WARNING: Disturbing content.
When I hear talk of podencos (Spanish hounds) being shot by owners after hunting season - or for whatever reason a hunter might have - I imagine a little bullet hole placed in the sternum like a medal. I am, after everything, still naïve.
The latest video passing through my rescue may crush the last of that naiveté. In it, a smallish, russet brown podenca sits curled on the ground. She seems tired, perhaps lost, or just confused. Her head bobs, but she holds it as high as she can.
As the clip progresses, her head turns, revealing a huge, blood-black crater where her eye and the right side of her face used to be. She had been shotgun-blasted, half her head blown off.
She turns again, dips what remains of her mouth to drink from a tiny pool of water on the dirt in front of her.
Here's the back story: The podenca, still full with milk, having recently given birth to a new litter of pups for her hunter - as this is the cyclic life of a hunter's breeding podenca - was no longer wanted by the hunter. The boy who videoed her reported that the owner had shot to kill, but seeing that she survived the shot, elected not to waste a second bullet on her. How long she might suffer before dying was not of interest to him. Never mind that she had provided many litters of new hunting dogs over her lonely life with him. (Not with him, really. Hunting podencos live outside, chained in shacks, bunkers, junkpiles, or wherever, but not indoors with their hunter-owners.) Instead of shooting her, the hunter-owner could have called a rescue to come and take her away; why didn't he? Too much trouble, perhaps - podencos tend to be seen as a sort of throw away dog in Spain - or perhaps, as is commonly the case, the hunter wanted to punish his dog. Was he not happy with her puppies? Who knows.
These dogs are shot for many reasons by their owners, and sometimes by others. I did not say that the reasons are good, but there always are reasons given. Not too long ago there was legislation in Spain put forth to allow people to shoot these -and other - dogs simply for roaming around without a person. Some are shot as one of many means of disposal, as was this little podenca, when they are deemed too old, no longer useful, or not good enough - some are shot as punishment for being bad at their jobs and "shaming" their owners. Some are dumped on the road by hunters as a means of disposal, but then shot by the hunting gameskeepers to ensure that they do not ruin the hunting games by chasing / catching the rabbits that the hunters want their kept dogs to catch.
I would really like there to be a neat little bow to wrap up this story in for you, but there is not. Instead, if you are strong, feel free to view the podenca's final video here (WARNING: Graphic content).
She was picked up by a rescue and euthanized not long after.
The violence should stop, yes. But the attitude that impels such behavior comes from a long-held tradition, and it will take much work over much time. Protest, adopt, foster, donate, volunteer, spread the word, tell everyone you can about the majesty and the plight of these animals. Any chance I get, I wear one of our Hound Sanctuary shirts that depicts a beautiful podenco and galgo with slightly sad expressions, holding a heart on a string dangling between their mouths. The image on the shirt is an invitation to everyone I come across to ask about these dogs. This opportunity to tell people who have no idea about the podenco plight - who in most cases have never even heard of a podenco - is valuable beyond imagination.
As always, feel free to contact me if you'd like to get involved: WelcomeToTheSea@comcast.net or Hound_Sanctuary@yahoo.com