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