This painting, Iberic by Carmen Herrera is proposed by Ronovan as a springboard for a poem. I didn’t know her work, but these colours are quintessentially Spanish.






arid as African desert

but the blood red clots

never quite dry

leaving black-stained memories

hammered like nails

into skulls

living and dead.


I’ve been going through my galley of The Dark Citadel since this morning, and I’m getting so sick of picking out those commas. It makes me think of what dear old Oscar said:

I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.

Anyway, I’ve had a bellyfull of commas and so I am writing a blog post about something even more important to me than my writing: Finbar.

Finbar is a dog, of sorts. He is a Galgo, a Spanish greyhound, adopted three years ago from a refuge near Seville and still not properly domesticated. The Galgo is a beautiful and noble animal, kept for centuries for hunting. Unfortunately for the Galgo, although the well bred packs kept by Juan Carlos probably get enough to eat and are allowed inside a kennel in the winter, this is not the case for the scores of thousands of hounds kept by the inhabitants of rural southern Spain who also like a spot of hare hunting. There are, I am told, hunters who treat their animals correctly, but the fact is, that most of them are treated appallingly, with some 50,000 of those surplus to requirements being massacred each year in ways that Goya might well have documented had he been alive today.

The lucky ones end up in shelters, run by very courageous and devoted women who take in the poor, misbegotten creatures they find wandering in the countryside, by the side of motorways, or sheltering on building sites.

Mentalities are changing, and the shelters in the south are finding homes for their dogs in Spain, particularly in the north where the Galgo is not used for hunting, and not considered vermin. A sizeable proportion of adoptions though are via other European countries. Which is how we got Finbar.


I had always wanted a Lurcher, but they don’t have Lurchers in France. Any kind of sighthound is rare, not being a fashion breed like French bulldogs, Chihuahuas or Huskies. When I saw a link to a French site dedicated to exposing the barbarity of the fate of Galgos, I decided we had to adopt one.

Finbar was 18 months old when he was dumped in a refuge by his Gypsy owner because he was useless for hunting. Finbar was lucky. As soon as I saw his picture I decided I wanted him.

The clincher
The clincher

I could write a book about the rocky road to cohabitation with this semi-wild creature; maybe I will one day. He has been with us for three years now, and we are still learning about one another. His relationship with me is quite simple: I am God. It’s his relationship with the rest of the human race that is more complicated. I don’t know what his previous owner(s) did to him, and I’m happier not knowing. Whatever it was, it left deep scars on a basically gentle, playful nature. Maybe, hopefully, one day he will learn that not every man who reaches out a hand to him intends to do him harm.


It is difficult to find the words to express my thanks to the wonderful team at Lévriers Libres, and my admiration for the unsung heroes of the Spanish dog shelters, who work so hard to alleviate some of the misery caused by other people’s ‘fun’.

Photos of Finbar (ex Torquato) taken at the shelter outside Seville courtesy of Lévriers Libres.