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Who needs a cat when they have Chica?

Chica and her rabbits among other small creatures

 

Chica has settled in
Chica has settled in

I know a lot of people who will not eat rabbit, my youngest son included.  It is a pity because there an oodles of them about and an imbalance can cause untold damage to crops and, on the more superficial side, lawns. Not that I have anything so tame as grass here. That aside rabbits are very tasty and lean; much better for you than the ubiquitous flabby chickens on offer in these parts.

If you can’t bear dead animal photos stop here. I’ll explain. My rescued dog Chica is, as it turns out, a true small hunting dog, a mix breed maybe, but definitely part Andulusian hound.  Despite her wonky hips from an old fracture, she is as fast as a whippet, or more so, and to see her run and jump is hilarious.

China runs unbelievably fast
China runs unbelievably fast

Now that she is settled and happy on the finca, she has taken to bringing me any number of presents, not always welcome. One thing is for sure – I do not need a cat. The number of mice she has dropped at the front door is telling. As they had been sneaking in the house and munching my wicker baskets under the sofa, I was very pleased.  However, one day she brought me a truly beautiful pheasant and I must admit, it was very sad. Prying the sorry bird out of her mouth was not a pleasant experience.

Recently however, Chica has become more interested in the rabbits and hares running all over the place.  The first time, she brought me one half alive and I had to finish it off to put it out of its misery.  Not an easy thing to do.  The next one was truly dead and so I disposed of it down the hill.  She became distressed in a hectic way and I realised this was not the right approach.

A bit of time lapsed. It was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to do some serious gardening. Just as I wrapped myself around a pomegranate tree, from the corner of my eye I glimpsed Chica running out of the wild oak bushes at full speed. A sizeable hare with a stunning pelt hung limply from her clenched jaws.  She deposited the very dead animal at my feet and barked while wagging her tail happily. Lord almighty!  The poor thing, I thought initially, but then I chided myself.  I do eat them, at least rabbits anyway, and many other animals too.  We may buy them ready to go and featureless inside insipid cling-filmed trays, but perhaps we should remember how they start off.

China thinks dead animals are ideal presents
China thinks dead animals are ideal presents

Chica picked up the hare and carried it near to the house. I mused over her trophy and decided as this was her natural hunting instinct and what she is genetically programmed to do so despite my misgivings, I should be kind. I patted her and rubbed her belly, which she loves more than anything in this world. Then I offered a special dog treat that I reserve for “praising” occasions. She wolfed it down in a Nano second, did a long stretch for me and settled comfortably on her pillow  by the door, The hare was abandonned in the middle of the terrace. Chica panted happily at me and it seemed she was grinning. My, was she pleased with herself!

Chica stretched out, fully satisfied with herself
China stretched out, fully satisfied with herselfChina stretched out, fully satisfied with herself

As it was sunny and the beginning of autumn, the hare was soon covered in flies and hungry sluggish wasps crawling into the poor creature’s ears and eyes.  I couldn’t bear to look at this and so shook off the insects and settled the hare inside a plastic bag and tied it.  This I placed it in the boiler room to be dealt with later.

Some hours later I treated myself to a sunset wine in front of the Penyagolosa terrace, tired but content after a successful gardening day.  Looking across the mountains and terraces with the wonderful evening colours, it seemed strange to think that the world was in the middle of a soaring pandemic while I was here in this quiet peace.  Some months ago there had been three brief outbreaks in my village and that was it. Nothing more, no deaths.  Indeed I was lucky.  We all were.  My husband and son Charlie were in Liverpool and until recently that seemed quite safe too. Would things change here too?

China kept on barking at me
China kept on barking at me

My cocktail hour thoughts were interrupted by Chica barking at me urgently.  She had an unusual inquisitive look in her eyes and so I decided she wanted another treat.  I handed her a piece of cheese.  Why do dogs love cheese so much?  She snapped it up and then continued the barking, pawing at me. I pushed her away, but to no avail. She just returned and looked up with an imploring look, intermittently yelping with annoyance.  As it was the hunting season I surmised that she might be warning me of some hunters, but quickly dismissed this because that’s a morning thing.

Then, of course, how stupid I was!  “Where is my hare”, she was demanding.  “I killed it especially for you”!

So I went and fetched it and placed it on the kitchen terrace whereupon she pounced on it and dragged it onto her pillow.  Sitting behind it, she did not move all evening and in the morning the hare was still there, she calmly in control.

Chica guarded her gift all night
Chica guarded her gift all night

As Chica had not touched it, and after consulting with Miguel, he came up and took the animal away. “She can’t eat that – too much fur”, he declared, “otherwise she would have already”.

That goes to show you how wrong he was.  Chica went hunting in the night and the photo below was what greeted me in the morning. This time she was obviously taking no chances and realised that us big dogs were just plain stupid.

Half-eaten hare
Half-eaten hare greeting my like a horror show

Chica was coughing quite a lot which must have been the fur, so she nibbled a number of wild plants from time to time. Mountain dogs know which ones are good for them and select very specific “herbs” to clean their intestinal track. This is a totally unscientific observation made by living with Chica, but I think it must be true.

And just in case the question has crossed your mind, yes, by the end of the day the head had gone too, although it is possible she simply buried it to stop me disposing of ither treasure once again.

El Maestrat in October
My finca in October – thought I would sign off on a less gruesome photo!

8 Comments

  1. Carol
    November 13, 2020
    Reply

    Sweet story about Chica, neighbour… My dogs include stray cats in their nocturnal hunts and I have to tell myself they don’t know the difference between a cat and a rabbit… strangely they will eat a rabbit but not touch the cat…they just sit beside it proudly..and what can I say? just like you . I.say thank you xxx

  2. Leaping Salmon
    November 13, 2020
    Reply

    Good to see Chica hasn’t lost her killer instinct!

  3. Corky Gormly
    November 12, 2020
    Reply

    I skipped the gruesome photos and enjoyed the story, and lovely photos of Chica and your finca at the end with the beautiful flowers.
    My previous dog Zippy used to catch rabbits and eat them so I have no complaints but it’s always sad to see the end of a happy little life.
    But we all have to eat – and that’s just the way it is! XX

    • stephanie de leng
      November 12, 2020
      Reply

      Yes it is! I’m happy you agree

  4. Marc Bernard
    November 12, 2020
    Reply

    Poor Chica. She seems to have changed her name to China in the 5th paragraph!
    As for eating rabbit, although not wild here, they taste superb.

    • stephanie de leng
      November 12, 2020
      Reply

      I’ll correct the computer auto-correcter. At least I know you read carefully. Please let me know if there are anymore Chinas!

  5. Ingrid Spiegl
    November 12, 2020
    Reply

    Ooo Steph! thought you were going to give us a recipe….my aunt in Wales was very keen on road kill and often ate pheasant. Chica is a great little hunter!

    I’m squeamish of course, but have once or twice had to pluck and gut. Look forward to Steph and Chica recipes from the hills.

    • stephanie de leng
      November 12, 2020
      Reply

      Recipe coming if I can get a breath!

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