Posts Tagged ‘dogs’

Generally I find Canarios to be warm, friendly, welcoming people. It’s one of the attractions of living here that when you walk down the street the faces you see are open and smiling as opposed to the grim, head down against the weather look I remember from Stockport. However, there is one quality displayed by some Canarios which both infuriates and saddens me and that is their attitude towards animals, or more specifically the attitude towards animals who have outlived their usefulness.

I’m not one of those  naïve townies who suffers an attack of horrified indignation when I see farmers, or goatherds etc seemingly treat their animals roughly. I am a townie, but there are farmers in our family and I grew up seeing animals being treated with a firm hand. I’m talking about something completely different .

Not so long ago I watched a programme on a national Spanish TV channel where the presenter was interviewing a Tinerfeño hunter who had just taken a dog which wasn’t working out as a rabbit catcher into the hills where he dumped it. The guy explained that he wasn’t actually dumping the dog, he was letting him go so that someone else would take him in and he’d live happily ever after. What a load of old bollocks. This was how he justified his cowardly actions; he obviously just didn’t have the balls to take the dog out back and shoot it (not that I want anyone to do that particularly, but hopefully you get my point).  It was a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated incident. It’s not uncommon to see mangy, desperately thin dogs scrounging around in Tenerife’s forests. I’ve even encountered packs of them up there from time to time.

How Could Anybody Dump Something Like These?

How Could Anybody Dump Something Like These?

Dumping animals and hoping that someone else takes responsibility for them isn’t only confined to canines as we know only too well from personal experience living beside a cat sanctuary. Our neighbour, Marlene, was exasperated by the amount of cats dumped; sometimes up to 90 a month. To be fair, plenty of people brought their unwanted cats and kittens to the sanctuary during the day even though some of the men could be annoyingly stupid (covering their own groins and making ouch noises when Marlene suggested that they should have their cats neutered and then not actually taking her advice).

The ones I would really like to get hold of are the cowardly ones who come in the middle of the night when there’s no-one around and dump kittens in the vicinity of the sanctuary (people’s gardens, the golf course, the golf course car park), again hoping someone else takes responsibility. This happens with annoying regularity. Jesús, our ex-neighbour, caught a young couple doing this one night with a sick kitten which was in a bad way – something which they didn’t want to deal with. He nursed the kitten most of the night , but when he woke in the morning it was dead on his chest. Jesús was distraught, but I’m sure the young couple felt a lot better that they didn’t have to witness the kitten’s demise.

This weekend I watched another neighbour, Jessica cry her eyes out as I moved a dead kitten with a badly mangled leg from behind some bags of compost where it had dragged itself to die. It had turned up from somewhere over the weekend, but with the state its leg was in, I’m willing to bet it was dumped, especially as another kitten appeared the following day (there’s usually always more than one), albeit alive and well… for the time being.

This dumping of animals which are sick or unwanted is a cowardly act and demonstrates a childish avoidance of  responsibilty – the people who do it are simply doing a ‘Pontius Pilate’ by passing their ‘problem’, usually caused by a lack of common sense in the first place, onto someone else.
The lucky ones end up in one of the island’s animal sanctuaries, where caring, selfless people try make life that little bit easier for these poor, frightened abandoned creatures. However, these sanctuaries are perpetually over worked and suffer from a severe lack of funding.

If you live on Tenerife, or even if you don’t, and would like to know how you can provide support, Tenerife Dogs is a fabulously interesting site which mixes sobering information with amusing anecdotes and tales (should that be tails?) to raise the plight of these poor little animals who suddenly find themselves unwanted. It also keeps readers up to date with ways in which they can help.

Finally, if by some chance anyone reading this is one of those people who have dumped a cat or a dog then do the decent thing and read Tenerife Dogs to find out how to make a donation and at least make some atonement for your past actions.

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What is the point of cats? I’m serious, will someone please answer me this question; what is the purpose of a cat? What do we get in return for feeding, pampering and generally making cats’ lives one of generally living in the lap of luxury? Sleep, eat…sleep, eat…sleep, eat…oh and every so often act like mercenary, arrogant and ungrateful little gits.

Until the age of 13 I was a dog person; still am really. But cats have played a part in my life since around 1987. None, I have to say, were ever invited to live with me and Andy, they were forced upon us without our say in the matter.

Dogs repay love and their keep by working, being bezzer mates and jumping in front of you to protect you if someone attacks you. A cat in the same situation would light up a cigarette, turn its back and start looking for some other mug to feed it.

Whiskas, I’m afraid to say, has embraced the dark side. Barely a week after fretting about his whereabouts and being distraught at the thought that I might never see him again, I’m at the point of sharpening the wood axe and planning in my mind’s eye the spot on the wall where his head will be displayed as a trophy and a warning to other feline freeloaders.

The cat’s gone completely doolally. For the past few nights, for no apparent reason, he’s started to wail throughout the night. This is a cat who hardly says a word through the day apart from a bit of excited chuntering when he’s being fed.
Not only does he wail, but he wails and wanders, so we get the effect of a feline siren moving from the back door to the front. He’s also got an annoyingly effective habit of pressing his mouth to the door crack, maximising his sleep-piercing cries. As if that wasn’t enough, he also angrily rattles the door from our bedroom to the back terrace . You can imagine what someone rattling your bedroom door in the wee small hours does to the old ticker.

For the last three nights I’ve had to put a barricade of camping chairs and a fold up table against the door to deter the little bugger.

So the repayment for providing food and a comfy place to lie, until we go to bed and he gets turfed out, is to torture us with sleep depravation. Like I asked, what is the benefit of having a cat?

We’ve been here before and the T-shirt is getting very faded now, but we thought that we’d all reached a nice place and moved on. Clearly not. Andy and I are now planning a strategy which involves generous use of the cold shoulder, sending him to Coventry and the real ‘hit him where it hurts’ tactic moving his bowl back outside to remind him that his situation with us is a privilege and not a right.

For now the axe remains in the garden shed. Whether it stays there will depend on how he responds.

Dancer from El Hierro

Dancer from El Hierro

A Yorkie riding a pony; an iguana squaring up to two bulldogs, a donkey wearing a straw bonnet and a mongrel in full traditional Canarian costume…you really don’t need to take mind altering narcotics when you live in Tenerife.

The weekend had been bizarre enough when we returned home from watching Man Utd beat Spurs in the FA Cup to find a rock concert taking place in the neighbour’s garden. The band wasn’t half bad either. After an initial set of enthusiastic Spanish rock they switched to rock and did a pretty good job of Pink Floyd, Clapton and Hendrix. So sitting listening to a rock concert from the comfort of our house was a pretty surreal start to the weekend.

Sunday we dragged ourselves out of bed (the concert didn’t finish until 2am) to head to Buenavista del Norte for the Fiesta de San Antonio Abad. Last year we had enjoyed the equivalent fiesta in La Matanza, so we were interested to see how Buenavista’s would compare.

It was a pleasant day, the sun making intermittent appearances which immediately scored better then La Matanza’s which, lying quite a way up the hillside, is more prone to cloud at this time of year.

I’d been expecting a bigger event than the fiesta in La Matanza, so was surprised to find that it was quite a bit smaller and there didn’t seem to be nearly as many animals. Today’s El Dia reported that there were over 1000 head of cattle. Personally, I reckon that whoever was doing the counting must have been partaking of generous quantities of the beer and wine from the jam-packed stalls and bars all around the town and was seeing three of everything.

Unusual opponents

Unusual opponents

However, numbers aside, it was a completely enchanting fiesta with a wonderfully welcoming atmosphere. The Teno Massif provided a dramatic backdrop to the fields where the livestock were gathered and the town of Buenavista was looking at its best; bright streamers lined the roads and antique wooden balconies were decorated with wicker baskets adorned with fruit and vegetables.

Small groups of musicians strummed their timples outside nearly every bar, whilst dancers in white costumes with twirling skirts, reminiscent of the Turkish national dress, whirled to the haunting pito herreño (flute) and drum riffs from the island of El Hierro.

Whilst the ‘show’ animals (horses, cattle, goats, dogs) looked magnificent, it was the fringe events which I found the most interesting. There were nearly as many animal ‘spectators’ as there were human ones and when a small crowd gathered in one spot it was a clue that something different was going on. The most bizarre of these being the iguana squaring up to two bulldogs who barked and strained at their leashes…until the iguana responded by lumbering slowly toward them which shut them up big time.

Love me, love my python

Love me, love my python

As always, everybody was only too happy to pose for photos; the event is a photographer’s dream with any number of potential impossibly cute ‘greeting card’ type shots. I particularly liked the Yorkie riding the pony which seems to be an annual favourite. But cats in scarves, bunnies in bows, kid goats with ribbons around their throats, donkeys in straw boaters and a girl doing an impression of Salma Hayak in ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ with a python around her neck all added an ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ element to the whole affair.

Despite many animals wearing more clothes than some of their owners, the only uncomfortable looking creature I noticed all day was a cat in a scarf, but then cats don’t really do social events do they?

Buenavista del Norte is on the Hidden Depths route of Island Drives

The finca around us is pretty much a little bit of paradise for animals; a place where cats and dogs live in harmony together…most of the time. There are clearly times when instinct causes a dog cat chase situation, but these are quite rare and usually only happens when a stray cat wanders into the area.

There is one exception to the canine/feline peace treaty – Whiskas.

He is persona non – gato amongst the Disney Gang. Knowing Whiskas he is undoubtedly the master of his ‘unwanted criminal – chase on sight’ status. His very appearance causes mayhem, usually resulting in an Indiana Jones like chase with Whiskas sprinting for sanctuary (i.e. our house) pursued by the motliest (I know that’s not a word, but it should be) crew of dogs you have ever seen.

This is the Disney Gang

Blackie
Detests Whiskas with a vengeance; spends most of his time snoozing in the shade of a palm tree…unless he spots his nemesis from the opposite end of the colour spectrum in which case we’re into a Beano type dog and cat chase.

Blackie in his favourite spot

Blackie in his favourite spot

Poppy
‘The Sheriff’; known to us until recently as ‘blindy’ because he’s…well blind. If there are any altercations between cats and cats, dogs and cats, dogs and dogs, Poppy’s first on the scene to try to sort it out.

Poppy on parade

Poppy on parade

Mismo (pronounced meeeemo, usually preceded by an ahhhhh)
Possibly quite the cutest dog in the universe; more knitted toy than dog; the ‘I just have to pick you up and hug you’ appeal of Mismo is ruined by a foul breath which smells of rotted fish and an aversion to personal hygiene which has earned him the nickname of sucio (dirty). The ‘Pig Pen’ of the dog world. (note: impossible to photograph on his own as when you kneel down to take the shot, he trots over and sticks his face in the camera lense; hense the need for Jesús lend assistance)

Mismo, Jesus and Smokey Joe - figure out which is which

Mismo, Jesus and Smokey Joe - figure out which is which

Tessie
Called three legs by us, for obvious reasons; this dog just breaks you heart. Originally bred for hunting, she spends her days running about on her three limbs as happy as Larry, snuffling in the undergrowth for lizards.

Tessie snuffling for lizards

Tessie 'snuffling' for lizards

Nana
Another lizard hunter and Tessie partner in searching for reptiles to chase; Nana will dig a hole to Australia in pursuit of a lizard. Like a lot of little dogs, bit of a narky bugger.

Nani - half fox, half dog

Nani - half fox, half dog

Timba
Newcomer and young upstart; will eat anything and hang the consequences – spiky bougainvillea, chillies and even electricity cables. Gets bored easy so is always looking for mischief.

Timbas most oft used expression - looking guilty

Timba's most oft used expression - looking guilty

The reality is Whiskas could probably take any of them on a one to one basis.

It’s a good time of year to order conejo en salmorejo (rabbit in sauce) in Tenerife.

It’s hunting season at the moment and every weekend the forests are full of hairy arsed hunters (Clearly I don’t know if they actually are hairy-arsed, it’s just a phrase that seems to fit when you spot a gathering of them amongst the pines e.g. ‘Oh, look, there’s a group of hairy arsed hunters’) and their Canarian hunting dogs. Known as podencos, these wiry looking dogs with long snouts (perfect for rooting about in holes) have the appearance of Egyptian hounds. They generally seem to be good natured creatures; a bit on the silly side, which personally I like in a dog. Their hunting methods seem to involve a certain amount of chaotic running around in circles which appear to lack any sort of organisation, but as rabbit’s a mainstay of just about every traditional Canarian restaurant, they’re obviously successful at what they do.

The hunters hit the forests from early morning, somewhere about 6am (this is deduced from the fact that a pair of them were hollering at their dogs just outside our tent last weekend – cheers guys).  By 10.00am most of the hunting seems to be over; dogs are squeezed into cages on the backs of Toyota Pickups (far too many to a cage) and the HAHs lounge around the forest floor, drinking wine and no doubt chomping on their prize catches before laying down on the pine strewn floor for a snooze.
That’s usually when we stumble across them when walking in the forest around the La Caldera area. Although, you don’t have to wander far into the forest to spot them, the road to Mount Teide from Puerto is packed with hunters on a Sunday.

Last year our mate Bryan was with us when we emerged from a pine lined forest path to be faced by a posse of intimidating looking, unshaven HAHs all wearing the standard uniform – camouflaged fatigues.

“God, this could be a ‘Deliverance’ moment,” I mumbled out of the corner of my mouth. Bryan rubbed his hands together.
“Do you really think so?” He replied a bit too perkily.

As it happened, they were as nice as ninepence; the demented hunter look is obviously something that’s de rigueur for these guys.

Funnily enough Bryan’s due back for another visit tomorrow; smack bang in the middle of hunting season. I’m thinking that this is no coincidence.

Cowboys, Tenerife styleThe policeman’s expression was the same as a rabbit caught in a car’s headlights. Standing at the centre of a crossroads where four single lane roads converged, he was faced with the prospect of trying to manoeuvre the four cars which had emerged from each road at exactly the same moment; it was impasse.

The driver in each car stared at the policeman, like band members waiting for their conductor to orchestrate their next move.

He turned full circle, seeking a possible solution, then shrugged and raised his arms, palms upwards; a gesture which spoke volumes, it said:

“What do you expect me to do about it?”

No, this wasn’t the amusing, but not unexpected, chaos which faced concert goers trying to get in to the Elton John gig in Costa Adeje (clearly not funny to those stuck in the queue as Reg started belting out his tunes), this was the approach to the small village of San Antonio, home to one of the ‘other’ big events that were taking place on the island last week, the Fiestas of San Antonio Abad, taking place on the slopes of La Matanza, however the principle was the same.

Tinerfeños love fiestas and generally organise them very well, it’s just the small matter of how you get to them and where you park when you do that’s left in the lap of the gods.

Thankfully we’d seen that movie many times and knew that when we spotted the first signs of people leaving their cars and setting off on foot, that it was time to do the same, even though we were still a couple of kilometres from the event.

We left the policemen to his logistics problem and wandered past private garages which had been turned into makeshift restaurants for the day with long trestle tables set with chequered tablecloths. There was no need for a menu; the aromas which mugged our nostrils told us everything we needed to know and by the time we reached the Ermita de San Antonio Abad, where the fiesta was taking place I was drooling like a hungry sheepdog.

Around the small church, paddocks, pens and stalls housed stocky hunting dogs, placid bronze coloured oxen built like the proverbial you-know-what, goats, sheep, mules, donkeys and horses. Caballeros in embroidered waistcoats rode their steeds through vertigo inducing streets. Old guys in felt homburgs, chewing on oversized puros (cigars) sat on walls shooting the breeze.

Goat with a mulletAlthough this fiesta wasn’t as big as the one in Buenavista del Norte, there were still a few thousand people and their animals packing the little streets of the small village. We ambled around the town avoiding the little ‘gifts’ left by the animals, passing a trio of girls pulling two dogs and a kid goat (poor wee thing, he was in for a right shock when the time came for him to change from family pet to family dinner – that’s the sort of thought that makes me consider reverting to  vegetarianism), ferrets, guinea pigs, a couple of snakes and, clinging to one girl’s side like a 3-D tattoo, a three foot iguana with the most beautiful markings (though they only came in green).

After a couple of circuits, we squeezed ourselves into a space at the main refreshments stall where Desperate Dan-sized pans bubbled away with beefy stews (a bit insensitive I thought considering it was placed right next to the oxen stalls – that could have been somebody’s brother in there), and ordered a couple of cervezas and a plate of carne con papas (meat and potatoes).

Dipping my doorstop sized chunk of bread in the seasoned stew, I thought about the other ‘big event’ which had taken place last week on the opposite side of the island.

Having a legendary pop star play a gig on Tenerife is great for tourism, but for me, standing amongst those smiling, simple (in the nicest sense of the word) farmers and their animals on a hill, that was the real deal.

The Mouse in the Woodpile

Posted: October 16, 2007 in animals, Poetry, Shocking Poetry, Writing
Tags: , , , ,

China Blues

 “Why exactly are you here? What is your raison d’être?”
His unflinching china blues held mine.
“All you do is eat and sleep, do you think this is simply a hotel?
What do I get from this relationship?”

Cool as ice, no emotion, no response.
“You never do a paw’s turn, you’re the original fat cat.”
His eyes never left mine, but maybe…
Just maybe, there was a slight narrowing of the pupils.
A feline philosopher, pondering his purpose perhaps,
Or perhaps just the windows into a blank mind.

Behind me the mouse rustled and scuttled and squeaked
In the woodpile.
“This is your one and only task,” I shouted.
Rustle, scuttle and squeak.
“So get off that fluffy backside and get that mouse.”
Rustle, scuttle and squeak.

His iceberg eyes flicked behind me and back again,
Then he yawned, scratched his ear and,
With a sneer, finally replied.
“That isn’t a mouse; it’s clearly a rat,
And what’s more, it’s as big as a cat.
So there ain’t no way that I’m fighting that…
…That’s dogs’ work.”

I stared at the ‘mouse’ scuttling in the wood,
And had to admit that, although a lazy, fat cat,
He could at least tell the difference,
Between a mouse and a rat.
 
Damn cats, think they’re so smart.