When you think of Spain and animals you mainly think of bulls being transfixed in the name of a lurid and blood-thirsty tradition whilst cheered on by sanguinary Spaniards and harmless quadrupeds being pushed from the top of high buildings for some bizarre and quite disturbing reason.
But having arrived in Spain from Germany – a country whose reputation is not far behind England when it comes to loving dogs – Sweep was pleasantly surprised at how overtly fur-friendly most people were towards him in Barcelona. From the moment he arrived he was greeted with calls of ‘guapo’ (handsome), ‘hermoso’ (delightful), and precioso (precious). All completely true of course.
He was even allowed in El Corte Ingles – the large, snooty department store that forms one entire side of Placa Catalunya. In fact in El Corte Ingles in Tarragona one of the shop assistants left her position and ended up rolling around on the floor with him, like it was the most natural thing in the world.
People, particularly older women seem genuinely delighted to see our little furry satellite and still attempt to hold superfast conversations with us about him in the fastest Spanish you’ve ever heard, animatingly recounting whimsical tales of their own be-furred progeny as we feign comprehension whilst frantically attempting to pick out particular recognisable words and form them into a partially coherent sentence.
Surprisingly many restaurants will allow you in with your hairy loved one but it’s always worth asking even if there is no sign no the door. In a hostal in Espinama, one lovely woman positively insisted that we all come in from the cold one cool morning (it was about 17 degrees) whilst we ate our breakfast.
Most shops and restaurants will display a ‘no perros’ or ‘no gossos’ (in Catalunya) sign. But you can always ask if it’s not obvious.
My one issue with Spain and its animals, besides the animals legs suspended from the ceilings of many bars and restaurants and their hideous treatment of bulls is that they have an outrageous ban that prevents people from walking their dogs on the beaches. This ban ranges from no dogs between April and October/November to an all-year ban that incurs a fine of up to €300 (per dog). This gives me the gothic rage. Most dog owners are responsible and happily clear up after their furries – only those that let them shit everywhere should be fined. Human beings leave all kinds of rubbish from broken bottles, used syringes, chocolate filled diapers and thousands of cigarette ends a day, but dog owners can’t take their furry babes on the beach, even if they clear up after them. It still pisses me off.
Sweep has been on many a beach in Spain – it’s a risk we have often taken. Very early in the morning and very late at night are good times when you’d think the police would have better things to do than prosecute dog owners who just want to let their four-legged lovelies have a bit of crazy time in the sand. Dogs seem to love beaches after all.
I even heard of a beach where la guardia civil (the Spanish filth) are supposed to hide in the hilltops with binoculars waiting to pounce on heinous dog-walking criminals.
With all the vehicle crime and petty theft that is so rife in Spain, you’d think they’d have better criminals to bring to justice.
Anyway, I’ve been told about a beach in Catalunya called Sant Pere Pescador which might be Sweep friendly. Sweep hasn’t been there yet, but he promises to post a review when he has.
My advice is to see what the locals are doing – if there are loads of people walking their dogs on the beach and it’s most definitely out of season, then you might want to take the risk. Carry poo bags with you at all times, so you can not only clear up tiddles’ brown gifts, but also to prove your intent to do so. Feign absolute ignorance if caught. Avoid main city beaches. Ask a local who is walking their dog if it is acceptable.
It’s ridiculous that dogs aren’t allowed on beaches. They get so much joyous pleasure from zooming around in the sand. Far more than humans seem to get from sitting drinking beer, smoking cigarettes and exposing themselves to dangerous levels of sunlight.
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