When I was 17, I adopted my first Galgo. I named her Falera.The breed always fascinated me and everyone who has or works with them, knows that it is a breed with a lot of pain behind them. I had known quite some people who had adopted a couple and they always went around, promoting them, telling people to adopt them because they are just that great. At the time I was working at an animal shelter who happened to have a collaboration going on with a foundation who rescue abandoned and abused Greyhounds and Galgos. I was very well aware that I couldn’t adopt just any dog I happened to like and the adoption of Falera was unexpected, but so welcome.
At the shelter, she was this quiet, timid but sweet little pup, but as soon as I took her home, she changed. She was excited, but scared of everything that would move above her. I remember taking her out for a walk in town, long after I adopted her alongside my other dog Hayley, and she completely broke down, howling and screaming, so I took her back home. Clearly she has not been socialized a lot in her early stages of development and it still shows till this day. Not only that, but she was difficult to deal with when I just got her. She and I struggled a lot with understanding each other, also because my other dog was so easy, but I soon realized that dogs are individuals and should never be treated with a “one size fits all” solution. So I spent weeks, if not months studying her. Why is she the way she is? Why does she want me to be close, but want me to leave at the same time? I observed not only that, but also the scars and traces on her body. She has this long scar running down her neck, like a cutting wound. We suspected that it could be a scar of where they cut her microchip out, since that isn’t exactly uncommon practice in Spain. Not just that, but she had her dewclaws cut off, poorly. There are still stumps left, one of which grows a very weird nail out of it and falls off again over time. But she also has scars on her hind feet, the big pads are half gone and has weird scarring on her hocks as well. I think it’s burned, either by a hot object or acid perhaps. She’s not suffering, it only rubs raw whenever it freezes a lot.
These findings made me wonder how they could do that to such a young dog. She was about a year old when I took her home and she isn’t even anywhere near as traumatized as some other pups I have seen. But then it became clear to me that this isn’t at all an uncommon thing among Galgos from Spain. Retired hunting dogs have often suffered horribly and the ones ending up in shelters are the lucky ones, because they’re still here.. Lucky may not even be a fair way to describe it, because I have seen dogs that suffered so much to the point of them having to be put down due to all the mental trauma.
The dogs are often disposed of after the hunting season, all based on how well they performed during that season. A lot of Galgos end up hanged after the season, since they are now deemed useless and it costs money to feed them in the off season, so culling their hunting dogs is the cheaper option. If the dog did well, they hang them higher up in the tree, so it’s a quicker death. If they did bad, they end up being hanged lower, sometimes to the point where their tippytoes can still reach and they end up hanging themselves just by the pure exhaustion of not being able to stand on their feet anymore. But this is just one way they sometimes dispose of dogs. Some end up being thrown down into wells, lit on fire, having their limbs broken and abandoned out in the wilderness amongst other things.
Some hunters do the more morally correct thing and surrender their retired hunting dogs to a shelter, but this also is a problem. Shelters often lack the funds and space, so lots of rescue groups take in the dogs and adopt them out to other countries, which is amazing work. Thousands of Galgos get disposed every hunting season and World Galgo Day spreads awareness about this issue. This is something you rarely ever hear about, but it is a big deal.
Galgos are excellent companions and some of the sweetest dogs you will ever meet. They are not for everyone, that is for sure, but you might just change your mind once you get to know them. I may have struggled with understanding mine, but after having taken the time to understand her, I have gained a whole lot of admiration for how resilient dogs are. Their ability to stay kind to humans after they have been treated badly is amazing to me.
If there would even be one of you out there reading this and considering to adopt a dog, consider looking into a Galgo. They need you and you may need them too.