Spain is not known for its animal welfare record, with the controversial bull fights still not totally banned. Also, one reads about abandoned, skeleton thin Galgos, aka Spanish greyhounds on the galgosdelsol website. Many UK dog rescues bring Spanish dogs to Britain where they home them with dog loving families. So, I was very astonished to find that Los Alcázares, where I stayed for several months last year, was actually doggie heaven.
There are a very large number of pet dogs at restaurants and the promenade at the beach. In fact, around the end of my stay last year, a large part of the Los Narejos area of the Mar Menor lagoon was declared a doggie beach.
Most restaurants and shops put out water for dogs, which is very necessary considering the average temperature in South East Spain. It pays businesses to show that they are dog friendly in order to attract dog owners.
Not just for Christmas: for company
I have made a lot of friends in my life through dog ownership. Dog owners tend to stop for a chat with a total stranger. It is the same here in Spain. I met a Swedish couple walking their elderly Labrador and young Poodle in the same park where I take my adopted two dogs in the mornings. I don’t know anybody in Torre de la Horadada, where I rent a house until the end of April. Apart from Mike, who drives over from the village he lives in to take me shopping, my new dogs are my company.
Modern life, where families often live far apart from each other, and the disappearance of clubs where people used to meet, make meeting new friends more difficult. A lot of people decide to add a dog to their homes to help with loneliness.
Loss and grief
The close bond one forms with one’s dog makes losing them particularly hard. Having lost my beloved Biscuit last year and my Bonnie on 22 October, I am going through the usual stages of bereavement. A bad conscience, after they both had to be put to sleep, makes me wonder if I had done all to try and prolong their lives. Or had I allowed them to suffer too long?
When telling people that my doggie has died, I often got responses that say they have gone to doggie heaven. Death of a loved one, whether a human or a furry family member, makes one ponder on what happens after death. Religions talking about an afterlife help many people cope with their loss and the thought of their own death. What about our beloved pets?
The Rainbow Bridge
One of the comforting thoughts I found on social media is the Rainbow Bridge. It is a lovely prose poem written for anyone who has suffered the loss of a beloved pet. The author is unknown. It assures pet owners that their pets wait for them at a bridge until they join them there. And together they will walk across the bridge to heaven.
A glimpse of heaven
I was sent a parable, also written by an unknown author which I thought to share with you.
One man and his dog
A man and his dog were walking along a road. The man was enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to him that he was dead.
He remembered dying, and that the dog walking beside him had been dead for years. He wondered where the road was leading them.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall arch that glowed in the sunlight.
Gates of Pearl
When he was standing before it he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother-of-pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He and the dog walked toward the gate, and as he got closer, he saw a man at a desk to one side.
When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, where are we?”
“This is Heaven, sir,” the man answered.
“Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.
“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.”
The man gestured, and the gate began to open.
“Can my friend,” gesturing toward his dog, “come in, too?” the traveller asked.
“I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”
The man thought a moment and then turned back toward the road and continued the way he had been going with his dog.
After another long walk, and at the top of another long hill, he came to a dirt road leading through a farm gate that looked as if it had never been closed. There was no fence. As he approached the gate, he saw a man inside, leaning against a tree and reading a book.
“Excuse me!” he called to the man. “Do you have any water?”
“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there, come on in…”
“How about my friend here?” the traveller gestured to the dog.
“There should be a bowl by the pump.”
They went through the gate, and sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a bowl beside it. The traveller filled the water bowl and took a long drink himself, then he gave some to the dog.
When they were full, he and the dog walked back toward the man who was standing by the tree.
“What do you call this place?” the traveller asked.
“This is Heaven,” he answered.
“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveller said. “The man down the road said that was Heaven, too.”
“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates? Nope. That’s hell.”
“Doesn’t it make you mad for them to use your name like that?”
“No, we’re just happy that they screen out the folks who would leave their best friends behind.”
Dogs are family.
You might think me a naïve, even delusional character, but I do hope that heaven allows us to see our deeply loved family including furry companions again.