Since Christmas, we’ve had a lot of snow and freezing conditions in our part of France, so I was praying we wouldn’t encounter the same problems as we prepared for our journey to Madrid to bring home our cargo of rescued galgos.
Suzette is a new volunteer to the team, and she has a big van, so I was looking forward to having a lot of dogs for company on the return journey. She had done an absolutely amazing job of collecting donations for the poor shelters which L’Europe de Levriers (EDL) helps, and from which it takes the galgos for rehoming in France. If I tell you that, by the time we reached the French border, the van was absolutely full to the roof, it is no word of a lie!
As always, we were overwhelmed with the generosity of people who take the galgos to their hearts – such beautiful loving dogs who suffer unbelievable torture at the hands of the sadistic Spanish hunters.
Friday dawned fair so, bidding adieu to my other half – left in charge of 4 dogs, 2 horses, 2 donkeys and a cat – we set the SatNav for Pons and our first stop to collect some more donated goods.
Wendy had worked hard making dog coats for the thin-skinned galgos, who shiver through the Spanish winter, and it was nice to spend a couple of hours sharing a table with them in McDonalds chatting about animals, and the galgo problem in particularl.
Next stop was Bordeaux, where we met up with Victoria and her daughter Christina. They too had been busy collecting materials for bedding etc. for the poor refuges – it amazed us how much they had crammed into their little car!
Final stop on Friday was Patricia’s, another member of the EDL team, where we were to meet up with Bea and Aline and to spend the night before our journey to Madrid the following day. This was Suzette’s first experience of meeting a galgo who had been saved from hanging – still with the scars from where the cord had been round his neck. He is still a very nervous dog when strangers appear – it’s so upsetting to see the fear he still experiences – one cannot begin to imagine the scars in his mind too.
We were hoping for better weather on Saturday, as we’d encountered a lot of driving rain on Friday, which doesn’t make driving easy, and there had been an enormous amount of traffic, as people headed to Spain for the weekend.
With the open borders policy in Europe now, it’s difficult to tell where the border exactly is, as most of the roads are toll roads! ‘Have we crossed the border yet?’ asks Suzette. ‘I think so’, I reply, ‘but I’m not exactly sure!’ No one wants to see a passport, no checking for illegal immigrants in the back of the van!
The Basque region in the Pyrenees is beautiful – mountains covered in coniferous forests, picturesque chalet-style white houses dotted here and there; a huge contrast to the plains of Castila y Leon and the start of the bad lands for galgos.
We joined forces with Bea and Aline at our hotel just north of Madrid, registered for our rooms, and then headed off for the residencia/pension (dog kennels in UK) to meet up with Cristina, deposit the donated goods, and meet the dogs we were to bring back with us the following day.
Cristina couldn’t believe it when Suzette opened the back doors of her van – she had thought we were joking when we said it was full to the roof! Besides the coats which Wendy had so kindly made, there was also a consignment of dog coats for the galgos which had been sent from America by a group of keen supporters – there were going to be some very warm galgos that night! And lots of dog food and collars, and some medicines. One box which arrived from America cost nearly 120 dollars to send! It always overwhelms me, how generous people are.
Up early on Sunday morning for breakfast with Cristina, last-minute discussions on what help the shelters needed with regard to constructing enclosures for galgos, and then it was off back to the pension to collect the dogs. Rather than driving around Spain to the different refuges, as we have done before, Cristina had organised transport from various points across Spain to a pension north of Madrid, where the dogs waited for our arrival.
There is an animal transport firm, MRW, in Spain and this is the usual method of transport used by most of the refuges, shelters and associations to move the rescued dogs around the country to foster homes, or points near the border for taking out of Spain for rehoming.
The dogs were very excited, although one or two were very timid, result of bad treatment at the hands of the hunters. Some needed treatment to legs and tails where the cold and the wet weather this winter had caused frostbite.
After a good run around to get rid of excess energy – and toilet – they were all back on their leads up to the transport which would take them out of Spain with us. The vans were well padded with thick duvets and pillows – all donated – and Bea sorted out which dogs would be travelling with whom. She took the puppies!
One little lady who came with me in the front of the van, on a comfy blanket, was Estrella – survivor of the Jaen killing station. You can read her story separately.
Three or four different friends of mine have travelled on different rescues and they are always surprised at just how well the dogs get on. Once they are all loaded and the transport is on the move, they find their own space and curl up snugly in the duvets. There isn’t usually a peep from them during the journey.
We headed up the motorway together – 21 dogs between us – heading north for France and a new life.
There was one unhappy experience, which you can read about here.
Just over the border into France, we made our first stop. We met up with Patricia again, who was taking one of the more frightened galgos home with her, to foster and rehabilitate. Also there was Sandrine and Jean-Luc to collect Coke and Hypathia.
The two dogs had been loose on the streets, galga Hypathia was very nervous, Coke protective of her. The volunteers were able to catch Coke and take him to the refuge, but Hypathia was far more difficult to catch. In the meantime, Coke was really distressed at being separated from her, he just howled. Luckily it was not too long before Hypathia was caught and the two were reunited.
It was quite obvious in the enclosure on Saturday evening that the two should never be separated. They curl up together and, should any other dog come near Hypathia, Coke just gives a warning growl! Could we find a home for them together. When Hypathia was put up for adoption on the EDL website, an application for her was received. And, as luck would have it, the lady actually wanted to adopt two dogs, so the pair are together for the rest of their lives! I have to say I wept a few tears when it was arranged.
I spent quite a lot of time texting my other half, holding the fort at home, advising him on our progress – stuck in traffic in Bordeaux, just passing junction 36, just back in Deux-Sevres, home in 10 mins!
We arrived home to a blaze of lights and drove into the bergerie where some of the dogs would spend the night. (The bergerie is a huge barn where farmers keep sheep – which is what the previous owner of our home did). We sorted out coats for the dogs to wear during the night, to keep them warm. The galgos stayed in the compound, thick hay and duvets to snuggle up in to keep them warm, food and water on tap.
Meanwhile, we had 4 very active puppies and Estrella – my foster dog who had not yet met my canine family. So the puppies were put to bed in the haybarn, and Estrella was fed and watered, dressed in a woollen dog coat to keep her poor thin body warm, and given her own private bedroom in the rear kitchen! Time to introduce her to the rest of my dogs in the morning after Bea and Aline had departed.
Suzette said her farewells to the dogs, Bea and Aline, and headed for home to report to her family about her adventure. Bea, Aline, David and I sat down to a delicious casserole which he had prepared in readiness for our arrival. Not bad, nearly 2,000 kilometres of driving in 3 days. We were all looking forward to a good nights sleep.
Monday morning dawned fair. First to arrive was a couple who adopted Nia, a beautiful cream galga who, sadly, had to have part of her tail amputated because of frostbite – the winter in Spain had been particularly harsh with torrential rain. I loaded Estrella into my car to accompany Darin to his foster home, as I decided it was easier for David at home with our 4 dogs, and Estrella would be introduced to them when I returned.
As I sit writing this, our woodburner is heating the living room; 5 dogs are curled up in comfy baskets. They have all made friends, although skippy happy Sahara – she is still a juvenile! – is sometimes a bit too much for Estrella, and there is a gentle growl. Estrella is a lovely podenca, tail wagging, seeking caresses, certainly enjoying having regular meals.
In the meantime, I have a hundred emails to deal with, some of which require quite lengthy attention!
But the satisfaction of having brought out the galgos and podencos from the hell of Spain compares with little else. They are a miniscule drop in the ocean of all the poor dogs abandoned in Spain. At least these dogs have a chance of happiness for the rest of their lives.
You can see some of them on the EDL website – Conan, Nobel, Zuza, Calen, Asia, Mochila…….
I'd like to say a HUGE thank you to Suzette - she has been an amazing addition to the team, taken over arranging all the donations, sorting out the route, meet-ups en route, an amazing driver, a great companion, a source of many ideas for future fundraising events. She is an absolute STAR and I wish everyone to know that.
As always, I have the utmost admiration for Cristina and Bea - I could not do what they do, but I will support them forever in any way I can.
Bringing galgos from Spain to other countries for rehoming is NOT the solution to the enormous problem of the annual massacre of galgos. It has to come from within Spain itself. The breeding of galgos, together with all other dogs, MUST be controlled. Everyone owning a dog MUST pay a tax and register the dog. There are laws in Spain which could prevent the galgo problem, but there is not the desire to do so. People in the racing and hunting associations should act responsibly and take steps to control indiscriminate breeding. They should police their own ‘sports’.
Many people living in Spain say to me ‘Spain is a Third World Country’. I believe it is also a country rife with corruption – the ‘land grab’ situation in Valencia is an example.
Word is out around the world about the situation in Spain – the Internet is an extremely powerful weapon – and the time has come for Spain to take action.