I am back at The Peaceable, sitting by the fire surrounded by animals. It took me forever to get home, but travel travail makes for mighty boring reading. I left Boston at 7 p.m. Monday, and rolled up at my door at 8:30 p.m. the following day, wracked with jetlag. I don´t remember ever being so lagged. I grow old, alas.
The world grows old.
I downloaded the photos from my trip. We all look much older and greyer and rounder. We look tired, every one of us, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Still, Paddy looked very good to me, there on the platform at the train station He is on his annual January Wagon, eating only healthy food and drinking no alcohol. His weight is down, but he says he feels no different than before.
Horrors waited at home, the things Paddy never tells me for fear of spoiling my holiday.
On Sunday Paddy had all the dogs out on the camino, heading east toward the labyrinth. After the cemetery he let the greyhounds off the lead for their customary game of keep-away. Once their ya-yas are sufficiently spent, they take turns walking on the lead – they only get up to mischief when they are loose together. As luck would have it, Raquel and Modesto were out on the camino for their afternoon paseo. Alongside them toddled Roque, Edu´s yappy little dog. When he saw the mongrel horde approaching.
Roque bolted into the adjacent field to hide. Lulu and Harry, being greyhounds, went right for him, rolled him over and tore him limb from limb – or so it appeared.
Modesto and Raquel and Patrick ran as hard as their septugenarian legs and walking sticks could take them into the plowed field. Modesto fell down, but got back up again. By the time Paddy beat and dragged the greyhounds off, little Roque was lying very still on the ground.
When the slavering hounds were safely restrained, the Moratinos Dog Resurrection Juju rolled in. Roque opened up his beady eyes, shook himself, and scarpered off home by another route.
Two days later in the Plaza Mayor, Paddy thanked heaven he had both the hounds on that lead – Flor´s little brown dog came barking out of their house. The greyhounds yowled at her, but Pad held on tight. And watched as the noisy-but-harmless Rosie went straight for the little dog. And peaceful, slow, 50-kilo Bella went right in after her and knocked the little dog off her feet.
Pad managed to hand off the greyhounds to Martina. He waded into the melee and threw himself bodily onto the little dog until Bella and Rose got the message. He picked up the lapdog and handed it off to the owner, who hustled it indoors. It was still very much alive when he stood up, Pad said. No visible damage, no blood. Except on Paddy. Something colorful and bad happened to one of his fingers.
And so I returned to grey winter meseta, to a pueblo where our beloved dogs are Caninae Non Grata. Roque is back in action, yapping and snapping, but we wait to learn how Flor´s little dog is doing. The pup took to her bed, and has not moved much in the last few days, according to Manolo. No word on if they took her to a veterinarian, which Paddy duly promised to pay for. I am praying for another dose of Resurrection Juju. (I spend an awful lot of prayer on animals.)
We walk now with all the dogs but Tim on leads. We are thinking big thinks. It is clear that so many dogs do not a Peaceable make, especially when two are more wolf than dog, and another is part polar bear. We have many options to choose from:
> We can fence a chunk of our land and give the dogs more space to run and exercise throughout the day.
> I can give up on leaving here for longer than a day, seeing as five dogs cannot be safely exercised by a single person, and awful things happen when I go away. I can adjust my still-shredded sleep schedule to better help with the morning dog-keeping duties.
> The clearest long-term solution is to thin the herd. But:
Tim is too old to give away, and he didn´t attack anyone.
Rosie really belongs to Kim.
Lulu and Harry are greyhounds. Attacking small animals is what greyhounds do. Nobody around here wants a greyhound, because they are by nature high-strung hunting dogs.
Besides that, Lulu is crazy as a bedbug. We are the only people who can touch her.
Which leaves Bella as the low-hanging fruit.
Paddy loves Bella, but the other dogs only tolerate her. She is large and overly affectionate. Her kisses and clumsy play drive them up the wall. She is a smart dog, eager to please. She learned from the others not to make messes inside the barn. She´s learned to pee straight into the sewer drain in the patio – something none of the other dogs has mastered. (I suspect she saw Paddy do that, and just copied him.) She (maybe) learned from me, finally, not to dig up the garden. She would very much like to be a house dog, but we do not let her inside unless Paddy´s taking her through to the rear garden to “help” him cut wood. She loves hanging out where people are. She does not molest the chickens. She is only mildly interested in the cats.
Bella is big, and still growing. She is at least half Leonese Mastiff. Bella has all her shots, an EU animal passport, microchip, and cannot reproduce. She is about 9 months old, she still has her baby teeth – a good thing for Florin´s little dog! Still, I do not think she will attack another small animal. I think she was learning bad behavior from our other bad dogs, and once she starts keeping better company she will put this shameful episode behind her.
I understand that all this is our fault. There are no bad dogs, just idiot owners. And all that. In many places we would be fined or jailed or have our dogs taken away for what happened. The Guardia Civil would have something to say if they saw us walking in the fields with five unleashed dogs. If someone filed a complaint, we would be in trouble.
But even though every single household in this town has had some less-than-happy encounter with our animals, no one has denounced us to The Man. We apologize, we give them a fresh young chicken to replace their greyhounded hen, we really are sincerely sorry. And they tell us “dogs are dogs. Just be more careful. Don´t worry.”
And this time, “Maybe five dogs is too many.”
If you have need of a polar bear, please let me know ASAP.