CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Saturday, 25 February 2006

Irresponsible dog owners

Poor GC Philo has been through a tough one and a half weeks with a bitch in heat. Oh, how I can sympathize. I went through this with Holly, but decided she would enjoy life much more if she didn't have to suffer "the curse". Her (lack of) morals certainly provided some comedy in the meantime, mind you.

The first time she came into heat the only local suitor was less than half her size. She dashed out the door one day and after discovering that it didn't work with her on top, lay down flat on the ground so he'd be able to reach. I had to put a stop to that lark, separated them and dragged her home.

Yes, you can call me a spoil-sport if you like, but I think there are quite enough unwanted puppies already, thank you.

The next one she chose was a bit big and got stuck! No worries there on the pregnancy front, because he was neutered. Oh yeah, he was still "up for it".

Every time we would go out when she was in heat, horny dogs would line up behind us and follow her. I'd take a newspaper to swat them away. I could no longer leave her outside stores to do any shopping and she could, therefore, no longer enjoy doing these things with me. It is nearly always too hot to leave a dog in a car here and her randy suitors were scratching the paintwork anyway. It got to the point where I couldn't take her out for exercise at all during those times, so I decided that it would be far better for her to be fixed.

Though that in itself, was an event not entirely without incident. The first thing Holly did when I went to pick her up after the operation, was to jump up, smiling, tail wagging, full of her normal exuberant energy - which had the side effect of ripping open all of her stitches. The second anaesthetic - to stitch her back up again - calmed her only a little for the next 24 hours too.

Otherwise, it didn't change her character in any way. She remained an incurable flirt and goes positively ga-ga over, particularly, big black dogs and rather handsome young men. If I was looking for one, I'd trust Holly's recommendations entirely!

And she still has her maternal instincts, which she shows for her various adopted cuddly toys, several cushions and the four kittens she's brought up as her own!

For a time, this all worked out great and life was reasonably calm.

More recently, we have begun to have a real and growing problem and, just lately we've had to curtail numerous walks because of irresponsible dog owners. Spain is full of them. Cádiz is no exception to this and, nor are these islands.

You wouldn't believe it looking at the numbers of dogs wandering about in Spain's streets, but in Spain it is actually illegal to allow any dog loose anywhere at all, other than on your own land. Since there is no fence around the land that the house I am renting is on (and, because it is not mine to fence), this means that, legally, I can not take my dog out without her being on a lead.

"Dangerous breeds" are supposed to wear muzzles. Since most Spanish dogs are crossbred mutts, even if they contain 57 varieties of dangerous breed, it means they slip through that particular net. And, indeed, I've never seen a muzzled dog since the law came into force. In fact, it would be an unique sight to see anyone other than a foreign resident with a dog on a lead at all here.

Nevertheless, I was once stopped in the street in Buenavista and told in no uncertain terms by some moron that Holly should be muzzled. She is a mixture, a mongrel. Does not apply. Naff off! The Canarian friend I was talking to at the time came back with a brilliant retort: He asked if they were going to muzzle all the politicians then, since they are a dangerous breed!

The most "responsible" and "law obiding" dog owners in rural areas, wouldn't even consider the need for fencing their land to contain the many dogs they  keep. They just tie the dogs up on very short chains, so they bark incessantly (this is supposed to be guarding), eat, sleep and shit in the same place.

These poor animals are fed nothing except a few inadequate scraps. They are not loved, never exercised, certainly never see the inside of a vet's surgery and the conditions they are kept in, often with little or no shelter from extreme temperatures over 40 degrees centigrade in summer, severe storms and rain in winter, scared during fiesta fireworks, are despicable.

But, they are not breaking the law.

The rest, particularly the vast army of small, hairy, crossbreed mutts people sometimes pretend to be thought of as pets, are allowed to run free in the certain knowledge that there is no dog pound in the area and because everyone knows that the local authorities have absolutely no resources for dealing with the problem.

They are just beginning to wake up to the need on the north of Tenerife, because stray dogs have been killing numerous goats recently. I don't, as yet, know what they propose to do about it. Half of me doesn't want to know really, because it is almost guaranteed to mean they will just round them up and kill them wholesale.

That is not what I would call appropriate, though I have to say that, given the sort of lives these dogs would likely have as an alternative, perhaps they will be happier.

It is a law that, admittedly, I used to break too, only to the point of not having the lead always attached when I was out walking with and supervising the dog, because the area we live in is so rural and isolated, which made it perfect for such a lively dog to run about in. (I would never allow my dog to roam free, on her own, because her road sense is utter crap and I love her far too much.)

And I did so, initially, because the landlady said that it was perfectly OK with her. She neglected to mention that it was definitely NOT OK with the rest of the family, who live next door. I asked the local police and they said they wouldn't even be interested, unless my dog bit someone and, since she is normally so soppy and docile that she'd be more likely to lick someone to death, this had never worried me either.

But to avoid any problems there, we dutifully started out on the lead and I would let her off to run around the empty fields, at a good distance from the houses.

Unfortunately though, Holly developed a nose for dead things, like decomposing rabbits. The rabbits have developed diseases recently and there is a new risk that people have started (illegally) using poisons, so, I can no longer let her do so. Now Holly has to go everywhere with me, on the lead.

One theoretical advantage is that if have to walk further in order to give her sufficient exercise and it is no longer enough for me to stand still while she runs around the fields, I will be fitter and thinner. This only works when we can actually get out and go far enough and I'm not always able.

The big disadvantage is that, while on the lead, Holly, naturally, adopts the stance of my protector and this has been reinforced in the worst way, because several times now, loose dogs have approached and tried to attack her. They go for her throat, which has meant that I have had to lift her up - all 55 lbs. of her - and carry her home, usually at some speed, in order to avoid injury to either of us. This usually ends in my losing at least a day, recovering from the exertion.

(No, I am not attempting to be melodramatic. Despite never being able to get a diagnosis of any kind from our medical system, I do suffer all the symptoms of Fibromyalgia. I literally shake from head to foot after any exertion, it knocks me over and leaves me in severe pain. Shopping trips cost me three days.)

It has also meant that Holly has developed - I think quite understandably - a serious dislike of small dogs - mostly of the type GC aptly refers to as a "little bastard with an underbite" - that attempt to run at her.

So the cycle is complete. Now I really can't let her off the lead at all, because she is going to retaliate one of these days. I wouldn't blame her for doing so, but she would be to blame, in the eyes of the the law and those of the owners who suddenly gave their first care about the dog they had, until then, been completely oblivious to and irresponsible over.

Off lead, Holly used to be happy to run and play with most dogs.

Can't take her to Buenavista with me any more, because there are scads of small dogs in every back street and there's always a big dog or two roaming in the square. She looks like a scary Rottwieller, so I would prefer to take her with me for protection, especially when I go to the bank or the cash machine.

Hunting season (August - November) is also a serious pain in the arse, but on hunting days, which are Thursdays and Sundays, at least we know what to avoid. It is not difficult, because once Holly hears the guns going off, she becomes a quivering wreck and won't go further than the bridge at the end of the garden.

On the other hand, I think I am justified in being annoyed when the hunters ignore the 200 meter limit from inhabited property rule and their dogs stray onto our land. (Not for long when they come up against the cats!)

Something we definitely don't expect to find are hunting dogs, in February, out hunting all on their own among unfenced vines, no more than 500 yards up the road from the house, where we usually go walking. They were a pair of dogs I recognized. They have an owner and must have been put there to "work," unsupervised.

Hunters are not permitted in vineyards when there are grapes, which there will be for most of the hunting season. Obviously, they are not allowed to be hunting out of season and unsupervised hunting dogs at any time, is highly illegal.

Nevertheless, it was us who had to run for our lives to avoid being the hunted!

And that's twice it has happened in the same place. Last year, two of the cats had come with us, who the Jack Russell type "ratting dog" chased up a tree. That time, I had to hang around for ages until I could coax them back down and carry them home.

Funnily enough, Holly knows who the owner is too. She barks a real low, annoyed bark at him whenever he passes, even when he doesn't have his dogs with him!

The other day, I had only got as far as the local horse trough, 50 yards from the house, when a local smallholder in his Toyota pickup comes down the road, with his loose dog trotting along behind. Yes, I am sure it is fun for the dog to play "run behind the truck" on our rural tracks. Of course it is not safe for that dog and the idiot is a lazy bastard if he thinks this is an appropriate way to exercise his dog.

So I'm minding my own business trying to get water and my dog is legally on a lead. His loose dog is coming towards us, barking. I make a dash for it, having to leave my things behind at the horse trough and the man waved his finger, chastising me! Tell me what I was supposed to do differently.

The same thing happened a day or so later, when another smallhoder came up the lane in his pivi, with his small, shaggy dog of indeterminate parentage running loose all around it. This one, on seeing me coming back down the hill towards the house, started in our direction at a gallop, again, barking madly.

Once more, it was us who had to take quick evasive action, despite the fact that we were observing the law, and the other party wasn't. And do you know the worst of this is that they always look at me as if I am the one in the wrong.

This is what I just don't get. Is it because I am a woman? Because I am a foreigner? Or is just because they can't ever put themselves out nor possibly be in the wrong? The answer, I think, is probably all of the above.

Meanwhile, my life is made hell.

In addition, there are nearly always dogs that have been dumped and abandoned in the area. Especially during and at the end of the hunting season in November, when there are always unwanted hunting dogs left behind.

We can no longer walk to the village or the shop, because there is a plethora of small dogs all running around free at all points of the route. We can't go very far up this road, because there are owners there, who persist in having vicious dogs loose. We cannot go along the main road or the rural tracks below it, because there is one smallholding, where we saw at least 50 dogs, half of which were loose, unfenced. I can tell you, I wish I'd been wearing brown undergarments when close to 25 dogs came rushing towards us in a pack.

We've often have to do a swift about face when we go 250 yards across the valley, because there's someone who keeps hunting dogs and invariably there is one loose. One of those was allowed carte-blanche for several weeks, by which time it had adopted quite a bit of territory as it's "patch" and was coming down the road and wandering about all over my garden. We could hardly step outside the house. I attempted to tactfully mention it, but was ignored. In the end, I had to really push home the point that I was observing the law while it chased us, before it was finally confined.

My dog will suffer from lack of exercise and I am certainly beginning to get bored with the same old scenery on the ever-decreasing circle in which we can safely walk.

There is something very wrong about this, where the tiny minority who attempt to do the right thing are "governed" by the vast majority who do not.

I think there is even more wrong with a law that encourages dogs to be tied up cruelly, mind you.

My late father once said that one day the animal kingdom in Spain would rise up in retribution. He said, "I look forward to that day", but he did not live to see it. So do I, but sadly, I don't expect that I shall do so either.

Pamela is a former accountant, recovering journalist and international cat herder, disabled and chronically sick with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, Fibromyalgia and Cervical spondylosis, fluent in three languages; English, Spanish and Rubbish. Mostly writes in the latter. She likes Genealogy, Model Railways and Cats.

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