Zuko & Peter

This portrait features Zuko and Peter, who live in Prenzlauer Berg. Here is their story, as narrated by Peter.

I never had a dog growing up nor was I much of a dog person

until I met my future wife Julia. Her love for the four legged friends eventually rubbed off on myself.

We never really made a decision that we needed a dog but as soon as I saw a picture of a Galgo Español (member of the Greyhound family) as she was looking through a dog adoption website, I was immediately intrigued and captivated by their wonky appearance.

Later learning that in Spain 50,000 – 100,000 of these dogs are abandoned each year as soon as they are deemed unsuitable for hunting, I then knew that if we should get a dog, this would be the kind.

We picked up Zuko (named after Danny Zuko from ‘Grease’) from his Pflegefamilie in Köln (Cologne) where he had been staying after being rescued from a Tötungsstation (Killing Station) in Spain a few weeks prior. His Pflegefamilie had described the 2 year old long haired Galgo as being ‘shy’. Greyhounds and Galgos are normally pretty reserved and shy dogs by nature but we were not prepared for the depth of Zuko’s fear of literally everything.

The first week of having Zuko in Berlin consisted of him not moving an inch from the sofa and cowering every time either of us tried to pet him.

I tried in vain to run after him.

During a walk towards the end of his first week in his new surroundings he was finally showing signs of interacting with the world around him. I loosened my grip slightly on his lead as he sniffed around in the park. Something suddenly startled him and he jolted loose out of my hands. The next thing I know he is staring at me from across the middle of the park. I tried to approach him slowly, but having not yet gained my trust he shot off like only a greyhound could, down the street – lead trailing behind. 

I tried in vain to run after him. He headed down a busy Schönhauser Allee where I lost sight of him. A very kind young woman saw my panic and generously lent me her bike to chase the petrified hound. I managed to follow his trail only by asking pedestrians if they had seen a bizarre looking windhund running like mad with a lead dragging behind. The directions of the bystanders lead me all the way out to Blankenburg/Pankow, some 15 kilometres from where we had been enjoying our Saturday stroll. After an hour of searching the area I gave up. Meanwhile Julia had calmly gone to the police station to report a missing dog. 

Later that afternoon the police had informed us that he had been found in the backyard of someone’s property in Blankenburg, not far from where I had been searching. Zuko was safely returned to us but not without ripping the skin of all four of his paws and then spending the next month with bandages on all of his feet. Zuko would run away yet another time within the first month, this time with Julia holding the leash. Weirdly, he ran to the same area of Berlin but yet again he was safely returned to us.

After 2 years Zuko is a completely different dog to the one we picked up in Cologne.

After 2 years Zuko is a completely different dog to the one we picked up in Köln. He’s still very shy and weary of strangers, but not longer petrified of everything. He is full of character and incredibly clumsy, falling over with excitement if he sees a dog he likes or if his soft toy is being thrown across the room. His favourite place apart from a sofa or bed is Tempelhofer Feld, where he can be seen burning through the heat lap trial or chasing other dogs with a joyful glee. If you’re willing to be patient, the bond you can make with him will never be broken. He has become a very loving dog who loves nothing more than to be cuddled and his shy demeanour continues to fade.

A big misconception of Greyhounds/Galgos is that they require a lot of exercise. Zuko is an absolute chiller and when not running at Tempelhof, he’s happy to sleep up to 18 hours a day just like most Galgos. I can strongly recommend those who are looking to get a dog to consider adopting a Galgo from Spain. I believe they are the perfect apartment dog, require little exercise and rarely bark.

It’s been a powerful journey together with Zuko so far and it’s a joy to watch him continue to get more and more confident as the days go by.