Crystal Lake dog rescue devoted to saving Spanish galgos

At age 1 1/2, Pipo already is a world traveler.

The galgo, a Spanish hunting dog similar to a greyhound, is one of numerous dogs regularly curled up on beds throughout the Petanaudes' Crystal Lake home.

He's one of the lucky ones, they say, having been rescued from the streets of Spain and flown here.

About 50,000 Galgos are killed each year in Spain after they've outlived their purpose, as some see it. They're hung from trees, shot, burned, even thrown into abandoned wells while still alive.

"Galgos are not considered pets in Spain," Travis Petanaude said. "They are considered tools for hunting. ... 

"Unfortunately, it's very much a cultural thing in Spain. At the same time, there are better ways to take care of this. There are homes available, so there's no need for mass killings."

Petanaude is offering one of those homes and hopes to encourage others to do the same. 

He and his wife, Amanda, have created what is believed to be the Midwest's only rescue group devoted to galgos. Love, Hope and Believe Galgo Rescue is based out of the couple's Crystal Lake home, where four Galgos await adoption.

The couple already had two greyhounds and had adopted a galgo, Leena, last year from Magnificent Mutts, a rescue group based in Hillside, before they started their own group.

Involved with greyhound rescue groups for 12 years, they read an article about galgos and became determined to help.

They first set out to adopt a galgo and found only two dedicated galgo rescue groups in the United States. Very few greyhound groups adopted the breed. They were told they'd likely have to wait a year to adopt a galgo. 

Fortunately, Leena had ended up with Magnificent Mutts after a woman stumbled upon a galgueros, or breeder of Galgos, about to hang the dog. The woman begged the man to let her take Leena.   

She brought her to a local rescue group in Spain, and the dog eventually ended up with Magnificent Mutts.

Feeling blessed to have found Leena, the Patenaudes wanted to do more.

"What we really want to do is support the groups in Spain," Travis said. "Bringing the dogs to the U.S. and adopting them out doesn't correct the issue. It helps them to bring more dogs in. We want to raise awareness of what's happening to the galgos out there."

Similar to greyhounds in temperament, the galgos tend to be smaller than the racing dogs and run better on uneven or rough terrains, such a forests. They typically get along well with other dogs and cats.

Because they are good jumpers, a 6-foot fence is necessary, Travis said. They require exercise but also enjoy sleeping for long periods, he said.

"They do have bursts of energy where they can run around for 15 minutes and come back in and be out cold," Travis said. "They are very affectionate. They pretty much just love and want the attention of people."

The dog's temperament can depend on how they were treated in Spain, though. It can take some abused dogs a while to feel comfortable around people, Travis said.

"They are one of the most abused dogs in the world besides pit bulls," he said. "They are kept in very closed shelters. They're all piled into a small shed with no light, dirt floors. They're only real use is for hunting from October to January. The rest of the year, they don't care about them."

The Patenaudes foster the dogs for no less than a month to work with them and build trust before adopting them out.

And they're very thorough when it comes to adoptions, doing home visits, checking references and ensuring the dogs are going to good homes, Travis said.

They ask that those interested in adopting pay anywhere from $700 to $1,200, or the amount it cost to transport the dogs to the United States. So far, that money has come out of Patenaudes' pockets. Travis works as a network engineer, while Amanda is a veterinary tech.

The couple try to keep the costs as low as possible by finding people already flying from Spain to the United States to transport the dogs for them. Working with volunteers from shelters in Spain, those transporting need only carry the paperwork as helpers walk them through the process at the airport.

"We're not competing against each other in rescues," Travis said. "It's all about sharing as much information as we can for each other, and educating people about what's happening." 

Once at the airport, those transporting bring the dogs through customs, and the Patenaudes are there to greet them and take the dogs home.

Along with Pipo, the couple has Bizcocho, a 6-year-old male; Amador, a 4-year-old male; and Dorita, a 1 1/2-year-old female.

The Patenaudes plan to increase exposure of the dogs by joining with other rescue groups for meet-and-greets.

"People can actually see them and see what they're like, and see what great pets they make," Travis said.

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