily digging his way to Australia, now and again a couple more galgos would help him out and it was funny to see their heads disappearing down the hole and the dust coming up at great speed as their paws were working so hard.
Vera has a few volunteers but could always do with more; she limits the dogs she can help to the number she knows she can manage. We have funded the veterinary care for some galgos helped by Vera last year and have again offered to cover the veterinary costs for some more galgos now. When they are ready to travel they will be homed in Belgium and Holland. Fortunately Vera is quite near to Malaga airport so transports by air are the best way to move her dogs.Vera asked if we could provide her with some more muzzles – she puts these on the more boisterous galgos when they are in the paddock just to prevent them nipping each other at play time when they get too excited. The galgos are quite clever at getting the muzzles off so they are soon chewed and need replacing. It was wonderful to see them running around and so happy. The speed they all ran at was incredible.
She took us along to the local dog pound – dogs that are abandoned in the area are collected up and end up here. The majority are euthanased within a matter of days if they are not collected by their owners or rescued by people like Vera. Some dogs, if not claimed, are checked over by the vet and are offered for adoption. Looking around the kennels it was heart-breaking to see so many lovely dogs desperate for a home.
As we looked at one kennel after another it was hard to believe how anyone who had owned these dogs could just abandon them or if they had run off that they had not bothered to come and collect them.
Vera had heard that five more galgos had arrived so she wanted to go and see them. Some of the dogs at the kennels have had distemper and other diseases so Vera likes to test them first before removing them because she cannot risk her other rescues becoming ill. There were actually seven galgos by the time we arrived, one was clearly unwell and may have kennel cough. Vera has a good relationship with the staff and the vet on site will come along and take the blood from the dogs, carry out the test for distemper and Vera then takes these samples to her own vet for analysis.
We were all impressed with the work Vera and her volunteers do for the galgos – not least visiting the dog pound regularly to rescue the galgos which takes great courage. We are pleased to support her work.
Our next stop was to meet Charlotte and Dioni of 112carlotagalgos, also based in Malaga. We had met them before when visiting another part of Spain but wanted to visit the stables where they look after the dogs they have rescued in their area. Unfortunately we did not get on too well with our hired satnav and when it told us to do a U-turn on a motorway, or turn right when there was clearly no right turn, we decided to go back to the old fashioned map. We were therefore glad that Charlotte and Dioni came to meet us at a local petrol station and we followed them to the stables. I don’t think we would have found these ourselves as they were very well hidden, down narrow, steep lanes.
We hear from so many of the people that we work with how worried they are that the galgos they save will be stolen so to finally arrive at the stables and see the setup there we were happy that the dogs were safe.
The family who own the farm live very near the stables and other animals – horses, pigs, and chickens are there too. We were able to take the dogs for a short walk during our visit and all seemed happy and are obviously well cared for. Finding homes is the problem especially now that the economic situation is so bad in so many countries but the number of dogs we were able to help last year was up on the previous year so we must remain positive.
Charlotte also works hard on the education programme and visits local schools, the response she has had so far has been very good and she has now been asked to go back to one of the schools and continue showing the programme to the other classes. We are very grateful to Charlotte and Dioni for helping us get the GIN Education resource into schools – how they find time to do everything with a young family too is amazing but we support what they are doing and have offered to fund the veterinary care of some more galgos with them plus give whatever help and support we can with the promotion of the education programme.
We travelled next to Cordoba, arriving late evening but were able to have a meeting with Sandra Baas of Baasgalgo. Fernando, who manages the shelter, and Florence who is from Belgium, but had travelled to Spain to work at the shelter for a week, joined us. Also Bartolome of Club Nacional del Galgo Espanol was able to be present for part of the meeting.
Sandra told us that the current Baasgalgo shelter suffered severe flooding last year and initially they wanted to carry out work to avoid this happening again but unless the local government carry out other work in the area the problem will not be resolved. They have therefore decided to buy some land in Toledo and set up a shelter there. They feel there will be more security for their association if they own the land and over time, and when funds permit, they can expand the shelter. Much hunting goes on in the Toledo area so the abandonment of the galgos is huge; in fact many of the galgos from Toledo end up at the Baasgalgo shelter now.
Sandra talked through her plans with us; she is actually based in Madrid and works tirelessly on campaigning for a better life for the galgos. She has many well-known people helping her to raise awareness of the galgo’s plight. She is currently working on a book of fairy tales. Well known artists and writers are contributing to this and it is hoped that, once published, this will raise much needed funds for the work of Baasgalgo.
Sandra and her organisation have a lot to do before the shelter in Toledo can become a reality not least looking after 70 galgos at their current shelter. We have asked Sandra to keep us informed on this project as we feel we may be able to help with this in the future.
Inside the shelter the galgos have a bed area at the back of their kennel and a fair size run and in between the two “kennel blocks” is an area where there are dog beds used mostly for new arrivals.The next morning we visited the current shelter. As mentioned before there were 70 galgos there. We were given a warm welcome by the galgos who were in the outside paddock when we arrived, some had their coats on and others had obviously had some fun taking their coats off.
Most of the galgos were happy, enjoyed being fussed but a few, mostly the new arrivals, were thin and one in particular upset us all.
We are often asked why we want coats for the dogs in Spain and after this visit it is clear how much they are needed and appreciated. Although the day time temperature is quite high, when we were there it was between 15°C – 19°C, at nights the temperature drops so quickly.She was a little white female galga who was so scared, she could not settle, she kept getting in and out of her bed. She was covered in wounds, they had been treated, but looking at the state of her and the wounds and the fear in her eyes it was so sad and an image that is hard to get out of your mind. At least she is safe now and will be cared for and once well she will be homed.
When we arrived at the Bassgalgo shelter in the morning, although the sun was shining, there was ice on some of the kennel fronts and icicles from the water butts – hard to believe when later in the day we were all getting hot and taking our coats off.
We got back in our hire car and had a long journey up to Almendralejo in the Extremadura region of Spain – another area where there is much hunting with the galgos. Regular readers of our newsletter and/or visitors to our website will know that we visited this area to visit the RECAL shelter back in 2010. We were very impressed with the work Mada does at this shelter where she receives many galgos but also other breeds of dogs.We recently sent some donated coats, treats, blankets to Sandra for the dogs and it was good to see some of these being worn.
Some more work is being done to provide shelter/shade for the dogs during the very hot weather and some smaller areas, within each paddock, now need to be fenced off so that it is easier for Mada and her volunteers to treat a dog, rather than enter the main paddock and have twenty dogs around you and also it will help with rehoming as people can enter the smaller area to meet a particular dog they are interested in adopting. We have offered funding towards this project.Following our report to the Trustees after our visit we offered to fund an exercise paddock for RECAL. This was a joint project with a German group— Korbchen Gesucht. It was therefore important to visit to see this paddock now that building work on the main areas had been completed and to hand over the final cheque payment to Francisco the builder.
Mada has homed two galgos in Almendralejo in the last 10 years and both of these were in recent weeks. She was so pleased to tell us this and she feels attitudes are changing. She is working hard on the education project visiting schools and once the final work is completed on the exercise paddock school visits to the shelter will start again.
She is finding that the hunters are contacting her more now to hand in their dogs.We could see such a great improvement in RECAL from our first visit. There were around 100 dogs there when we visited. Ten galgos had left the previous week to go to Vic but of course more had replaced them and Mada has twenty more waiting to come in.
In Almendralejo it is now law that all dogs are micro-chipped and because of this the abandonment of the galgos in the area has reduced and more are being handed in to the shelters. This of course puts huge strain on the shelters but often results in the galgos being handed in in better condition and often with paperwork showing their age, some vaccination details (often only rabies vaccination which they have to have now by law) and the date microchip was implanted. Some of the new arrivals were thin but on the whole they did not seem too bad and with the exception of two or three were all very friendly.
Mada, her husband Rafa, and her family again made us all very welcome. They work hard for the galgos and appreciate the help and encouragement we give. We were able to talk to them about the work of the shelter and Mada has many ideas which we know she will follow through, her enthusiasm to help all the dogs is wonderful and how she copes with this work, her own job and looking after her two young children is incredible.Now that the dogs can be let out to exercise and have some freedom it improves conditions at the kennels. The dogs will soon learn to toilet in the outside area which will mean the kennels and runs will hopefully be kept cleaner for longer and when the dogs are in the paddocks the cleaning of the kennels and runs can be done more easily, same with feeding. Also when the dogs return to their kennel they soon settle down for a siesta.
Our visit was coming to an end, we said our goodbyes and drove to Merida to return the hire car and then Aitor, who is Mada’s cousin, collected us and drove us to the airport. We had covered many miles in a few days and Christine did a great job with the driving, with Martin and me and an unhelpful satnav assisting! We were all very tired and glad to get on the plane home but visits like this are needed to be able to see at first-hand what those we work with deal with on a daily basis and how they cope, it is important for us to ensure that the kind donations that you, our supporters, give to us are used as you and we want them to be. Every shelter that we have visited is different but all are working tirelessly for the galgos and need the support of us all.