In the nineteen-eighties, a period in my life when I regularly visited Spain during my holidays, it was obvious that Spain suffered from cat-disease.
Stray cats could be seen all around you — roaming the streets, sold on markets, begging near restaurants, and assembling at deserted near-city or near-beach areas. Some tourists would feed them, or even take some back home.
But today, here on La Palma (Spain’s Canary Islands) — it’s dog-disease. Though cat-disease still exists, dog-disease is without any doubt the bigger thing.
I don’t know a single one on the island who doesn’t own at least one dog. Two dogs is more common though (because else the first doggie would be so lonely), and three dogs is no exception at all. Quite some people even keep more, and I happen to know a family who nurtures seven dogs.
Dogs are advertised for free in the local newspapers, offered as a takeaway commodity on the markets, friends and acquaintances would try to give you a puppy, and the dog shelters are cramped. And as there are many German tourists and expats here, there’s even an export-program to get dogs to Germany.
I wouldn’t really mind, weren’t it that the dogs on La Palma tend to bark excessively and randomly. You just can’t walk around in peace without being barked at by some dog(s) behind a fence. It even happens on hiking trails in deep countryside, but there they’re often running loose making things worse.
Reflecting on the issue, one needs to admit it doesn’t make any real sense. La Palma doesn’t need dogs. Not for protection of property anyway. Nothing happens here, and the one very occasional burglary is the event of the year (and that’s not because people own dogs, but because it’s a small island).
One can leave car, bicycle, shop, house, and personal property unlocked, and one truly doesn’t need a dog to guard any of those. In fact, being a policeman in La Palma is heaven (or hell if one would like some action), but that’s another story.
No, I now believe it’s exactly because of nothing happening here that there are so many dogs. Not because of dogs being alone or lonely, but because of people being bored and needing some company. I even suspect that dog-owners unconsciously train their dogs to bark incessantly, and moreover — at random and at non-sense moments.
On La Palma, cat-disease has obviously been conquered by dog-disease, and there ain’t any sight of an end to that. Quite the opposite: cause the continuing economic crisis will keep feeding boredom and — more dogs accordingly.