Sunday, December 20, 2015

Feeling miserable...


Saturday 19 December 2015

Sunny and warm 19 degrees

Big day tomorrow!  Getting the ferry from Santander and across the dreaded Bay of Biscay. Feel very tense.  Spent afternoon putting more stuff into the car.  OH decided he would do his packing tomorrow morning. He exists to torture me.

The ferry crossing when we came over in 2004 was a nightmare.  The ferry was like the Marie Celeste with hardly anyone on board.  We went Portsmouth to Caen.  The crashing, banging, plunging and terrible metallic groaning continued until we rounded Le Havre.  OH was thrown out of his bunk.  I have written about in somewhere.  Must dig it out.

Am in usual pre end of year funk.  Yet another year when we are still in the same place and still doing the same thing.  Feel very depressed.  Had hoped to be out of here by the end of this year, instead no.  Despite being out here 12 years, I have yet to make anything resembling a best friend.  

Here is something I wrote a while ago

There are four types of French dogs. There are handbag dogs, hunting dogs, tied-up dogs, and dogs on the loose.
Handbag dogs appear in the coastal resorts. They are immaculately groomed and prance alongside their bejewelled and be-furred owners on the promenades of the chic coastal towns. Fur has never gone out of fashion or become socially unacceptable over here, or in Spain.
Hunting dogs are not blessed with a lot in the brain department and are extremely valuable, so are usually kept in wire enclosures, where they bay mournfully until released into the countryside, where they bay happily. They usually wear a bell around their necks because they inevitably career in the direction of the nearest scent and become impossible to find. Hunters seem to spend as much time looking for their dogs as they do chasing their prey.
Quite often, we are in the garden and a tinkling sound announces the arrival of a lost dog. They are always very apologetic and shuffle to the back door for a drink and something to eat, while we phone the owners. The dogs used are a slimline, longer-legged version of a beagle, with large floppy ears and liquid brown eyes.
Tied-up dogs bark incessantly. They are inevitably tied for one reason: they chase cars. One local dog was a particularly enthusiastic car chaser, notwithstanding the fact that quite a few motorists must have clipped it. We ran over its paws twice as it shot out from behind the woodpile under our front wheels. So it was tied up. Day and night, rain and sun, it was there. Barking, miserable, thin and unhappy. I went to the gendarmerie and the mairie and they all promised to do something — and did nothing.             
Every other French dog is a free spirit. If a French dog wants a walk, it takes one. If a French dog spots another dog being taken on a walk, he will join in, and it is perfectly possible to acquire a number of spare, happy dogs during a walk. I like doing circular walks, but this is a problem as if you do not pass the individual dog’s home, it will follow you to yours, and lurk. A couple of years ago, a husky joined dog and I and then spent three days outside our back door. Temperatures were sub-zero but, being a husky, this didn’t bother him in the least.
Mostly, my dealings with French people are pleasant and amusing. However, I have had “run-ins” with dog owners. The husky owner was not pleased that I had had the temerity to walk past his house and “lure” his dog away. The next time we walked past, he came out of the house to shout abuse. I pointed out that it was a public highway. The circular walk was on roads that were regularly used by cars, bikes and quads, so I did not feel that I was being unreasonable.
More disagreeable was the affair over a local dog’s treatment, including being left out in freezing temperatures. I reported it to the gendarmerie in October, November and December. January came, and the dog was still there. Again, I spoke to the local police.
“Oh yes,” they said. “We did have a word with them.” I pointed out that nothing had changed and told them when the owners could be at home. “Oh,” said the gendarme. “At those hours, I don’t work.”
Frustrated, and with my car’s temperature gauge showing minus 5C, I tapped on the owner’s door and asked if they intended leaving the dog out all night.
It was not a pleasant conversation. The woman said it was not their dog; it was her brother’s (he lives in the same house). The man asked what right did I have to come to their house and tell them what to do with the dog and that I should take up knitting if I had nothing better to do. The woman said that the mairie had been hassling them since October and the man said he was going to “denounce” me for hassling them. I told him to go ahead. I regretted not waiting until they were out, and releasing the dog.
I decided to take a different tack and contacted the Société Protectrice des Animaux (SPA), a small band of people who care about mistreated and abandoned animals. A very fiesty lady gave the gendarmes and the dog owners a tongue lashing. The owners then built a dog kennel so small that the dog had to reverse into it. Then I hit a brick wall, as everyone felt that the dog was now OK.
A few months elapsed, and I noticed that the dog was no longer there. I asked a neighbour what had happened. Apparently, the dog got off the leash and killed most of his chickens and all his ducks. He visited the dog owners and told them they had to replace the livestock, and he would shoot the dog the next time it was off the leash. So the dog disappeared, and I have no satisfactory end to report.
I find the French attitude to dogs very interesting: there is a clear division between dogs that are pets, and dogs that are there to protect or hunt. The former have much care and attention lavished on them. The latter are tied up or in cages. As a soft-hearted Brit, I find this a hard distinction to live with. What is your experience?