Chaos to Cosmos
The path from chaos to cosmos was discovered by telling one's life story

Friday, 24 March 2006

How small is a small kitten?

Khan, Kitty and Balu at a couple of months old

One of the things I have always regretted when I took in these three munchkins, is that in my haste (no, sorry our constant busyness, because I had a lot of help from Holly the hound) to maintain the continuous factory production line of feeding, face washing, bum licking (Holly's job) and so forth, in triplicate, is that I did not get to take any photos of them while they were still very small. When I first got them, you could have lost all three in a shoe box, they were so tiny. 

And the three of them are all, still, at five years old, perfectly synchronized. Back then, as soon as I'd fed, washed, shown them the bathroom and got them all snuggled back down again with a refilled hot water bottle, it was almost time to start preparing the next feed, ready for when they'd wake again.

It was an experience I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Balu, who was the largest of the three when I found them, was the same length (from nose to bum) as the distance from the base of my palm to the first joint in my middle finger - some 12 cms or approximately 4 1/2 inches.

At that time, Balu had not yet developed any distinct markings. He was white underneath, but just a a soft donkey brown otherwise, which made him resemble a little teddy bear, hence the bearlike name. It was apparent, unusually, at that early age, was that Balu was going to become one big mass of fur.

Sunday, 12 March 2006

Clever Doggie

Holly on sentry duty in the hallway

The owner is undoubtedly stupid (yesterday, I managed to completely misplace a cat, because I'd shut it between the layers of one of our psuedo double-glazed windows), but my dog certainly isn't daft! Bless her, she's a real help. 

One day, when it clouded over (yet again), four out of five cats came indoors swiftly and voluntarily. That left just one outside, who was sure to follow soon and, for reasons of her own, Holly decided to sit by the front door and wait.

Since she sat there and I certainly didn't want to hover round the door calling for ages, I casually remarked to Holly, as I went back to my desk, "Let me know when the last one arrives." Don't you hold conversations with your animals then? :)

It didn't really cross my mind that she would listen, understand or answer.

However, about ten minutes later, she let out two short barks, so I went to the door to look. Yup, there he was, fifth and final cat waiting by the door to be let in. This I did, after which the "watch dog" abandoned her post. Job done.

Just a coincidental fluke? Nope, I tried it again next time we were waiting for a different last cat to come home at dinner time and I got the same result.

It works for keeping an eye on her "kids". She also "tells them off" when they fight, run around indoors or scratch the furniture. I've had no success yet with requests for help with the housework, but we're working on it!

Thursday, 2 March 2006

We don’t have winter here!

Fast moving and dangerous flooding pours down the lane and barranco

As I sit, wrapped in four layers of clothing in my unheated (and leaking everywhere) house that was built only for hot weather (only three months of the year here in north Tenerife), this had such a ring of familiarity:
"Either every year for the past few generations has been miraculously colder than the last, or the locals are suffering from some serious short-term memory loss which has resulted in complete ignorance when it comes to indoor heating."
Personally, I go for total denial. But I can't even pretend to understand why.

There is no doubt that the climate has changed here in recent years, but if it gets cold in Tenerife - and surprisingly it does and always has - then it must have always done so in Cádiz. There are some old houses in high areas in Tenerife that have fireplaces. This one does, actually, but it was blocked up long ago and the cooker has been placed in the alcove. New houses don't have chimneys, other than the ones rising up from outdoor barbeques, but it definitely gets cold.

My mother comes here every Christmas with heavyweight, warm clothes she would never need in her centrally heated house in England. In fact, she leaves them here. I think I have more of her clothes in my cupboards than my own now. The thick fleecy track pants I am wearing are hers!

When she was wearing these trousers with my chunky boots, an oversized T-Shirt and in a moment of warmth, slipped her fleece jacket off the shoulders, she only lacked a baseball cap to be a perfect picture of the only 81 year old "rapper" in the known world. The spoil-sport wouldn't let me take a photo!

Because of the cold, tiled floors, we bought her a poof to take her feet off the floor and, when she sits to watch TV or knit in the evenings, she wraps up in a microfiber blanket. I've got it round me now while I sit at the computer. Now I'm the one doing a perfect impression of a "little old lady".

Today has been awful, again, weather wise in Tenerife.

Earlier in the afternoon, just as I was taking madam dog out for her ablutions, wrapped in my newly acquired waterproof with the hood that a lifeboat man would be proud of, hiking boots, et al, I met one of my neighbours coming up the hill. The roar of the waterfall coming down our apology for a road and the normally dry barranco under the bridge at the end of my drive was so loud, I could hear it from the house. The road was running a great torrent of muddy water.

The neighbour had to get past it somehow, because it is the only way to her house across the valley. So we wrapped her suede shoes in carrier bags and I went with her up the road to ensure she didn't slip. My boots may be non-slip, but at ankle high, they were useless when wading knee deep in fast running water. Picture it, with my track pants rolled up like a holiday-maker on a British beach!

So, I now have a perfectly useless, totally soaked pair of boots, sitting on top of the dehumidifier (that I keep going 24/7/365) anyway. I'm absolutely freezing, but with scant hot water, can't even get a bath to warm me up and wouldn't like to get out of it into the cold air anyway. Welcome to sub-tropical paradise!

Saturday, 25 February 2006

Irresponsible dog owners

Morals of an alley cat!

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. Call me a spoil-sport if you like, but 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! 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 pretend are 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 only 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's so soppy she'd be more likely to lick someone to death, this had never worried me.

But to avoid any problems, 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 day. And I really wouldn't blame her, but she would be to blame, in the eyes of the the law and those owners who suddenly gave their first f*ck about their dog and, had until then, been completely irresponsible owners, are protected.

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 these small bastard dogs in every back street and a big dog or two roaming the square. Holly 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's 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. 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 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 250 yards across the valley, because someone who keeps hunting dogs there always has 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", 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.

Thursday, 16 February 2006

Moggies a la Monologue

Almost single file

You'd have to be pretty old (like me) to remember Joyce Grenfell (1910-1979) and her monologues. She made me laugh as a child and I'm still reminded of her daily. For a start, being now mostly stuck indoors, my blinking cats are about as well behaved - and as much constant distraction - as the fictional children in her Free Activity Period. "We never bite our friends." Indeed. I beg to differ! 

I have a distinct feeling that, as well as building the cat-proof screens for the windows, that it would be a jolly good idea to build them a play centre.

Or sew the little buggers straight jackets, maybe!

So, until March and the possible arrival of migrating birds from Africa and while we don't yet have those screens to let us all get a bit of fresh air, I've been letting the cats have a short walk each day. Yesterday was funny, because they were only out for 5 minutes at most. It had been raining HARD the previous night and was still at it in the morning. Little fur people crowded on windowsills and I told them "No, you don't want to go out in this". Around mid-day, the sun peeped out, the excuse wore thin and the whining increased. I opened the front door so they could satisfy their curiosity and I could, hopefully, get a few minutes peace.

No sooner than I had closed the door and sat down, the sky clouded over again and the heavens reopened for business. The cats probably hadn't got further than the car and most of them must have dashed under it for cover. Mico, was sent back to the front door to gain reentry. He has this habit of standing on his hind legs and rapidly pummelling the door with both front paws, while screaming, claws extended. It's a reinforced glass door, so it has that nails across a blackboard quality. They're not daft. They must know he's not going to be ignored!

So, I get up to open the door again. He marches in. As soon as they hear the door open, three more dash up the path and scoot in, skidding on the tiled floor with their wet paws, as they arrive. Nobody asked to go out again.

Today, I awoke with Kitty resting on my right arm, Mico pinning down my left and Balu lying on my chest. (Dog, Betty and Khan were only inches away.) They were trying to wake me up, because, they claimed, they were starving to death.

Well, it was getting on towards 11 a.m., so they might have been right.

And, it was a fine morning, so, after feeding them all, they all crowded around the front door. Dog had to go for a walk anyway, so I thought, what the heck, they can have some exercise too. So all seven of us headed out and up the road. I'm sure there was another Joyce Grenfell monologue where she took the children on an outing and I can distinctly hear her saying, "Now come along children ..."

Children, on outings, in public were supposed to walk in neat double file.

The worst, as cats straggle here, there and everywhere (well so does my dog, but that's a different problem), is that I hear my own voice saying something like it! Going out with cats is one thing. Coming back with the same number, you'd think, would be quite another, but miraculously, they followed like little ducklings. With a little prompting, of course. "No, inside Betty, please" and "Don't do that Khan" or "Don't bite your sister, Balu", as I round them up and head 'em all back in the corral, but otherwise they filed back in almost as orderly as they'd gone out.

It's certainly handy, if a little crazy. It's not even something you mean to do - talk to cats like as if they will understand - and I can't help wondering, as I hear this monologue, if maybe it's me who should be locked up and not the cats?