I have two SHUG galgos and have been an avid follower of Tina Solera and Galgos del Sol since 2013. I even took a vacation and traveled to Spain earlier this year to volunteer there. I helped nurse the “Pumpkin seeds” and got a little feel for cleaning up after 100 dogs.
But that was nothing like the 10 days I spent in Spain last month.
I stayed at the “old” finca, where there are approximately 40 dogs in five areas – this included all nine Candy puppies and the frightened inhabitants of the Shy Corner. I also lived with the infamous Hank and the “inside” dogs, who need medical care.
Each morning I would rise at 6, let the dogs out and make my coffee. By 7, I was outside getting the dogs fed. I used one bag of food per day, carried in a bucket to each area. In the main area, there were 12 dogs. One was food aggressive so I stood watch to make sure the weaker dogs got their bowl and everybody got full up.
Next I checked the water buckets. Every other day the buckets are scrubbed. Water must be carried to each pen. Then the cleaning begins – starting outside. Because standard galgo food is used, the poop is not nice. And there is a lot of it. (On a side note – they are trying a better quality of food and I did see improvement.) I used a bucket with a baggie and after three dumps, time to change the bag. The bags are carried to the road and put in the dumpster.
Once the outside is clean, blankets shaken and trash picked up, I headed to the courtyard. This is where the puppies stayed in their pen, plus those dogs that get picked on and the scared ones. The flooring is tile. It would take me over an hour to clean this area and it required a coverall suit and wellies. First the poop is scooped up, the piddle is squeegee’d out and then the mopping begins.
I don’t think anybody can imagine the puppy pen. Puppies probably poo on average six times per day. Going into that pen with nine of them jumping and clawing for attention is an adventure. I was able to put the other dogs away and let them out to do the cleaning. The puppies fight with each other constantly!
When the cleaning was done and the poo taken to the road, I made my medical rounds. Several needed pills and Tiburon needed a bandage change. I did things I have never done before, like removing stitches, giving vaccinations, changing bandages and cutting toe nails.
Once the morning chores were done, I went with Tina on errands. We’d head to one vet, stop at the dog food store, get gas, run to another vet, shop for other supplies, and run back and forth between the fincas, where the other GdS dogs are kept. We wouldn't finish until 8 at night. At 51, the work hurt. I was ready for bed each night and needed my Advil. My admiration runs deep for Tina.
The reality is that things are different in Spain. The dogs are used to living outside, lying on thin blankets (anything with stuffing they will tear up) and suffering through cold and rain. Flies are everywhere. There were a few who were scared and it took my entire trip to earn their trust. Personalities are touch and go. It only takes putting one dog in the wrong spot to have fights. I was impressed with Tina’s ability to assess the personalities and put the dogs in the right areas with the right partners.
On the positive side, the dogs are genuinely happy and friendly. I was greeted daily with jumps, hugs and kisses. Also on a positive note is the progress toward building the new center. It will provide individual quarters, proper drainage and warm housing that will be easier to keep clean.
Of course, I fell in love. That was bound to happen. Four galgos stole my heart, but I don’t have the circumstances to add to my family. I hope they are gone when I go back. If not, they are mine!
First Person is an occasional series written by SHUG supporters and adopters. The author is Monica Whitman.