In 2017 my beloved chihuahua Chico passed away, after 13 years by my side. It was heartbreaking. Although he’ll never be replaced, we love animals and we knew we wanted another dog to help fill the huge hole that Chico left when the time was right.
That’s when I started looking into re-homing a rescue dog. The huge issue in Spain first became apparent to me on Facebook, which is filled with rescue dog adverts from centres across Spain. Every day there are posts of stray and abandoned dogs, from puppies to oldies, uploaded in the hope that families can foster or adopt these poor souls.
Even more apparent was the concentration of Galgos and Podencos which had been abandoned. I had no idea why it was these particular dogs, until I investigated further…And what I found online was shocking.
A Galgo is essentially the name for a Spanish Greyhound. Galgos are used as hunting dogs for around two years (apparently they are useless to the hunters after that!) and are usually kept it pretty appalling conditions. Once they’ve done their job they are (in the kindest of circumstances) let loose to fend for themselves, or (in the most dreadful ways imaginable) they are slaughtered. I won’t go into the awful rituals these poor animals are made to go through at the end of their short lives, but it’s fair to say they are horrendous.
The Podenco is, together with the Galgo, one of the most abused breeds in the world. It’s also primarily used for hunting rabbits. I hadn’t come across this breed at all before moving to Barcelona. I’d seen them a couple of times walking around the streets and thought what pretty colourings they had.
I researched Podencos and again was shocked at the general conceptions of this breed by Spaniards. The Spanish, in general, don’t hold Podencos or other hunting dogs in high regard, and seldom want them as pets. Perhaps due to their cleverness and persistent focus, Podencos are even more persecuted than the Galgos.
Considered to be “tools” according to Spanish law, the Podencos often spend their lives on a short chain without any shelter from extreme weather conditions, or in dark sheds – sometimes so tightly packed together that they cannot move. They are often forced to lie in their urine and faeces, which makes them sick. Medical care is totally excluded. Spanish hunters believe that dogs hunt better when they are hungry, so the dogs are often kept without food and water. The dogs don’t get any human affection, because it is believed to harm their hunting abilities.
The Podencos are sometimes called ”The Great Forgotten”, because they very seldom get any publicity. They are also known as ”The Invisibles”, because they are often overlooked in the perreras when rescue associations arrive to save dogs, and they are generally the first dogs to be euthanised.
A Happy Ending for One…
So, when this little Podenco popped up on my Facebook one day, I showed it to my husband and we knew we just had to have him! His pregnant mum had been abandoned to give birth at the side of the road and luckily they were all saved by a wonderful organisation called Huelas Esperanza.
Within a few weeks, we’d had our home checked by a volunteer, and ‘Rocco’ had been driven 8 hours from Cadiz to Barcelona. He was vaccinated and chipped and ready to join our family, with our commitment to castrate him within a few weeks.
Life with Rocco
To begin with, it was like having a toddler. I won’t sugar coat it! Rocco was essentially totally ‘uneducated’ (for want of a better word!) having lived for his three months inside a warehouse, with short walks in a wood nearby. He had no idea what traffic was, was very scared around people and had no idea how to live inside a house!! He was also obsessed with finding food and eating literally everything – I guess it’s the ‘fend for yourself’ nature he’d picked up at the rescue centre.
From day one though, he has been such a loving and affectionate member of the family.
Fast forward 6 months and, with quite a few training sessions under our belts, Rocco has blossomed into the most wonderful companion. He is great with the children and has never shown any aggression towards humans or other animals. Other than the general puppy naughtiness (like chewing my brand new boots and consuming two pairs of Gucci glasses!) he’s the sweetest thing. He absolutely loves running like a nutter at the beach and is an amazing climber when we take him on hikes.
I’d highly recommend a Podenco as an addition to any family. Please think about adoption rather than buying a puppy from a dog breeder. I promise you won’t be disappointed!
Adopt your own Hunting dog from Spain
Here are some fantastic places to start looking if you are in Spain:
If you are in the UK:
Ibizan Hound Rescue
Little Pod Association
Vals Podenco Rescue Galgo
I’d also suggest checking out Facebook for local rehoming centres in your area.
I’d love to hear your rescue dog stories! Please get in touch using the Comments section below…