As we drove from Santander, via Madrid to the rescue centre called Galgos Del Sol, the nerves were building. Of course, going into any new situation can be overwhelming or cause anxiety but that is the fear of the unknown.
As people who have worked in an English animal rescue charity on the front-line, we knew roughly what to expect on arrival and had seen pictures, videos and read the stories about Tina and her incredible rescue centre. However nothing can ever fully prepare you for the moment you walk through the doors for the first time.
Once in the care of Galgos Del Sol, the dogs at the rescue centre are treated with kindness, compassion and a relaxed atmosphere in which they are able to live comfortably whilst waiting for their forever homes. The vision that this woman has for animal welfare is incredible and she knows every single dog in the kennels as well as their back story. A mean feat when you have around 200 dogs in your care.
Driving to Galgos Rescue centre
Our drive to Galgos Del Sol was a long one but so beautiful. The first leg of our drive saw us set off in fog from Santander. We drove towards the mountains and entered tunnels that provided welcome shortcuts through them. We happened to be videoing at the time and captured an amazing sight when we came out of the other end. The fog was now clearing and showing the jagged mountain skyline laid out before our eyes.
As we climbed higher on the mountain road, the fog stayed low in the Valley, becoming a fluffy carpet floor and hiding the towns below. The drive was full of varying landscapes but the roads were easy to navigate. Duel carriageway or motorway most of the way there. Service stations were pretty easy to locate but we never let Chewy get lower than half a tank as we didn’t know where the next station was located.
Out on the horizon, about half way there, the familiar sight of a few high rise buildings replaced the jagged mountain passes. A city skyline took over as we approached Madrid and then we noticed the reflections in the sky as Aeroplanes stacked ready to land at the capital cities airport. We stayed on the outskirts of the city and bypassed the main parts but there it was, in the middle of nowhere, a metropolis.
Returning to the roads heading now towards the coast, the radio stations’ phased in and out of signal at every high note or chorus. Our excitement was building with every kilometre sign we passed. We would go from intense conversation about what we would do, what it might be like and whether we would want to leave to sitting in silence collecting our thoughts and preparing ourselves for this experience.
Just before we arrived at the rescue centre we decided to find a supermarket and stock up our groceries for a few days. We also took the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the town and find out where to empty our chemical toilet. Louise had done all of the driving and even though I could do it, I haven’t driven on the other side of the road before and Louise has much more experience. I decided it was safer if I was designated Navigator (Sat nav reader) and set the course for Lidl. We drove through the town and found the supermarket, collected some provisions and then set off for the local petrol station to empty our chemical toilet.
We found it on Search for Sites, it is just a service point but you can empty your toilet and fill up water for free. They also have washing machines and tumble dryers that you can pay to use. We will surely be back here soon so make a note of it on our map. Its only 10 minutes from here to the kennels and we can’t quite believe we are here after all of this planning.
We follow the directions, knowing that the centre is in a rural and secret location so are not surprised when we veer off of the Auto-vista down a dirt track in the middle of agricultural land. From nowhere, two gates appear before us. With mountains in the distance, a musky blue colour in the shadow of the sun and a clear blue sky above us that seems to go on for miles, we wonder how on earth we found it! Finding the centre easily and being let into to the compound, we are amazed to finally see it in the flesh.
Passing reception into the kennel area we are greeted with happy Galgos either in their kennel chilling out or in their exercise compounds playing with volunteers. A few volunteers are practicing agility in one paddock and another is treating a young Galgo to a sensory walk amongst herb pots and flowers.
The kennels are new and some are still being built. An outdoor washing up station has clean bowls drying in the hot Spanish sunshine. Its like a 5 star palace for them and they are all really calm and happy inside them.
A staff kitchen area has communal outdoor seating and all the equipment needed in the kitchen to feed the army of staff and volunteer that dedicate their time to the dogs.
The team are welcoming and make us feel comfortable straight away as we get our bearings. After a while of saying hello and having our tour, we retire to the van to start getting things straight. Currently everything is packed away in boxes in the garage area under the bed and slowly, a box at a time, we sort through the kitchen boxes and clothing etc.
It takes a while to get things where you want the and almost 2 weeks later we still haven’t finished unpacking. (Update – we just had a major clean out and its almost done now! We even purchased two fake planks to give it a bit of green!)
Hands on at the rescue centre!
The next morning we woke early with excitement, today we get to play with the rescue dogs and start doing what we came for. We met the most incredibly friendly dogs, with Tania – A white Galgos who had been seriously ill before Christmas – stealing all the limelight with her markings and ‘feel sorry for me’ eyes. Don’t believe a word of anything she tries to tell you, she is spoilt rotten although she will make out otherwise!
We met a fair amount of the Galgos but there are also Podenco’s, lab crosses and Mastines at the site that we have never worked with before. We were tasked with working with some of the more challenging dogs to either get them ready for transport or work on some basic training with them.
This week we have be been blown away by the passion, enthusiasm and care for these dogs at the rescue centre. More often than not staff and volunteers are on site from dawn until dusk. Tina is like an octopus, juggling so many aspects of running a charity, out on rescues, social media releases, write ups for dogs, organising transports and visits and spend time with her family.
Here are some of our special dogs so far…
Javi is a Podenco cross who was bought to Galgos after a rescue mission to save him. Javi was in a really bad condition on the street as he had a broken his back. The specialists reckon it happened about 3 weeks before he was rescued and in that time Javi had learnt to crawl on his front legs as he was unable to walk on his back legs. Tina took him to a vet who took x-rays of his back. The prognosis was poor with the vet saying he was paralysed and unlikely ever to regain the use of his legs.
Tina knew that poor chance, meant some small chance and decided to bring him back to the centre. Following months of intense therapy including Physio and hydro, he started to improve – to everyone’s amazement. The vets were not able to operate on his back and he was incontinent due to the nerve damage he sustained. Against all odds, Javi can now walk again. Not only that, but he can play. He can run and he is able to do the agility ramps with ease.
Javi loves a fuss, has a great attention span and also can live with other dogs. He is such a sweet cuddle monkey and would make a great family pet. Javi deserves a second chance in a patient, understanding and loving home where he can be spoilt rotten. Every day he is still improving and he seems to be regaining some control over his bowels. It is hoped that this will continue and in the right home should not be an issue as long as he has access to a toileting area.
Check out the facebook page and watch the video of Louise working with Javi here He is the real hero of Street life to Sweet life! What an amazing dog and rescue recovery.
Having been on the run for weeks, Wella was finally captured on a rescue mission after she became stuck in a well ( hence her name). No one knows if she fell in, or was put in there however she was taken to the centre and is now safe. It was quickly evident that Wella was a little special. She was unsteady on her feet and after she had been sent for a brain scan, it was deemed most likely that she was born with a damaged cerebrum. The other possibility was a Youth Degenerative Disease however the vets feel if it was that, she would likely be a lot worse than she is by now and she seems stable at the moment.
Wella has a little twitch, or a dance as we call it and this is due to the condition. She bobs her head and then hops from front foot to the other a couple of times. She is not in any pain and is able to run and play with her friends. She can just be a little wobbly now and then so needs understanding owners with a non slip floor!
Nativity and her puppies.
Nativity evaded capture on the streets whilst pregnant. Once she had delivered her babies she was able to be relocated to the centre and her puppies looked after. Born on 30th November, they were all given festive names and have been put up for adoption now that they are old enough.
They are not pure Galgos but we have no idea who their dad is. With 4 black dogs and 3 white/golden, they are picture perfect. Rudolph has found a home and has left the centre but the others are still up for adoption. Take a look at their video below too!
We will try and bring you further information about their journeys and tell you more about the other dogs that we are working with but there are so many we are in love with. To say we have only left site once since our arrival and we only nipped out for groceries should show you how much we are enjoying the role. Some of the dogs we have been working with are scared and we have seen so much improvement even during our time so far.
We love to see them take those first steps and build their trust. It inspires us to keep working with those dogs and we are putting in 10, 11 hour days, before undertaking our night duties too.
If you want to donate, please check out www.galgosdelsol.org to donate directly. You can follow them on Facebook too! They may not all be Galgos, but they are all deserving of a new home and for their care to continue.
Now YOU have funded our trip here, we are working closely to ensure any left over money gets put back into Galgos Del Sol so you can still donate on the GoFundMe too.
We still have what seems like forever here before we come home and I think both of us would be happy to stay longer, however we are sure it is going to fly by!