It’s been a very odd year, one that has been full of ups and downs. For us it’s been year of hellos and goodbyes.
The year didn’t get off to the best start. We adopted Charlie the galgo from the Spanish charity Galgos del Sol in November 2019. He’d been found on the streets, covered in fleas and ticks. When we got him, he was still a very scared boy, covered in scars, but he slowly became a great big soppy softie, full of love. Seeing him blossom into a happy, waggy‑tailed dog was absolutely wonderful.
But in January this year he became unwell. Unfortunately he had leishmania, a disease caused by a sandfly that he would have picked up back in Spain. The next two months were horrendous and for a time involved almost daily four hour round trips to the specialist vet – several times we were expecting the worst only for Charlie to rally. But he sadly died at the beginning of March. He was only four.
We were all devastated, but because we’d seen what a home meant for Charlie, we approached Galgos del Sol again, at the beginning of April. It had taken a while to organise Charlie coming to the UK so we assumed it would take a while for a new adoption to go through, giving us a couple of months to get used to the idea of another dog (to join cocker spaniel Belle and Labrador cross Daisy). However, we were asked if we would take Annie, a galgo cross who had been rehomed a couple of years ago in the UK, and Ted, an eleven-year old Galgo who had come to the UK just before Charlie. Their owner was sadly ill and had to give them up. Of course we said yes – so they both came home, just one week later.
They have settled in really well. When Annie was found as a stray in Spain she was pregnant, had her puppies at the rescue centre, and even adopted an orphan puppy. You can see a video of her rescue here. She’s a very special girl, bosses Ted, and acts like a mum, carrying shoes and slippers carefully to her bed, where she cuddles with them.
Ted was eight when he was taken to a kill station by his owner – his hunting days were over and he was no longer needed. Luckily the charity rescued him. How this dog ever managed to hunt I’ll never know. He’s a complete love bug, who likes nothing more than a cuddle and a bum scratch.
Our lovely Daisy, however, was showing signs of her age. She was another ‘impulse’ rescue – the runt of a litter, supposedly attacked by her mum, with a dodgy leg, and was going to be put down if she wasn’t rehomed in a matter of days. When she arrived she was obviously too young to have left her mum, but she went from strength to strength.
Goofy, food obsessed, completely loving, patient, with a penchant for drinking sea water and diving face first into muddy puddles, she defied all the odds to become a very old lady, who took to sitting in the garden barking quietly at the passing tourists.
We knew she was running out of time, but thought we’d have one more Christmas. Sadly it wasn’t to be, and she died on 18th November. Such a gorgeous girl, the house isn’t the same without her.
Belle is now living part time in London with my daughter, so we have gone from four dogs to two, and are really looking forward to seeing Belle when she comes home for Christmas (and my daughter!). Family often say that we’re mad; they know we’re the ones that’ll take in any waifs and strays. But having so many dogs has really brought home to us what’s important and what matters. They can be messy and loud, and they walk mud into the house every five minutes. And sometimes it’s stressful – Ted ate a raisin the other day and I had to rush him to the vet so they could make him sick (raisins are highly toxic to dogs). I must admit as I stood outside the vets in the rain (it’s Wales!) holding a bowl under Ted’s head to catch his vomit, I did laugh (rather hollowly at the time) at where life has led me. But coming home to delighted dogs, always pleased to see you, watching them learn to trust and love you, is just wonderful.
If you are considering getting a dog, please do think about rehoming a dog from Galgos del Sol. I have been involved with animal welfare and animal rights campaigning since I was a teenager, and I have seen and heard of some horrific things. But the things that galgos endure in Spain are some of the worst I’ve ever heard of. From the Galgos del Sol website:
Galgos are widely used by hunters in the rural areas of Spain for both hunting and hare coursing with betting. They are considered disposable and when the short hunting season ends each year, tens of thousands are abandoned or brutally killed by their owners to whom they are no longer of use.
Some GDS galgos are saved from perreras (killing stations) where their lives are due to be ended. The majority are abandoned or escapees living rough and scavenging to survive until caught by the GDS team who often face hostility from locals for rescuing a breed deemed worthless.
An abandoned galgo that has been living rough may have to be observed and coaxed with food for weeks and sometimes months before it will allow a human near. GDS has rescued galgos that have been thrown into wells, lain injured in fields, tossed into dumpsters, run scared in traffic, given birth on a roadside and left to die in abandoned breeding camps.
These dogs are wonderful – friendly, funny, loving, kind, gentle. They make wonderful companions and the love and trust they show to humans despite what we put them through is absolutely amazing. And if you can’t make the commitment of adopting then please consider sponsoring a galgo – details here.
Here’s to more muddy paws and muddy floors in 2022.