Day 161: HUNTING A HUNTING DOG (part 1). Trying to catch an abandoned Galgo
Could I spend a day trying to capture abandoned Galgos?
How many abandoned Galgos are running loose throughout Spain anyway?
How do you capture a very very fast Greyhound?
How common is it to see tortured or dead Galgos?
I’ve just spent a heart wrenching few days at the rescue centre seeing the survivors of hunting abuse: the broken bones, the xylophone chests, the sad eyes. Now I want to see how bad it is OUT THERE. I want to leave the safety of Charlotte’s centre and go try and rescue some wild, abandoned hunting dogs for myself.
Can I do it? What would I see?
These were some of the questions I asked myself as I set off before dawn on a mountainous road through Andalusia towards Seville where Galgos are reported to be running loose – and scared.
When I was nineteen I cycled this route, all the way from Malaga to London. My knees have never forgiven me. It was the height of summer and 40+ degrees. Wherever I looked I saw dead dogs by the side of the road and the song ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen’ played round and round in my sunburnt head. But I was too young and carefree to stop to think about these deaths or my own health.
Now, as I retrace my steps some twenty years later, I have changed. Mine is a different journey and I wonder which is more challenging: the physical effort of youth or the winding path into my heart.
Somehow I think this is the tougher challenge.
I have no map and quite frankly I don’t know if I’ll get to where I don’t know where I’m going.
How the hell do you capture a dog?
What is the point when so many thousands are being dumped each year?
Who on earth cares?
I had arranged to meet some friends of Charlotte who knew where the abandoned Galgos were running loose and by 9am pulled up at the meeting spot.
My expectations were shattered.
Although the life of the hunting dog is ugly, I at least imagined (like you I suspect) that their environment would be beautiful: a rural spain of wild forests and rich earth. If someone is going to hang you from a tree, at least let it be in a scented pine forest of wild boar.
But the Lidl car park where we were meeting was not so special – apart from the 3 for 1 chocolate offer – and nor were the tired and broken outskirts of the town I found myself in. I met with the women who helped Galgos in this area and we went off to the some fields full of rubble and rubbish.
Is this REALLY where I would find those sleek impressive hunting dogs?
Of course it was ! What was I thinking.
Any abandoned dog would be drawn to the frayed edges of towns to live on the scraps of life by the sides of roads. This is why so many abandoned dogs died in road accidents. A busy highway led to town but it also led to death. What I had seen in India I was seeing here, dogs walking a knife edge between survival and oblivion
I read recently that dogs evolved on the scrapheaps of humans. It explains why Moose and Bug will NOT stop stealing food from people’s picnics in the park but it also creates an illusion of stray dogs as natural and acceptable – as if they are Darwin’s pets, roaming free in a genetic playground where the best scavenger will survive.
But these sorts of edges of town are no playground and stray dog do not have a wonderful, natural life. Particularly not the Galgo.
Very soon after getting out the car we saw our first lost Galgo. It trotted down a hot empty street. Somehow these dogs are too elegant to be wandering homeless – like watching a honed athlete beg for food. I chased it down the street but it was hopeless. A few corners and it was gone.
Olga, one of the women told me how she would sometimes see Galgeuros, the Spanish hunters, take a dog towards the railway track and then come back without it. Later she found out why – she saw an injured greyhound dragged onto the track to be run over.
A few minutes after hearing this we turned a corner and there, as if by poetry, we saw another Galgo, standing alone on the train tracks.
I crept closer towards it
To be continued…