Today I fell a little bit out of love with you. I have just come in from burying 7 puppies underneath an olive tree on my land. These puppies did not belong to me, they belonged to you.
Last night, some guests that had been at our house for a meal got home after leaving and informed us that on their way home they had seen 7 Mastin Espanol pups dumped on the side of the road. Our friend jumped out of the car, and through her tears checked each and everyone one of the pups for signs of life, but it was too late. They were gone. She then had to explain to her children, 5 and 4 years old, what she was doing and why she was crying. I stewed about this, getting more and more angry about the thought that each day I was going to have to drive past these poor dogs, and watch as they slowly rotted away, or got eaten by other animals. By the time morning had come, I knew I needed to go and bring those puppies home. It was too late to save their lives, but not too late to do the right thing.
I have spoken to Spanish farmers who have told me, in no uncertain terms “If you don’t want a dog, throw it in the lake. No more problem!” I have also spoken to Spaniards who have told me that they do not like to castrate male dogs because it upsets the dog emotionally to have it’s testicles removed. Well, what about the poor mother dog, who gave birth to the puppies I just buried? She had cleaned them up, bonded with them and probably even started feeding them, before they were ripped away from her, killed, and then thrown out of the window of a car like a discarded cigarette packet. Is that not emotionally distressing for that mother? And in six months or a years time, the same thing will happen again. And again after that, providing the female hasn’t starved to death or been hit by a car, of course.
Spain, I know there is a problem here. I know there are many, many people (mostly not Spanish) working hard to take in stray and abandoned dogs off of the street or the pound and give them the chance of a forever home either in Spain or abroad, but Spain we need you to help. You need to stand up and take some responsibility. There needs to be more education about castration. It is a simple operation, and in fact, calms a male dog down and makes him less likely to run away. Castrated dogs feel no emotional distress about the procedure.
There needs to be cheaper access to veterinary care in the countryside, where dogs are often free, sometimes not being fed for days and allowed to roam, breeding with any other dog it comes across. We often see young dogs appear in the campo, obviously puppies. Mysteriously however, we always see only one or two. What happens to the rest of them? I know what happens. They are thrown to be food for another dog or drowned in a bucket. I know this, because I have been told this is what happens. The mother is allowed to keep one or two, in order to make sure she doesn’t catch mastitis, but the rest are surplus to requirements. As those puppies then grow up, what happens when they are no longer wanted? They are driven into the countryside and thrown out of a car, while the driver speeds off leaving the dog behind, scared, bewildered and wondering what they have done wrong. The alternative life is one lived on a length of chain, 24/7. If the dog is lucky someone will visit once a week to throw him some stale bread. In return for this lifestyle the dog is expected to protect the house from intruders.
I have friends who rescued two Mastin puppies, because the lady who bred them only wanted to keep one, and the rest were going to be killed. They took these two pups and raised them by hand because they were not allowed to stay with their mother. Do you know who that person was? It was their local vet!
The last thing I want to do is tar all Spaniards with the same brush, as we do know some people, in our local town and further afield who are true animal lovers, but far too often the same cycle of ill treatment is repeated, and passed on from generation to generation. It is time to start saying “No, this is not acceptable.”
I don’t know the answer. Almost every ex-pat family I know has multiple rescued dogs living with them, and I know we personally can’t take any more. Maybe veterinary universities could come up with a programme for students to go out to farms and perform cheap castrations, as a way of them getting the practice they need and the farmers getting some veterinary care at a reduced price. In Istanbul, they have feeding machines for stray dogs, and many places around the world promote catch and release programmes for strays. This means the dog (or cat) is caught, brought into a vet clinic, neutered, and then released again back on the street, but is no longer able to continue breeding. This is something to consider Spain.
I apologise for the graphic photo here, but I think people need to see what I had to deal with this morning. 7 tiny puppies. I hate to think how they spent their last minutes.