The best way to get a dog in EL Maestrat
I first saw her the day before in the lower orchard. She came running towards me and without looking closely I screeched at her and stamped my foot. It worked instantly – it’s not a pleasant sound, but nevertheless very effective, mother’s trick for all domestic animals that strayed beyond their permitted boundaries. Neighbours’ dogs wander onto my land and those of hunters during the season frequenty. The three emphatic aggghhhh, agggghhh, aggghhh high pitch sounds work a treat. I would not suggest using this on a child.
The next morning I opened my door and there she was, shaking, emaciated, clearly dying. Her body was covered in lacerations and her tail looked broken, curled down between her legs. Seeing me, she got up and limped towards me, reaching her head up and pressing it against my thigh.
What was I to do? I could not let her die. Actually I felt quite ashamed.
So I took her into the house and sourced an old blanket destined for rags to lift her onto. Searching through my cupboards, I found some olive oil biscuits and a can of sardines. She wolfed those down. I placed a bowl of water in front of her, but it would be 2 days before she touched it while a week before she started to bark. I actually thought she couldn’t.
A friend came around. “That dog is dying”, she said. Yes, I knew, but not if I could help it. I took some mild disinfectant and cleaned all her wounds. Gashes. How did she get these? There was a large cut around one eye. I cleaned it out with lightly salted water. She looked at me pleadingly and held up a paw. I manipulated it and realized there was a giant long thorn in it. With the help of a pair of tweezers, and her total trust, I managed to pull it out.
And so the disinfecting and feeding continued for 4 days until she could waddle a bit and the cuts began to close. I carefully searched her white fur for ticks and fleas and pulled them out. I rubbed my fingers through her ears and removed any bumpy things. However, each time I went near her tail she yelped in clear pain. I knew I had to take her to the vet.
After asking around, I picked Tienda des Amimales in Castellon. They gave her an anti-inflammatory, clean up and a flea treatment for 11 euros. 35 years ago in NYC I took my two tiny pet turtles to the vet and the bill for the fungus on their shells was $240! Yet they still died. I could not believe how cheap this was.
The lovely young vet checked her over carefully. Very gently she lifted the dog’s bent tail and the dog howled in agony. “You’d better get her x-rayed, she told me, what’s her name?” Name? God, I hadn’t thought of that. I didn’t want a dog; I just wanted to save her. Name? “She has to have a name. For the paperwork. “
And that is how, bearing in mind she was a female (can’t stand the other word used for female dogs), I came to call her Chica (girl).
I was directed to an animal hospital and sat waiting with traumatised Chica and all the other owners and their dogs. Big dogs, tiny dogs, designer dogs, fluffy dogs. Some barked, one snored and Chica clung to me in terror. The hard tiled shiny floor made her crouch and it was obvious she was a country dog.
After Chica was weighed and x-rayed, I was called in and shown all the old fissures and fusions of her poor tortured body. The tail had two fused vertebrae, but was not broken anymore. The vet could not explain the pain. Worse were the splits in her hips on both sides, healed, but gaping. That was why she did not walk correctly.
“I think this dog has been abused, kicked a lot”, the vet explained. “The lacerations indicate that she was either hit by a car or thrown out of it. Her left eye is cut at the edges but healing and its also smaller than the other one.”
She paused and then pulled back Chica’s mouth to look at her teeth. “ She can’t be anymore than two years old and has not had a good life until this time. She only weighs 4.8 kilos. But you have saved her. You have cleaned her well. This is your dog now.”
“I can’t have a dog”, I protested, “I travel too much!”
She is not chipped and few people will take a dog like this. Besides, a saved dog is the best pet anyone can have.
So I took her home and called around and searched the Internet for animal shelters. All the while I boiled chickens and rice to feed her up as instructed. My neighbours chuckled. I bought her a cushion that she instantly took to, and a collar and a lead, and bones to chew on. After two weeks she looked totally different. Her coat took on a shine and her tail began to move and wag when she saw me. She craved touch, her ears, her neck and especially her belly. However I could still not go near her tail.
As it turns out, the vet was right – no one wanted her. All the organizations I called were a total waste of time. She was not chipped. The locals said she was an ugly hunting dog. It was the smaller eye. And look at her jaw!
So, in the end, I took her back to the hospital, coughed up for her vaccinations, including some painful injections. She was weighed – 7.8 kilos now! I beamed. The vet chipped her (its invisible) and gave her a Spanish passport. How I wish I had one!
Now I was officially her owner. Suddenly I was very proud. I loved my Chica. No one could have her anymore, not for anything. I showed off her passport and put a photo in the space left for it.
So Chica is the dog that came to stay. For no other reason than I saved her, she is completely besotted with me, her eyes following me everywhere. Her waddle is charming. Due to her disability her whole behind and tail twitches back and forth in synchronisation like a waddling doll. Quite simply she looks so happy that you are there. When I leave the masia, I put her in the garden shed with the door open, on her beloved cushion, a bowl of food and water nearby. When I come back I cannot even get out of the car. As soon as I open the door, she is in, on my lap, hugging me with her paws. Then she dances, yes dances, running up and down the finca, jumping above the walls and pirouetting over the bushes with sheer joy at my return. Despite her badly healed fissures, she is as fast as a whippet.
I still had to work out what to do when I was away, but luckily a recently retired friend came to the rescue. When I suggested he stay at the masia in my absences, he readily agreed. Free food, free heating, lovely pure water. And a great little dog. What was there to complain about?
P.S. – Chica has gone from strength to strength and is actually quite a handful now! Tail no longer hurts. A feisty little ball of energy barking to the hills when she senses intruders. As a result I have no more unwelcome hunters. Hurrah!