At the end of the Spanish hunting season in January, hundreds of galgos are abandoned every year, and many of them resort to living on their wits to survive.
It can take weeks, sometimes months, of patient work by volunteers before a dog is finally caught and taken to a refuge.
Not all of these dogs cope with the change in situation, and if they then travel to another country and are put in a domestic environment, it can be even more traumatic, and their first instinct is to escape again.
One such dog recently arrived in France.
She escaped on the day of her arrival and is now on the loose again. Her foster family have done all they can to trace her – posters, advising the police, town halls in the areas where the dog has been seen, radio appeals.
Sightings have been reported, but unfortunately the dog has not yet been able to be caught.
The following advice on dealing with this situation has come from a volunteer for the Dog Lost Register in the UK:
Lost dogs who are running are a "speciality" if you like, of mine!
The posters are vital so keep that up - the more the better.
Secondly, get yourself a good map of the area. Start to plot the sightings, and, hopefully if your dog is doing what all dogs on the run do, you'll start to see a pattern forming... it usually becomes a triangular route.
She'll be using where she went missing from as the start, usually her home, as one point and she'll be weaving a big triangle between the points to try and find her way back to you.
It's important that you follow these instructions. The dog has become feral - this happens literally overnight when they're out without you. They start living on their instincts and wits. Their senses become heightened and anything that is familiar to you and her as a pet disappears (this comes back once she's back home, don't worry).
The dog will be hunting to eat, and conserving energy to get herself home. Typically (and not always) she'll be eating when she can find food. If she's in a rural area then she'll choose dawn and dusk when rodents and rabbits are available. If it's an urban area she'll be raiding bins (usually at the same times - humans are scary things, remember).
She'll also be believing that she's a naughty dog - after all good pet dogs don't run off do they? So, when you (or anyone else) sees her and calls her name - her brain says ‘oooops mum's gonna be MAD at me - must hide!!’ And what does she do? She runs for the hills.
So what do you do? Well, you have to act like a dog. Dogs aren't scary and don't confront naughty dogs, they make friends with them. Low movements - crouching is ideal. Low, friendly voices, no calling her unless it is very quiet and friendly like you do in puppy training. NO eye contact - that's a direct threat.
And here you have to go against your instincts. If you see her and she isn't coming to you WALK AWAY. It will break your heart but if you call her gently and tell her you're going home and let her know that it's a really good fun thing to do, she'll run TO YOU.
If you go to her, she'll leg it. It often, I'm afraid, takes an owner to actually see their pet run from them for them to believe us on this one because it really is a hard thing to do.
Now for the bit you'll think I've totally lost the plot over. Bear in mind that she's lost. You are the key to getting her home but she can only find you by her senses. Her strongest sense is smell. That's you.
Your strongest smell is your urine. You need to bring her home with your smell. So, using your map and your plots of the sightings, you need to sprinkle (lightly, you don't need much) a scent home. Wee into a litre lemonade bottle and dilute it. Use that to do a trail from the first sighting back towards home usually (or another safe place if you think she's hiding out).
Keep repeating it. It could take days for her to find it, but all routes/scents need to lead home or to her safe place.
If you find that one part of the route is somewhere she's hiding up overnight then lead the scent there (woods and stables are dogs favourites - woods are dry and warm, as are stables which also have grain and manure for food as well as water). Once you've established a route for her to follow you'll have more chance of getting sightings, and hopefully a route home.
If she starts to be in a safe place then you can also establish a feeding routine. If you honestly can't face the idea of weeing in a bottle (though I suggest your pride disappears if you really want to find her!) then the next best thing is household smells - so raid your vacuum cleaner bag and empty that into a bucket, dilute with water and use in the same way.
Vacuuming is never ending so you'll always have a supply of dust from home, whereas you can't guarantee to wee on demand!! The triangular route, if she follows suit, can be anything from on average 3 miles to 10 miles between each point so don't be surprised if she's covering vast distance, particularly if she's a good hunter and can find food for energy.
If she starts to be in a safe place, then you can also establish a feeding routine. It's not complicated, but first you need to find the "triangle" or on part of that route, the safe place a dog is hiding in. Not unusually this will be a stables or woods if rural, because they offer warmth and hidey holes.
Sometimes it can be a park, and even gardens in urban areas. Either way it needs to be somewhere you can lead scent too and from and somewhere that the dog can hide without being felt as though they are captured, and where food can safely be laid.
Food needs to be smelly - the smellier the better, dogs rely on their senses so they need to catch the whiff in the air of something tasty. Typically we advise pilchards (the English sort you get in tomato sauce that reek) or tripe, butchers bones, those sort of easy foods. Dogs who have turned feral tend to eat at dawn and dusk, so you need to lay food around that time, each and every day.
It's hard work and the food might not be eaten each time, until they realise it's there and easy pickings for them. You'll also end up feeding cats, foxes, rats, but most importantly once the dog finds it, you have a start to try and reel them in.
Sometimes you need a dog trap if the dog is really scared, in which case you lay the food in the trap each time - it only takes a dog one attempt at going in the trap to catch it - but sometimes if you can use a grabber or the dog is friendly but scared a trap isn't always needed if you can get the owner to the site at the same time the dog is feeding.
Scent needs to be laid with the food so the dog recognises the owner, and it becomes a haven of safety. Sometimes we lay the dogs belongings in the trap or in the safe place, to give familiarity and smells.
We have successfully also had missing dogs come over to an owner when a BBQ is lit with smelly food on top - imagine the smell of cooked sausages whafting in the wind towards a hungry dog- it can be too tempting for a dog sometimes not to come over and back to the owner.
This routine can go on for days, weeks or months. It can be heart rending to keep going back without catching the dog, but remember that the feeding routine is keeping the dog safe, warm and alive.
It's really not complicated, but it is hard work.
Keep up those posters too, they really will be your answer - 99% of the time strangers see the missing dogs, not the owners, so don't sit up all night hoping she'll run past, the chances are slim and you need to conserve your energy for posting and scenting.
It is possible to get a lost dog home safely, you just need to be on the ball and one step ahead of the dog at all times.
One last point. Each lost dog situation is different, and the above information may need to be adapted to suit the particular dog, its history, and the set of circumstances in which it was lost.
This is the story of Bailey.