Fermin Perez is President of Scooby in Spain. He has led its development from a refuge for stray dogs and cats in a disused ruin, to a purpose-built shelter with running water, electricity and an onsite clinic. Fermin talks to Greyhound Compassion about Scooby’s journey – and the hundreds of abused galgos that are saved by Scooby every year.
Greyhound Compassion (GC): Fermin, how did you start with these galgos?
Fermin: Well, I am a science teacher in a secondary school and many years ago, one pupil came to me, not knowing what to do, because his uncle (a galguero) was going to hang his galgo. I was shocked. It was then I went to the pine groves on the outskirts of Medina del Campo and saw with my own eyes the hanging galgo corpses in the trees. I used my camera and blasted the evidence far and wide. This shamed the local galgueros into stopping the hangings. Now, they surrender them to Scooby at the end of the coursing season or they leave them to stray in the streets. We pick them up, often the victims of a car accident by that time.
GC: Have the hangings stopped?
Fermin: They have more or less stopped in Medina del Campo. Occasionally, we come across a galgo corpse in the woods which is always very tragic but rare nowadays. At the end of the last coursing season in 2018 we rescued a pregnant female galgo with deep wounds in her neck (pictured below). She had almost certainly got herself down from a noose, made her way into the village centre before collapsing.
Here, our friend Ruth talks candidly about her cancer diagnosis, and her beloved greyhound Harry.
In October 2014, after suddenly losing our old greyhounds, Harry and Jade came into our lives – two very bouncy, happy loving youngsters and boy, did we feel the difference!
Fast forward two years, to August 2016, and I had a minor accident where I fell off my pushbike. I got low grade concussion and was soon after diagnosed with a high grade brain tumour. Surgery and radiotherapy followed.
The dogs kept me going, they and my wife were amazing. As soon as I could walk, I was back out every day with them getting some fresh air. They made me recover quicker and I owe my fitness and health to them.
At the end of February 2017, whilst on a trip to Bristol, the dogs stayed with my parents. Upon our return, Harry had a small lump on his bum. Mum and dad had spotted it and taken him to the vets whilst we were away as they were worried. We kept an eye on this for around six weeks or so, taking him back and forth to our vets, trying various tablets, until in April the vet told us that my gorgeous blue boy had cancer too.
This was heart-wrenching. I love my pup so much and the thought that I might lose him was shocking. The vet diagnosed him with a mast cell tumour which reacted to histamine, hence why it had been so reactive to all the medications that he had been given. When initially found, it had been around a 2cm lump, increasing to a 15-20 cm lump before it was removed.
On the 21 of April Harry went in for surgery. We had been told that it would be a lengthy procedure and after six hours of not hearing anything, I phoned the vets. I was told that the vet was just finishing with the surgery and that it had been much more complex than expected. I went over to see him that evening and the poor boy didn’t know me. I asked if they would keep him in overnight as I knew that we couldn’t care for him at that time. He wasn’t able to stand, he was so weak, it was so painful to see.
The following day, we went over to Sheffield to collect a dog on behalf of Greyhound Rescue, then took him to his new home. It was heart warming seeing a new partnership of dog and ‘new mummy’ and made us both realise how much Harry means to us. That afternoon we both went to see Harry at the vets and found him extremely lethargic and not in a good way. The vet said that he had lost a lot of blood during surgery and they hadn’t known if he would pull through the first night or not. On 23 April, we brought him home with the instruction to keep him quiet and return him for a follow up check in two days’ time.
We took him back and he was starting to heal well. The vet was pleased, cleaned and changed his dressing and asked us to come back in a couple of days for his next check-up. We were changing his dressing daily ourselves and the day after the visit, when we checked his wound, a large part of the skin graft had died. We rushed him over to the emergency vets and the dead skin was cut off, the wound was cleaned but it had left a gap of around 20cm by 10cm of open skin. The vet who cleaned the wound wasn’t hopeful that it would heal and it left us feeling very deflated.
The following week, Harry was back at the vets having emergency surgery, our amazing vet had a pioneering new surgery which would stretch some of the healthy skin over the wound to reduce the size of it, allowing a smaller open wound to have the best possible chance of healing.
He recovered from this surgery much quicker although he still required the wound dressing daily and twice weekly visits to our vets in Leeds (from Manchester where we live). These continued for the following six months to allow for regular dressing changes and cleaning, as well as laser treatment to assist with speeding up the healing of the wound.
By the start of June, his wound had healed enough that we were able to start him on chemo. Following the histology results, it was revealed that he had a grade 3 tumour, however the lab were unsure whether full clearance had been taken or not, therefore the vet wanted to start him on Palladia. Knowing how I was feeling taking chemotherapy, I worried how Harry would be. I was having chemo every six weeks and it was taking it out of me for between 5-10 days each time. My poor pup was going to be on it every other day. The vet explained that dog chemo is very different to human chemo and that he would be unlikely to have any side effects.
I couldn’t believe that both of us had had cancer, and were now on chemo together. Everyone was joking that he was doing it out of sympathy for me, but I do believe that we are so close that, somehow, his tumour came out whilst he knew I was in treatment for mine.
We are both now in remission. Harry has had blood tests and is fully clear after six months of chemo, I had eight months in total and we are both well. We both have our scars but they don’t stop us getting on with our lives. He is still my beautiful blue pup, just with a slightly patchwork bottom!!
By MARGIE EASTER, USA Scooby volunteer
In 2000, I adopted my first greyhound, Daisy, from Greyhound Friends for Life (San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA). We adored her and spent 10 wonderful years together before having to let her go to osteosarcoma.
During this time, I subscribed to, ‘Celebrating Greyhounds’ magazine and read an article about Spanish galgos. I was horrified to learn how they were exploited and abused, and vowed to adopt a galgo someday.
Time went on and after losing Daisy and two of our older mixed-breed dogs, we adopted our second greyhound and another dog in 2010.
Our house seemed lonely with only two dogs, so I started to pursue contacts in my Facebook network to find out about galgo adoption groups. That’s how I found Scooby Medina del Campo, a galgo rescue sanctuary in the heart of the hunting region of Spain. I spoke with an adoption coordinator in the USA, learned about the process, applied for adoption, selected a lovely galga, named Bless, and impatiently awaited news regarding approval for adoption.
Once approved, the adoption coordinator offered an idea: “As long as you plan to adopt Bless, why don’t you go to Scooby to volunteer to see where she comes from?’’
I thought it outlandish at first, but at the same time, the idea of volunteering and bringing her back was very exciting. Everything came together and I went to Scooby for the first time in April 2011.
During my Scooby adventure, I had a wonderful time, met other dedicated volunteers from other countries, as well as the hard-working staff. I fell in love with the animals, which include galgos, mixed breed dogs, cats, horses, cows, donkeys, sheep, goats, as well as other types of animals — all rescued.
After that first visit, I was hooked on Scooby and the entire rewarding experience. Since then, I’ve returned 14 times, helped to establish a partnership between Scooby and my local greyhound adoption group, Greyhound Friends for Life, and have brought over 25 Scooby dogs for adoption in the USA. I now have three galgos of my own, two of them, Bless and Bones, from Scooby. I love them to pieces!
Greyhound? Galgo? What’s the difference?
Those who love greyhounds and have adopted one may become intrigued by the differences between greyhounds and the Spanish galgo. If you’re wondering, here’s some information:
Greyhounds are bred and trained primarily for racing. Galgos are bred and trained primarily for hunting. Like greyhounds, breeding and training conditions vary, but in general, galgos come from extremely difficult beginnings where they often experience cruelty, abuse, neglect and, ultimately, a very sad ending to their lives.
Greyhounds and galgos look very similar, but there are differences in size and appearance. Galgos may be a bit smaller in stature, have floppier ears, longer tails, shallower chests and bigger paws. They come in all shapes, sizes and wonderful colors, with brindles and markings that make them especially unique.
In general, both breeds have these things in common:
You can Google, “difference between greyhounds and galgos” to find lots of informative articles about galgos as pets.
Scooby Needs Our Help
In support of the ongoing efforts of Scooby, I remain a proud volunteer, transport companion and donor. The shelter always needs assistance to continue and grow its important mission to protect unwanted, abused and neglected animals.
I hope that you will consider helping in any way that you can. Please visit Scooby’s website for more information. I like to remember this saying, which supports the good work that we are doing for Scooby:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
One of the highlights of September is a trip to PupAid, the fun dog show organised by Marc Abraham (Marc The Vet) and his team of volunteers. The event is held in support of the PupAid campaign to end the cruel practice of puppy farming.
We entered Magic the greyhound into ‘Most Macho’ and he took 4th place, judged by Ali Drew from Ex on the Beach. Petal, the galgo, took 4th place in ‘Bravest Dog’ judged by Peter Egan, Sir Tony Robinson, Pen Farthing and Finn the police Dog with PC Dave Wardell.
PupAid is a lovely event, putting value on the dogs and exuding a warm, informal and fun atmosphere, helped by large doses of sunshine. Through awareness-raising and education, PupAid aims is to discourage people from buying puppies from pet shops or online from dealers. They ambition is that demand for these poorly pups will decrease, bringing to an end this evil practice of puppy farming. Marc relentlessly lobbies MPs in Westminster to positively influence laws affecting our nation’s pets. The campaign has the support of 120 MPs.
How and where should you find a dog?
PupAid’s aim is to educate the British public about the correct way to get a dog. They are urging people to either adopt a rescue dog or visit a responsible breeder where you will always see the puppy with its mother. If the puppy is not interacting with mum and the breeder is not an Assured Breeder recommended by the Kennel Club, then be suspicious.
If you ask us though, ‘adopt don’t shop!’ and only from a rescue centre which is a registered charity.
Our sponsored greyhound Freya sends a message of thanks for 2015…
Well, another year has passed and I have seen my pals come in to the kennels and go to their new homes. I am pleased for them, although I know I will never leave here, I love to see my friends get good homes and be happy and settled…
Actors Dame Judi Dench and Ricki Gervais have pledged their support to save galgos in Spain.
A recent article in the Daily Mail (7 January 2015) shows the suffering and torture endured by these beautiful but abused creatures.
The report describes the horror and brutality of the racing industry in Spain, and highlights galgos that have been burned with cigarettes and acid, dumped to die in tunnels and hung from trees.
As members of Greyhound Compassion know, these stories are all too common.