Blog guilt has been plaguing me recently. I am patently not Prolific Enough. This particular form of self-reproach is a new phenomenon, but one that has unassumedly taken its place in the full line-up of things to feel crap about. The main reason for my preoccupation elsewhere has been the arrival, six weeks ago, of what can only be described as paws and pandemonium. Enter stage left: Inca.
Although I’ve wanted a dog my whole life, it never occurred to me that I would get one in Barcelona. Living alone, working full time and living in a rented flat seemed fairly conclusive impediments to the idea. I tried to satisfy myself with hamsters (not always successfully), Java Sparrows (which even reproduced) and budgies (somewhat inexplicably). And for a while it worked. But when I found myself almost walking into a lamp-post one morning, distracted by the sight of someone else’s dog, I thought it might be time to take the idea more seriously.
I had not anticipated the canine cyclone that is a 9-week-old Cocker Spaniel puppy.
Don’t be fooled by the demure expression on her face in the photo above. What you’re seeing are the toys before they were eaten, the couch before it was filthy, and the rug before it got shat on. (Many, many times.)
Want to live like a local? Get a dog.
Apart from the domestic mayhem – I am still grieving for a beautiful, floor-length antique mirror I had specially restored, only for the pup to dispatch it into smithereens a mere three weeks later – the most interesting aspect of having a dog in Barcelona is the insights it gives you into the local character. And wow do Catalans go crazy over puppies. I mean, in a no-holds-barred full-on rugby tackle to the ground sort of way, all the while squealing “¡Qué cosita!” (“Look at the wee thing!”) in a voice so shrill it’s actually painful. And that’s just the men.
As you might imagine, children are the most hilarious – and irritating – when it comes to puppy love. It’s not uncommon for us to venture out onto the street only to be ambushed by whole crowds of the little buggers within five minutes. I have to stay on high alert at all times, in an attempt to head them off at the pass.
There we were last night, Inca almost levitating along the pavement in sheer glee at having stumbled upon a leaf (an actual leaf!), me being pulled along unwittingly behind her, when a tribe of five boys shrieked from the periphery “¡Un cocker cachorro!” and proceeded to sprint en masse in our direction. I barely had time to register the incoming danger when poor pupster was picked up and flung over their shoulders, grubby hands grabbing everywhere amid a giddying round of questions that included all the classics – what’s her name, how old is she, is she a girl, what’s her take on existentialism (OK, but at least that would have been original), and my favourite, do you talk to her in Catalan?
Frankly, no, but everyone else does, so it’s probably no surprise she’s a semi-lupine lunatic at only four months old.
Want to find a date? Get a dog.
If I thought I got enough unwanted attention on the streets of Barcelona as a single woman, I had no idea of the effect of partnering up with a young and outrageously cute female sidekick. Inca is a man magnet. I’ve lost count of the male dog walkers who have offered me their number under the pretence of walking the dogs together. (Apparently “do you want to come round and see my puppy?'” is indeed a valid chat-up line. Those government safety adverts actually had a point.)
Mostly it makes me laugh. Like at 7am the other morning, we’re standing at the kerb waiting to cross Parallel Avenue, as a guy in a van drives past, rolls down the window and issues an appreciative wolf whistle in our direction. Accompanied by a shout of “A las dos!” (“To the both of you!”)
Often, the attention is well-meaning and heart-felt. Inca has actually reduced several people to tears. The Uruguayan street sweeper who cuddled her into her bosom and told me she’d had a dog just like her, or the Catalan grandmother who kept saying how beautiful the pup was, before clutching my hand and saying “take good care of her”. The pup is utterly undiscriminating – she goes torrenting towards everyone, in whirly-gig fashion, regardless of whether they’re Catalan, Indian, wearing a veil or riding a skate board.
I’ve even befriended three homeless Russian guys thanks to her over-exuberance. They have the most massive Brazilian mastiff you have ever seen, and sleep semi-naked at the side of a nearby theatre. We’re now on first-name terms, and the dogs adore each other.
Walking the walk
Apart from the great company she provides, one of the best aspects of having the dog is being forced to get out and about on walks. Thankfully I live in the skirts of Montjuïc, so we’ve got easy access to the parks, woods – and most importantly, leaves – of the Olympic mountain. Never thought I’d see the day, but there’s something strangely calming about early-morning walks up Montjuïc, just me and a questing canine, wood pigeons wooing in the trees and peace to think. A much-needed hiatus from the heat and hassle of the city.
And even more time to reflect on how long it’s been since my last blog post…