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.