• DAY 179: FBM – A VISIT TO A DOG RESCUE CENTRE WITH MORE SURVEILLANCE THAN THE WHITEHOUSE

    Mar 16th
    Photographing abandoned hunting dogs at FBM

    Photographing abandoned hunting dogs at Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert, the vast rescue centre hidden outside Seville, Spain.

    FBM, as its known in the Galgo rescue world, or Fundacion Benjamin Mehnert as its known  in the real world (just as cryptically) is a large dog rescue centre near Seville that has no official address.

    To find it you turn off a motorway and then off side roads, each more non-descript than the first. The landscape appears as if God has poured bleach upon it, washed out and non-descript, so that you might never remember your way back here. The massive metal entrance door lies at the end of a concrete road hidden by high walls next to which stand no less than 4 CCTV cameras. 

    How the galgos find their way in here I don’t know. My GPS certainly couldn’t. But then the dogs are bought here in the back of a rescue truck.

     

    Not only Galgos are used for hunting...

    Not only Galgos are used for hunting…

    Why the secrecy?

    As one of the largest and most lavish dog rescue centres in Spain, FBM houses around 500 dogs, mostly Galgos but many other hunting dogs too. And possibly the most disturbing aspects of this whole disturbing Galgo thing is that many hunters (galgueros) like to steal galgos back from the rescue centres. Dirty little f&^*^(!!  There are countless stories of people who have rescued sick dogs finding them gone again a few weeks later.

    Galgo against a wall

    Galgo against a wall

    ‘But if they want to abandon them, why the hell would they steal them back?’ I asked Charlotte incredulously.

    ‘Then they don’t want to have look after them. If they are sick then they are thrown out. If they are looked after and recover they can be stolen again.’

    My head is spinning.

     

    Gypsies

    A further complication lies in the problem that many Gypsy communities now use galgos for racing. Money can be made on betting on and owning a fast dog. This is why people have reported seeing galgos tied to the side of cars so that they might learn to run faster.

    I’m spending a few days photographing dogs here at FBM. There are big dogs, small dogs, black dogs, white dogs  – many are galgos, but there are also podencos, other strays, even pot bellied pigs and…oh… a limping stag and highly neurotic ram that has already tried to charge m.  FBM try not to say no to any animal that needs it.

    The only thing uniting all these animals is fear. And the one thing that gives them hope is the help of Isa, the young lady who helps run the place, and her incredibly impressive team of helpers…including Miguel, the more impressive version of me.

     

    Isa and the team at FBM - courtesy of another photographer entirely

    Isa and the team at FBM – courtesy of another photographer entirely

     

    Miguel

    I even met Miguel. Face to face with the man himself. Here was this animal-rescue-god roughly smoking roll up cigarettes, piercing eyes and a relaxed stance. He smiled at me and seemed all too human.  If I was a kitten with a bad limp I would have fallen into his arms ‘rescue me!’. if I was a raven trapped in a chimney I would have made myself comfortable in the soot knowing he was on the way.

    But he spoke no english and I no spanish so I sort mimed with my hands something which said ‘you are like a really amazing person, I wish I was you’ which, for all I know, may well have translated as ‘I’d like to buy a tortilla’. My intention was good, and as always dear reader, for that you are fond of me.

    FBM does an incredible job of housing hundreds and hundreds of dogs that would otherwise die an undignfied death. When I arrive three dogs, each on their own wheelchair/chariot come charging up to me to show who is boss. They care here.

    They have onsite vets and operating rooms and sterilise dogs every day and work tirelessly to rehome the dog. But despite their incredible facilities and hard work it’s still upsetting to see so many dogs in one place without a proper home. The staff do what they can to exercise all the pooches ut its inevitable that dogs have to spend much of their life in cages waiting for someone to adopt them. Many can wait years.

    scared podenco. Don't forget the podencos!

    scared podenco. Don’t forget the podencos!

    I slept here last night. The barking was incessant. I’m the sort of person that goes nuts when a baby cries in a plane at night. Really, I’m not that compassionate at all. But, strangely, hearing 500 dogs barking around me sent me to sleep like the baby that doesn’t. It felt good to hear the dog’s make that noise.

    Ahhhh….so they have a voice. They are alive!

    Isa and her team have been so kind to me and I want to thank them and also come back to photograph more rescues for the book I want to do on galgos. What an incredible place.

    NEXT BLOG: I’m off to the Philippines to team up with a charity called Network for Animals to try and rescue a dog from the illegal dog meat trade. This will be the biggest challenge yet. 



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    22 Responses to “DAY 179: FBM – A VISIT TO A DOG RESCUE CENTRE WITH MORE SURVEILLANCE THAN THE WHITEHOUSE”

    1. i really like the podencos. beautify little dogs. good luck with the dog meat trade, think that will be quite a harrowing experience.

    2. It was great meeting you at FBM. You’ll be happy to know that yesterday a bunch of dogs left for Belgium and next week more are going to Belgium and Germany.

      Best of luck in the Philippines. Looking forward to reading about it, yet dreading it at the same time. I’m sure you know what I mean.

    3. good to meet you too Robin, say hi to all the team, so glad another bunch of dogs have been rehomed.

      Martin

    4. P.S. the photos are amazing.

    5. WOW Martin WOW!! Such beautiful dogs…..quite the rescue FBM is……sending you another ((HUG )) across the miles…. I will take a BIG breath when reading your next entry from the Philipines! Take care and cheers my friend!

    6. The dogs are all amazing -as are the photos! Wishing you heaps of strength for the next project – I feel anxious about it already and I am only reading the blog! It’s as if I’m facing up to some of my feelings around animal cruelty vicariously. Take care!

    7. Thank you Martin for coming and giving your time to help the poor dogs that nobody see… our doors will always be opened for you and your great work!!

    8. thank you Isa for all the great work you do!!! What an incredible place you have there. You should be very proud!

    9. Well done for making this public. It needs to be. So much horror the way the Europeans etc treat animals. I live in Mallorca and help out 2 refuges with funding. I try to get certain dogs out of Son Reus in Palma, they are often put on Fbook by people trying to save them. We have many hunting dogs abandoned in Mallorca, typical as you say. I managed to save a Breton, lab who was tied up outside the pound, left at the age of 13, used for breeding hunting dogs, and now could be put down. We rescued her, and she spent a year in our local private refuge. Now has just been adopted by a german lady and is happy and warm for her last years. I also have a rescue dog, 2 years old, what a difference in 3 mths! She was found in a shocking state, long hair, bad skin, 14 grass husks in her ears so was oozing black out of them, thin, petrified. I wanted her immediately. Mix of a Bedlington terrier and poodle. Keep going with your wonderful photos and let the world know about the horrific treatment of animals.

    10. Janice, wonderful that you are helping like this and thank you for reading
      Martin

    11. PS I donate also to Network for Animals.

    12. good for you. A great charity!

    13. Martin, I dread reading your next posting from the
      Philippines. Please go there with a big hug from me in Vienna and stray strong! You are wonderful in everthing you do.

    14. Well done once again Martin, the photographs are as always poignant and beautiful and I wish you all the luck and courage in the world on your next mission.

    15. Martin, thank you so much for visiting FBM.
      They have flown under the radar for way too long.

      Last year I visited for the first time and certainly not the last time.
      But I have to say, it took us many hours to find the entrance, only to find out later that we had passed it many, many times.

      I was so happy to see you mention that many of the dogs will be here for years, passed over by adoption groups and just sheer lost in the amount of dogs that are there.

      2 weeks ago, one of those found his forever home in the US because when asked, the volunteers of FBM pointed him out and next month, another galgo named Rafael,that has been there way too long (talking years), will also come over to the US to be adopted.

      Let me finish with saying I love what you are doing and I admire you as a photographer. Thank you.

    16. Martin, I too visited FBM in Nov 2012. I was struck by the devotion of the staff. Of course, the number of animals is overwhelming, but all well cared for. We wanted to stuff as many dogs as we could in our suitcases as we fell in love with so many of them during our visit. Thank you for your efforts to help animals. Best wishes to you.

    17. hi Elaine. Thank you for reading and helping dogs as you do. We need mroe people like yuo!

    18. I have two dogs from FBM. They are wonderful and we adore them. Gusi and Regalo, aka Raquel. Congrats and Thank you for doing such great work. You rock.

    19. thank you!

    20. Wow…. Martin, that’s all I can say. I’ve just discovered you and your efforts this morning and can’t stop reading. I greatly admire what you’re doing, and the courage you have to do it. Please continue! It’s a joy to read. My rescued greyhound Max is lying next to me and says ‘Thanks’ for focusing on the Galgos for a while. I got him from the great folks at BRGA (see the web link). Again, thanks for doing what you’re doing. It’s inspiring me to do a little something too.

    21. hi kim, that’s lovely to hear. Welcome on board and hi to Max!

    22. oh martin you doing a great job going round all these rescues my galgo rey is doing great he come from charl back in january i do table tops every week to donate to appeals on gal news i also have greyhounds rescued ones and a dalmation sign every petition an gal news and pod post write letters when and where possible it is a heart breaking situation for these dogs and the rescues and i wish i could do more not just in spain all round the world as you will know i have just sopied the poem of senor galgeuro and going to put in certain places for them to read its heart rendering to read the one that charl wrote in a heart breaking weak moment its at the back of the heaven to hell book i bought off beryl the book was upsetting enough but when i read senor galgeuro thats when i decided to do something and thats when i got involved with the plight of the gals and pods and do what i do i will admit i sobbed for weeks when i read the poem i do hope you have succes in the future with promoting all the rescues round the world i do keep up to date with a rescue in romania aswell rolda shelter galattie no matter where you look in the world the animals are getting tortured i do help with grey rescues in this country aswell uk but i feel as though i ant doing enough sometimes but ant got the money to do a lot i have said if i ever win the lotto i will be setting my own rescue up it would be a dream come true

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