As many of you know, a few months ago we were adopted by a dog called Hobo, who simply arrived one day and never left. After much detective work, we discovered that Hobo has a long and complicated history; he's originally from La Réunion, a tropical island that's a département d'outre-mer - a fully fledged part of France (and the EU) in the Indian Ocean. Brought to the mainland by a member of his original owner's family, he then moved on again to live in Clermont, a village near us, with yet another member of the same family; sadly though one of their existing dogs had other ideas and did everything she could to make his life there untenable. Eventually Hobo took matters into his own paws and set off in search of a safe forever home where he could finally, after three traumatic years, settle down; after weeks of roaming the hills and checking out many dozens of local houses, he found us, and we're very glad he did.
Hobo's previous human told us he's a greyhound-dalmatian cross. Knowing him as we do now, his mix is fairly evident: he's like that well-known illusion of two faces and a vase - sometimes when you look at him he's an (almost) spotless dalmatian, other times he's clearly a greyhound. We think his greyhound ancestry may actually be that of a Galgo (Spanish greyhound) - possibly the most abused dog breed on earth. And that's where article really begins.
As things stand at the moment, the only - and I mean only - future for a galgo is outside Spain. As the horrific plight of these dogs becomes more widely known, so do the number of rescue organisations that not only bring as many dogs as possible out of the country for treatment, rehabilitation and rehoming but campaign for laws with teeth that will put an end to the barbarism that's going on under our noses, in a supposedly civilised European country.
What we're doing about it, and what you can do
What we'd really like to do is adopt lots of galgos ourselves! And who knows, maybe one day we will, just as one day I'd like to go and spend some time volunteering in one of the rescue shelters in Spain. However, that's for the future. For now, we at Maison Grillou have decided to support galgo rescue in other ways.
Those of you who knew us in our former Norfolk incarnation will know that each year we used to donate a percentage of our takings to a particular organisation that inspired us, and set up ways for our guests and customers to do the same. And as we set off into another year here, it's time to do the same. So this is what we're going to do from 2013.
1. For every booking during 2013 we'll donate 5 euros - 3 euros for shorter bookings - to one of our chosen rescue associations. We'll also invite our guests to match that sum if they feel moved to do so.
2. We'll ask those bringing dogs to make a small donation of 30 euros a week to one of our chosen rescue associations.
3. On a personal level, we'll sponsor or 'virtually adopt' one or more galgos via a rescue association. Often dogs need extensive (and expensive) veterinary treatment before they can be rehomed, or are considered too old or ill to be rehomed and instead are given a home for life at a shelter or with an association member - all of which costs serious money and can only happen if people are willing to help meet the costs.
Find out more or join in
Many of our guests so far have been dog lovers, and I know that at least some of the readers of this blog are too. If you've been shocked or moved by my far-too-brief resumé of the plight of the Spanish galgos and want to find out more, these are the associations we're going to be supporting:
Lévriers sans Frontières, a French association working through a number of partner refuges;
Scooby Medina, an extraordinary place led by an extraordinary man, Fermin Pérez; the largest refuge in Spain;
Galgos del Sol, a small refuge based in Murcia that organises adoptions to the UK (I know two lovely people who've adopted a dog through them).
All have websites full of information - often harrowing - and stories. We'd really love it if you were inspired by what you've read to find out more and perhaps to support them too.
The galgo is an ancient race of sighthound - one of the ancestors of the dog we English know just as a greyhound. Like greyhounds, they're gentle, loyal, loving and laid back creatures, often described as 40 mph couch potatoes.
Galgos have been used, and are used to this day, in rural Spain for hunting and for hare coursing. They're considered to be a tool, as is a gun, rather than a living creature and most live pretty miserable lives, usually just shut away in a shed when not 'in use', fed on bread and water and possibly the occasional scrap. Worse, they're seen quite simply as disposable. When the short hunting season is over, tens of thousands are abandoned or brutally killed every year by their owners, to whom they're no longer considered to be any use. Campaigners estimate that more than 50,000 dogs, most between 2 and 3 years of age, are massacred by the owners in Spain every year, though some believe it to be more like 100,000.