Every day that I wake up here in Almeria Province, I look out of my bedroom window and gaze inexorably towards the sea and think ‘I still can’t believe I am here!’ Some mornings I even say it out loud.
This morning, like every morning, I contemplated what new place I might explore with my four-legged companions. I thought back to when I first brought Púca over from Ireland.
If I am brutally honest, at the start of the summer (June) I didn’t know what to do or where to go because of the heat, but then – through talking to ex-pats (of all nationalities) who have lived here for several years – and my Spanish friends – I realised I just needed to approach it differently.
Like many Anglo-Irish making the move to Spain, I imagined that I needed to have a garden for my dog when I came here. That would mean budgeting for a villa, cortijo or a sought-after ground floor flat.
I lived here for six months before I brought Púca over. In that time, I realised gardens here are very different to what I was used to. In fact, they are used differently; because of the heat, intensity of the sun and the need to conserve water. I never saw a dog lazing around in a garden either. They seek out the cool – most likely under a table, but always on the cold tiled floor, and sleep for most of the day.
To start with, I would walk in the campo (countryside) where Hond, the Spanish Mastiff would find water – however limited – and roll in it. Púca – the Swiss Shepherd: a breed used to altitude and the cold, would chase rabbits, and come back panting heavily. One day she even laid down in the middle of the track because she was so hot. I gave her what was left of our two bottles of water and she was able to continue.
The hose became my dogs’ best friend. When I returned from walks, I would take each dog out to the terrace (first floor) and slowly hose them down. Pretty much every balcony or terrace I have seen has a drain. But be careful, water on tiles is very slippy, and you, the dog or both of you could go down hard – causing injury.
At one of the many Merca China shops in this area you will find a non-slip matting on a roll that looks a bit like carpet underlay – but with holes. It is useful for the strip from the poolside if you have children, but also on the terrace when you wash the dog.
Before I brought Púca out, I asked the vet about any tips for keeping her cool. She suggested a cold, wet towel under the ‘armpits’ (or what ever they are called on a dog!), because this is where the skin is thinnest.
Another friend soaks her dog with the hose before going out; which is a good idea if you don’t have to travel by car to get to the campo.
From October to May – it is a delight to walk the dogs at any time of day. Travelling in the car to new spots is also much more comfortable for them. Last weekend, I discovered the Baranca (dried out river bed) at Marina De La Torre where I was able to walk for two hours.
It’s all about adapting to your surroundings. It isn’t the same for me; why should it be for the dogs?