Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Meddling with Menut

Every time I see a dog on the road, seemingly abandoned or lost, I always feel guilty for doing nothing.  It’s happened often.  Here, instead of roadkill you get abandoned dogs running along the sides of roads.  I’ve worried about it, I’ve thought to stop and try to entice the dog into the car, and once I even turned around and went back.  But that dog – a Spaniel – wouldn’t let me come near him and kept running down the road.  I don’t have a leash and it was never clear to me what I would do if I could get hold of a loose dog.

Another problem is that many of the dogs you see running around on their own have owners.  The Spanish often walk their dogs without a lease and let them run around loose on their own.  Dogs wandering around unsupervised is one reason I don’t like to walk here alone. 

The thing is, when you see a dog running down a road, you can never be entirely sure that he doesn’t actually have an owner and a home.  It would be a nuisance to everyone if you picked up a dog that was simply doing the rounds and took him in to the police or an animal shelter.  If the owner didn’t follow up, would the dog be put down?  Then you would have done more harm than good.  So really, I’ve never been sure what the best thing is to do.  Because of my guilty feelings for doing nothing, I have recurring images of dogs I have passed on the highway that I think I should have stopped for -- two in particular that haunt me.

Yesterday, walking to the recycling bins, I saw a dog with a slight limp going down my cross street headed down towards the sea.  Since I had never seen him before, I didn’t think he belonged in the neighborhood.  I walked on, threw my bundles in the bins, and worried about it.  On my way back I looked down that street and didn’t see him, so I turned down to see what had happened to him.  Maybe I could go by with the car and he would jump in?

I found him wandering in the construction site around the corner from my house where some unbelievably optimistic person is building two houses on one lot.  In this lousy real estate market?  Anyway, there he was wearing a harness and sniffing around, looking for something to eat, munching on rocks he was finding on the ground.  Frankly, he didn’t look like he was starving, so why was he eating dirt?

I went home, got a piece of rope and headed back.  I would tie the rope to his harness, get him into the car, and take him to Monica, the young woman in the village who runs a pet shop, works with an animal rescue organization, and is expert on what to do with the cats that live on the streets and with abandoned and lost dogs.

When I got back to the building site a worker was shooing the dog away.   I asked him if it was his dog, but he said no, that he had never seen him before.  So I called the dog over.  He came towards me, but stopped short.  He seemed hesitant but he didn’t seem especially frightened or threatening, so I crouched over and approached him, with the sleeves of my fleece pulled down, just in case he got inspired to bite.

But he didn’t bite or even growl, and I managed to get my rope tied to his harness and started towards home.  He had a tag on his harness.  It didn’t give a name or phone number, but it was a registration with the local village city hall, so someone there would know where he belonged.  I would get him into the car, drive to the village, take him to Monica’s pet shop, and hopefully leave him with her to sort it out.

We walked a little way and suddenly the dog sat himself down and refused to go any further.  He’s not a big dog, but not that small either – sort of a beagle – an overweight beagle.  I wasn’t about to pick him up.  For one thing he looked too heavy, and for another, although I like dogs and trusted him implicitly, I wasn’t stupid enough to try to pick him up and walk around carrying him.

He was a stubborn little guy.  He had walked with me a little, but apparently had had enough.  He wouldn’t budge, and in fact, wanted to go back to the building site and continue eating rocks.  So I let him have his way but instead of going back, he led the way into the garden of the house we were standing in front of, where the gate was open and a gardener was working.  If the gardener thought it was odd that I was leading his dog around on a rope, he never let on.  Yes, it turned out to be his dog.  Smart dog!  I didn’t know where he belonged, but when push came to shove, he knew he belonged with his owner even though that house wasn’t where he lived.

Meet Menut (which means small in Catalan).  He may have been small as a puppy, but now, at age 16, he’s filled out.  His age explains his limp and his owner working in the garden explains why he wouldn’t travel with me any further than that house.  I’m so glad I wasn’t able to get him home and into my car.  I dread to think of the chaos I would have caused if I had succeeded in my rescue mission.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Carpe Diem!

There were two special events here this last week.  Even though my car was not yet repaired (it seems they installed a defective part and will try again when they get hold of another one) at least I had the car in my possession (the mechanic says it’s safe to drive although I find it annoying) so I could vroom vroom my way around to enjoy both the Royal Wedding and the Goat Fair.

Lots of Americans watched the Royal Wedding on TV, but I did it surrounded by Brits without leaving Spain by going to the Restaurant/Hotel Carpe Diem where some local Brits were having a Royal Wedding party, car boot sale, and lunch.  It was all right here, in the middle of nowhere, in the Catalan countryside.

Getting to the Carpe Diem wasn’t as straightforward as it might have been, car trouble notwithstanding.  Eve and I have been to the Carpe Diem Restaurant/Hotel in Miami more than once and when she saw the ad and made the reservation, she assumed that was where she was calling.  But when we got there, in enough time to see the principal parties leave their residences and head for the Cathedral, it turned out that Carpe Diem was closed.  Very closed.  Someone in the street told Eve that they have been closed for months.  What to do?  Was it the other Carpe Diem? 

You see, there are two Carpe Diems.  You wouldn’t think that in a small area with few amenities, there would be two restaurant/hotels with the same name, but there are.  The problem was that the other one, out in the county, was about 40 minutes away.  Would we even get there in time?  And what if the event wasn’t there?  What if it had been this Carpe Diem, OUR Carpe Diem, but they couldn’t call to tell us the party was off because they hadn’t taken Eve’s phone number when she reserved?  If it wasn’t at the other one, we would miss the whole wedding.  Neither of us had the phone number to call and ask.

We decided to meet the challenge and drive out to the other Carpe Diem, the one out in the country, and take our chances that the party was there and that we would make it in time.  We had come in two cars because I had an errand to do before we met up, so off we went, Eve’s car first.

People all over the world watched and celebrated Saturday’s Royal Wedding with street parties and barbecues.  Our event took place out in the Burga Valley at the Carpe Diem, a country restaurant/hotel owned and run by Germans and patronized on Friday almost entirely by Brits.  As far as I know, only three North Americans attended and all three of us were at the same table.  I was the only American, the other two were Canadians: Eve’s daughter-in-law Judy and her friend Lainie.  The husbands had declined to come.  

We arrived just in time to see the bride arrive at the cathedral.  Frankly, it would have been a lot more comfortable if we had stayed at home where we could have watched seated rather than standing, and where we could hear without lots of people chatting away all around us.  And we could have watched from the beginning of the coverage, rather than arriving at the very last minute.  But the barbecue was good (especially the bananas wrapped in bacon and the focaccia with herbs), the ambience was festive, Eve’s granddaughter Isabel wore a tiara, and altogether it felt more like a special day.

Sunday was the Goat Fair at Rasquera.   I seized the opportunity to have another country outing, see some goats, and buy some cheese, all on my own.  Fairs of this type happen all around Europe in the spring.  I understood it was the time when the goatherds and shepherds took their flocks out of winter lodgings and back up to the mountains for summer pasture.  But here they talk about bringing the flocks down.  Catalans have a lot of spunk and sometimes seem to go against the flow.

We were celebrating the local goat and sheep herds in general and the Cabra Blanca (white goat) in particular.   The Cabra Blanca is a species indigenous to this area – a Catalan goat -- and highly prized, as there are only 5500 of them left.  Being aware of their being precariously close to extinction has mobilized people to care for and breed them in order to bring them back to healthier numbers.  Although they are called white, they are mostly white and black with big ears that lop forward and great horns that, in the spirit of Catalan spunkiness and creativity, twirl in a variety of ways, reminiscent of Salvador Dali’s mustache.

Now my car is at the shop, the new part, having arrived, is being installed.  Hopefully, in place of the undulating roar of the engine, my next and all future excursions will be executed with quiet and decorum.