Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Dumb Critters

There’s a leading stop-the-press story in one of our crappier free-sheets this week along the lines of… ‘Brave Woman Foils Puppy Killers’. Yes, this week we give you the fiend in human form who kills a certain number of puppies in either a barbaric or reasonably painless way. Or doesn't, perhaps.
You see, I never read the article.
Mind you, knowing our friends the Spanish and their approach to animals, together with the Brits and their approach to any (preferably house-trained) woolly four-legged creature, it could have gone either way.
Which is why Zapatero and the 'crisis' got chucked off the ‘news’.
It’s a funny thing, the British love of domestic animals. They are elevated out of their place as dogs, cats or guinea-pigs and instead they become much loved companions. It’s like that in my house, ‘don’t forget to buy cat-food’ shouts Mrs Rambeau as I’m backing out of the parking lot to go and have a beer. The cats’ food (as far as I’m concerned) trilling thoughtlessly in the tree above having just made a poop on the bonnet of the car. ‘And lavatory-paper, while you’re at it’ she adds, confusingly.
We have cats and dogs and rabbits and birdies and, new to the menagerie, two young chickens I bought from the feed-store in Turre the other week. Now, finally, a useful animal: one that lays eggs.
We’ve had endless pets over the years and my fondest hope is that, when I am finally pushed off the cliff by fate and zoom off to my place in the sky, I don’t find them all waiting for me. Where would you start? ‘Oh Freckles, there you are, and Digby and Snowy and Archie and Little Boy Kitty and Tootles and Beetroot and Frixtu…’
On consideration, it probably wouldn’t be a good thing to find all my old girlfriends waiting there either (I really wouldn’t want to forget any of their names as I’m told that one’s Reward apparently lasts for a real long time).
It’s odd how we fawn over animals. The biggest charities among the British ex-pat populations the world over are invariably to do with critters. Forget the Vietnamese waifs and the starving millions. Huge amounts of time and money are spent on saving dogs, castrating cats, shoving suicidal whales back into the sea and clubbing together against clubbing baby seals in Canada. We have those PETA ladies with their jolly campaigns (which involve pulchritude and nakedness in an agreeable combination), we have the anti-bullfight gang and the British Woodworm Society and its sterling work with our six-legged friends.
A Spaniard was complaining bitterly about the English the other day. It appeared that his tom cat had gone out for a stroll and had tottered back home two days later with a dirty bandage where its balls used to be. He said that it wasn’t that he was worried about his cat, but since he lived in a mainly British neighbourhood, he had become a bit concerned about going out after six o’clock himself.
Down on the coast, there’s a gang of feral ladies that roam about at will, yawling and gibbering under the full moon. They leave food out for our growing population of wild cats. Is there nothing to be done?
But the Spanish are far more pragmatic about animals. Stick a gaily coloured spear into them being the basic point to start from. Shoot, eat, stomp, kick and, if that doesn’t work, run ‘em over. Nothing, it appears, is safe. While Paws lieutenants are vainly trying to give mouth to mouth to a three-legged dog with rabies, scabies and what can only be described as a poor character in the hope of giving it an extra twenty years of life; our neighbour will be tying a suspiciously short piece of rope around its sibling’s neck somewhere close to a remarkably tall tree. Another neighbour, let’s call him Juan, will be crouched inside a crudely-made ‘hide’, fingering his daddy’s blunderbuss as his pet perdíz squawks dismally from its tiny cage. You’ve seen the little black and white triangles or the words ‘coto privado’ – private hunting. That’ll be the neighbours blasting away at anything that moves.
Then there’s the annual ‘matanza’, when the pig from across the street has its throat cut outside the kitchen door by someone who you had previously considered to be a game old bird always dressed in black and invariably kind to small children. No wonder they never gave it a name.
In fact, I’ve noticed this seeming cruelty for all animals is also extended to plant life. I remember the gardener who used to spray my mother’s flower beds with his finger over the end of the hose, giving it some punch. He’d blow off the flowers themselves and tell my mum that it was nature’s way. His view was that if it wasn’t edible, there wasn’t much point in growing it in the first place (an opinion I’m slowly coming around towards as well). He never pruned as much as lopped. A tree would have a razor-cut: no branches left and just the suspicion that maybe this bald trunk pointing mutely to the heavens might one day produce a small green shoot somewhere along its length.
Years later and freed from the ravages of our expert topiarist, we now have a luxuriantly overgrown garden, full of all sorts of giant weeds and proper animals, like tree-rats, doves, sparrows and tortoises.
All apparently quite inedible.

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