Dog days in Barcelona

Sep 13, 2012 by

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.

Cocker Spaniel pup with toy

It all started so innocently.

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.

Cocker Spaniel pup in Canet de Mar

Signing autographs.

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.

Are you trying to tell me something?

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.

Beach babe

Cocker Spanish on the beach.

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…

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  1. Cristina

    Hermoso, me has hecho reír mucho !!! todavía no sabemos si le hablas en Catalán, Español o Ingles?. Muero por verte socializando con la gente por la calle, como me estoy perdiendo eso??? es inevitable los niños y los perros te obligan a socializar te guste o no. xxxx 😉

    • Cristina, ésta tiene que ser la perrita más confundida del mundo. Yo le hablo en inglés, los lugareños en catalán y los ‘extranjeros’ en castellano. Y no nos hace caso a ninguno. Recientemente le ha dado esta manía de sacar los libros de la estantaría, y sigue cogiendo ese mismo sobre existencialismo. I must shout “We don’t eat books!” at least 15 times a day, honestly.

  2. I have to meet this dog! Don’t worry about not being prolific enough. Being too prolific and mediocre is worse, and this was a great post. Very moving and tender in its way, but funny too.
    Chris recently posted..Burano, Italy: Beaded Peacocks, Rainbow Houses and the CroneMy Profile

  3. I can see how having a dog there (and in general), really forces you to be more social and get out more, out of necessity.

    I’m sure in time, the little monster will learn some manners and not tear everything up!!!!
    Jeff Bronson recently posted..Hiking through Helen & Atlanta, GAMy Profile

  4. Jajaja me he reido un monton, veo que estais disfrutando un monton de cosas juntas; la gente no sabe lo que se pierde sin tener un maigo canino a su lado.

    • Hola Beatriz! Y muchísimas gracias por haber criado a Inca:) No me acuerdo ya de cómo era mi vida antes de su llegada. Trae alegría a la vida de muchas personas, de verdad. For anyone living in Spain interested in giving a home to a pedigree English Cocker Spaniel, I recommend that you get in touch with Beatriz and her husband in Zaragoza. Their dogs are well-bred, well-cared for, prize-winning (if you intend to show) and make brilliant pets.

  5. I’ve really been missing not having a pet over the last several years leading mostly a nomadic lifestyle. Recently, I was able to visit a cat cafe and dog cafe in Seoul, Korea where you get a chance to play with them while sipping on coffee.
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..How To Take The Worst Ever Travel Photos | Anti Travel Photography TipsMy Profile

    • Yeah, I basically couldn’t stand it any more. It’s a huge commitment, having the dog. Up at 7am for the morning walk, again at lunchtime, straight after work and last thing at night. It also means I have to schedule all social activities well in advance, which can be tricky in a city so spontaneous as Barcelona. But I get to come home to a walking, wagging and consistently boundless bundle of joy. Sneak in those animal opportunities where you can!

  6. Hey Julie!
    What a funny post! I love the first line,as I can so relate: “Blog guilt has been plaguing me lately.” O, I know the feeling. We were so busy in the Costa Brava, how do they expect us to write…. and now that you live like a local with the cutest little doggie ever, you will never get one written! So nice to meet you on the POST TBEX trip. take care… Cacinda “Cindy” Maloney

    • Hi Cindy, how are you? Was great to meet you too:) The two days went so fast…needless to say I now have a huge backlog of blog articles to write up! Off work this week and planning to be productive – along with the ‘help’ of the puppy in the background, who is currently pulling books out the bookshelp and eating the laptop cables…

  7. Great post!
    I especially love the fact Inca gets included in the wolf whistles 🙂
    Prithika recently posted..Writers and illustrators unite! It’s competition timeMy Profile

  8. Your style is really unique in comparison to other folks I have read stuff from.

    Thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity, Guess I will just book mark this page.
    lupo cecoslovacco recently posted..lupo cecoslovaccoMy Profile

  9. Keith

    What a smashing web blog,we have been semi adopted by a cocker Spanish, good things, they love everything and everybody.

    We spend six months in France the balance back in S.A. though it is now time to move on ! Looks like Barcelona is not impossibly cold during winter, please say I’m right !

    Happy days



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