Did you know we have an organization in the Chicago area that is part of an international rescue effort? If you are not familiar with the exquisite Spanish galgo and their plight, you can learn about them here.
Today, I'm delighted to share the latest news from Travis Patenaude, who co-founded Love, Hope, Believe Galgo Adoption with his wife Amanda. I've long been impressed with his stunning photography, an impressive talent that may have gone undiscovered had it not been for his desire to help rescue dogs. Not only has Travis devoted himself to continually honing his craft, but he recently donated his talents to assist rescues in Spain.
Travis, I was so excited to see that you have joined an elite group of volunteer photographers. How did that come about?
It began two years ago, when I took up photography to help showcase our adoptable Galgos for our group Love Hope Believe Galgo Adoption. When our adoption group started, I knew I had to take pictures of our adoptable dogs, but like most new groups the photos were with iPhone or a basic point and shoot camera. Fortunately, we were introduced to a member of HeARTs Speak, a group of professional photographers, writers and artists that donate their time and skills to photograph adoptable dogs and cats for shelters. Marna Niebergall de Rojas with Grace Wears Fur came to our house and photographed our dogs After seeing the images, I knew I had to try and learn how to improve my photos. I was so inspired and impressed with HeARTs Speak and their mission that I set a goal for myself of honing my skills so that I, too, could one day join in their work.
After two years of studying and developing my photography skills, I met that goal and was accepted as a member of HeARTs Speak.
Congratulations! That is a wonderful organization. And I understand you've been able to serve their mission on an international level.
Yes, this was another goal I had set for myself in honor of Leena, the first Galgo to come into our lives and the one who inspired the foundation of our rescue.
On November 1 2016, my friend and fellow rescuer, Catalina Salley and I travelled back to Spain to volunteer at several animal shelters for two weeks. This time the trip was going to be a little different than our typical rescue mission as we are going to six different rescues/shelters specifically to photograph the dogs and volunteers.
People sometimes wonder, why go to Spain to photograph shelter dogs and volunteers when there are so many animals in need here? This is because we are going to rescues and shelters that are flooded with a specific breed of dog called Galgo Espanol or Spanish Greyhound and the Podenco. These two breeds are breed mainly for hunting hair in the fields of Spain. If the dogs are not good hunters or becomes injured, the hunters will dispose of the dogs in very inhumane ways. Each year 50,000 – 100,000 Galgos are killed or abandoned each year. One of the shelters we are visiting topped off at 1000 dogs in the shelter at one time last year and 80% of the dogs were Galgos.
A thousand animals at one time? That has to be incredibly overwhelming for the people on the front lines. How do you manage it emotionally when you walk into a situation like that?
It can be very easy to become overwhelmed by seeing all the animals were abused and tortured along with hearing the stories of rescues. It's important to focus on the good, these dogs were rescued! The abuse for these dogs now ends and now they can start to heal physically and mentally. Once these dogs get to experience a gentle hand and love, they cannot get enough and many of them began to bond with people again.
I also see more people in Spain adopting these dogs and more importantly many more people are joining the protests in Spain. Argentina just passed a law to ban hunting and underground racing, this was a very big boost to the groups in Spain that laws can be changed.
Also the new documentary, Yo Galgo, which is expected to come out in Spring 2017, uncovers a lot of the corruption within Spain and how 86% of the land is being used for hunting. I feel this documentary will have a very be impact on the issue of hunting with dogs in Spain as people become more educated and willing to challenge the status quo.
Tell us about the shelters you visited.
The first shelter we visited was 112 Carlota Galgos, a small rescue and rehabilitation centre located in Malaga, Spain founded by Charlotte and Dioni Del Rio with the assistance of their three children Sebastian, Sofia and Neizan. Being a unique organization, 112 Carlota Galgos remains small in order to receive some hardcore trauma cases and offer special individualized care to each new entry into the finca (ranch).
We spent a day and a half helping clean the shelter, work with the dogs and taking pictures. This shelter is set up very differently than any other shelter that we have visited in the past. There are six little houses, each hosting four or five dogs, that are set up in what is called the “Orchard.” Each house has a little wooden fenced yard that the dogs can access during the day when they are not in the main open area of the “Orchard”. One of these little homes is called “Homeward Bound." These dogs will be going to Canada to the sister adoption group there.
On the wall of this house is picture of the past dogs that have come through 112 Carlota Galgos and are now in their forever home.
When I saw the house I had to take a picture of it because I had a emotional response to it, I can only imagine what Charlotte and Dioni feel each time they put a new picture on the wall. We heard some of the stories of the dogs that are now in their care. 112 Carlota Galgos was a very peaceful quite place to visit and you can see in the dogs how much they love Charlotte and Dioni.
You covered a lot of territory! What was a typical day like?
Anything but typical! At one point, we spent five days living and sleeping in one shelter with 400 dogs. Generally, in the morning, while the kennel staff are cleaning out the kennels, shelter dogs are moved out into common areas. That's where the fun is for me. I love to go out there with the dogs. I can really capture their personality then. Some can be really shy at first but when they are out with the group you can see them open up.
I also loved to spend time in the medical ward, these are dogs that are healing from different wounds, one had foot amputated, another had his foot degloved from a trap,. There was a little white dog that had a very raspy bark. She had her microchip cut out of her neck, and her trainer overworked her which caused such severe breathing issues that she needed immediate surgery to help her breath again. She was still recovering, but was already reserved and had a home waiting for her.
You were left with a lot to absorb. Where did you find your mind going as you were on the plane home?
While I was going through the many photographs taken, my mind kept going to Leena , who gave me this new voice to tell the story of the Galgos. And I thought about HeARTs Speak donated their time to our group and were so instrumental in giving me my start in becoming a photographer who could help in meaningful ways. Not only was I able to contribute my own photos, but I was able to take some time to help teach the shelter workers how to take better photos.
I was now on a plane heading home from my first trip to Spain as a HeARTs Speak member, and was able to visit five shelters to photograph the volunteers and adoptable dogs. That was huge for me. Now one of my goals and promises to Leena is checked off, but not completed as I have a lot more I want to do.
UPDATE: Two of the rescues cited above were recently affected by severe flooding and heavily damaged. If you would like to learn more and find out how you can contribute, please visit this post at Galgos en Familia and this at 112 Carolota Galgos.
Enjoy learning about local rescues and people who are making a difference in the lives of animals in need? Type your email address in the box and click the "create subscription" button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.