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The dog that came to stay

The best way to get a dog in EL Maestrat

Chica after recuperation

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.

OH.  

Chica gets better

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?

 Problem solved. 

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!

The bos of Masia Lavanda
The boss of Masia Lavanda

Click here to see more photos of wild and domestic fauna

25 Comments

  1. August 10, 2020
    Reply

    This is a wonderful story. I remember growing up in Galicia and all the street dogs. I’d save scraps of food for them and my grandmother would yell at me. I became the pied piper of all of them.
    To this day I can’t understand why villages have so many “lost” dogs, cats seem to fare a bit better but not by much.
    If you ever start a fundraiser for Village dogs let me know, I’d donate in a heartbeat.
    Celest aka Celestina Benn

    • stephanie de leng
      August 10, 2020
      Reply

      Will do. Here more cats are running feral in the villages. Or were. Seems to have eased up. Chica is the first abandoned dog I ever came across.

  2. Corky Gormly
    March 14, 2020
    Reply

    Well, to everyone who may read this comment and who may not have met her in person, Stephanie is a uniquely talented, hard-working, brave and very special person, and this is a very engaging and happy story about two particularly beautiful girls; two lovely souls who have found each other.
    It shows that dogs are true life enhancers (if you let them into your life).
    I’d recommend anyone to read this, and all the other stories on this blog (although being a very sensitive soul with an extremely vivid imagination, I confess I have ducked out of reading one of them in detail – the one about the wild boars).
    But don’t let me put anyone off that story – it’s one that has to be told.

    .

    • stephanie de leng
      March 14, 2020
      Reply

      Gosh what can I say? I’m blushing xxxxx

    • stephanie de leng
      March 31, 2020
      Reply

      What praise. Not sure i deserve it but basking in it nonetheless. xx

  3. Don
    March 13, 2020
    Reply

    De nada

  4. Don
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    ‘Wobble doll’ would be fine. I thought you might have already used it but checked and found it was ‘waddle’.
    Not surprised she might be pregnant. In fact, I’d be surprised if she weren’t.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 12, 2020
      Reply

      She really waddles but thank you for your approval

  5. Ingrid Spiegl
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    Oh dear Stephanie, you’ve had me snivelling, and now I’m besotted with Chica. Beautiful photos, as ever and beautifully written. Thank you for an inspiring story.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 12, 2020
      Reply

      I think she might be pregnant….

  6. Don
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    “A roly-poly toy, round-bottomed doll, tilting doll, tumbler or wobbly man is a round-bottomed toy . . .” I’d go with ’tilting doll’.

    • stephanie de leng
      March 12, 2020
      Reply

      She wobbles so no. I’ll stick with my imaginary word

      • stephanie de leng
        March 12, 2020

        Or maybe wobble doll

  7. Don
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    Over the years, I’ve rescued several dogs abandoned in the forest behind my house but have always managed to find someone to take them. I feared none would accommodate my travelling by car around Spain as happily as my border collie did. Before he gave up the ghost at almost 18 years of age..

    • stephanie de leng
      March 12, 2020
      Reply

      Chica is great car traveller much to my relief

  8. Don
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    Very nice. But what is a ‘bowling doll’.?

    • stephanie de leng
      March 12, 2020
      Reply

      If you can think of the proper name please tell me! I wracked my brain and it escaped me so I made a name up. One of those dolls that are rounded at the bottom and wobble

  9. Alicia
    March 12, 2020
    Reply

    Very moving and I love the photos on your other website

  10. james
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    Obviously Chica had access to Stephanie’s wonderful blogs and decided to head to la Masia. A heart warming story and especially in these uncertain times.
    Stephanie’s written and visual presentation of her adopted home takes us on a journey that virtual reality is trying to achieve.
    Keep up the great work and we ll have some more, PLEASE

    • stephanie de leng
      March 11, 2020
      Reply

      Coming as soon as possible! Thank you so much.

  11. Davina
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    Beautiful story.

    Animals: They love us unconditionally, with no conditions.

    🙂

  12. Anonymous
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    Beautiful story and an amazing dog, a member of the family !

  13. James Holborow
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    That’s a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it.

  14. Naomi
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    Chica is beautiful! How wonderful that you saved her. She looks so happy now.

  15. Susan
    March 10, 2020
    Reply

    Such a wonderful heart warming tale/tail.

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