With their distinctive Yoda-style ears and wide cheeky smiles, it’s not surprising that the Podencos from Spain were such a hit at this year’s Paws in the Park.
Spanish charity Podenco Friends flew over especially for the show at Ardingly to raise awareness of the plight of the Podencos in Spain and demonstrate what gentle and friendly companions and agility dogs they can be.
The Podenco Friends team and their ‘pods’ were inundated with enquiries (and ear scratches) from curious by passers – the team estimates that around one in twenty people they spoke to over the weekend had ever heard of a Podenco, and even fewer had come up nose to nose with one.
Also referred to as ‘The Great Forgotten’ of Spain, Podencos are traditionally working dogs, used by rabbit and boar hunters across Spain – they range in sizes and are sight hounds with lean athletic frames, with their defining feature being their large bat-like ears.
While there are many respectable hunters who treat their dogs well, sadly there are also many who don’t. Too many Podencos are subjected to long term abuse, both mental and physical.
They spend much of their lives either chained up in a dark building with inadequate nutrition and minimal human contact, wandering the countryside trying to survive or in a perrera (killing station).
They have been working dogs and have no experience of living with people or in a comfortable house. For some, even walking through a doorway can be very stressful and others need time, love and special handling to learn to trust humans. Tens of thousands are abandoned every year.
Podenco Friends rescue and provide sanctuary for the abandoned Podencos of Spain, allowing them time to heal and learn to trust again in readiness for their forever homes.
Since the charity was established 18 months ago by Beverley Farmer and her partner Warren Beards they have rescued over 150 Podencos, reared 50 abandoned puppies, and rehomed 120 across the UK, US and Europe.
Currently they have 56 Podencos in their care at the sanctuary in Murcia, Spain looking for homes.
Beverley Farmer, founder of Podenco Friends said: “While we manage to rehome many Podencos in the UK, awareness of these magnificent dogs and the struggle they face in Spain is still very low.
“As well as rehabilitate, our objective is also to educate. Paws in the Park is the first of a series of shows we will be featuring at in the UK over the summer to spread the word and demonstrate just what wonderful, gentle and goofy family pets Podencos can be.
“We’ve had a great time at Paws in the Park – it was a brilliantly organised event, a beautifully sunny weekend and we thank everyone for the interest and affection they’ve shown towards the podencos. Our motto is Juntos PODemos – together we can.”
To find out more information or for photos and videos visit: www.podencofriends.org or www.facebook.com/PodencoFriends.
Report and pictures contributed by Zana Walker-Robson.