Once a week I go for a run. I don’t go far and I certainly don’t break the sound barrier. Over the summer in Spain it can be difficult to find the best time to go. Ideally it would be early in the morning before the sun has gathered its strength. However, this would mean abandoning my weekend lie-ins, a luxury I’m not prepared to sacrifice even in the name of fitness.
Alternatively it’s an evening run, just before the sun goes down. What has this to do with dogs? It seems I share this time with a number of dog owners who take the opportunity to exercise their pets.
Dogs on the loose in Spain
That’s fine, I have nothing at all against dogs. However (and there is always a ‘but’ in this kind of statement) I do find myself feeling a little uneasy when an off-the-leash mastiff comes bounding up to me. It’s not that I suspect this particular animal is going to cause me a problem. After all every pet owner knows exactly how their animal will react at any given time. Don’t they?
The problem is that no matter how much we might think we can predict the behaviour of an animal we can’t be 100% sure. I can see the confidence in the eyes of the owner who happily distracts the beast as I run past or shouts to bring them to heel (if they’re lucky).
But what if they didn’t obey orders and how much control does the owner really have if they decided to revert to their natural instincts (the dog that is) and give me a run for my money?
The best course of action
Watching the programme ‘Do or die’ on the National Geographic Channel, I focus intently on what the response should be if you were approached by a couple of dogs bent on bringing you down. Flight or fight?
Of the options of:
- jumping on the roof of a car (not an option when you’re running by a salt lake)
- giving as good as you get (probably not in my nature and I haven’t got quite the same set of dentures)
- or playing dead (not easy when you’re being mauled)
You apparently should go for ‘playing dead’. I shall remember that next time I can feel a dog at my heels.
There are restrictions around dangerous dogs in Spain, just like in most other countries. Owners have to have completed the necessary paper work and the dogs must be muzzled and on a short lead.
The exact requirements do vary from one region to another. For example in Almeria the lead must be no longer than one metre and potentially dangerous dogs are not allowed at all in areas frequented by children. Owners must also have liability insurance for injury to third parties. A fact that I don’t really find too reassuring on my run.
Aside from my own anxieties about running with dogs, dog excrement in Spain can be a problem too. In our urbanisation it is everywhere. Walking around you have your eyes glued to the ground to avoid having something nasty attaching itself to the bottom of your shoe. With a young child it becomes even more of an obstacle course and, to be honest, it is just plain disgusting.
It’s hard to see exactly how this problem can be eradicated without a little bit of neighbourhood watch. The cause is unlikely to merit a policia local on every corner and without this kind of vigilance people will get away with it if they can. The byelaws are there, it’s just that people tend to ignore them.
The issue is being taken up around the country. In Torrevieja, where Ábaco’s offices are based, the mayor Eduardo Dolón has recently asked for people living in the area to raise their concerns and suggestions. Not surprisingly the issue of dog mess in Torrevieja was one that was raised.
Another side to the story
As my daughter plans to bring her dog (just a very little one) over to Spain, I thought it time that I researched a little more about what the rules are around its keep here.
Its definitely not of the dangerous variety, however, there are still restrictions and I found myself sympathising a little with those who do rigorously abide by them.
It does seem to be a shame that dogs must always be on the lead and that dogs can’t be walked on beaches. As always, there are two sides to this and responsible ownership seems to be the answer. Unfortunately, there are always those who flout the rules and make further rules necessary. They probably don’t follow those ones either.
In the meantime, if you are a dog owner in Spain do watch out for the short distance runner and please, please, please pick up your mess.