Irrational fear/phobia is a funny thing. The other day a spider crawled over the top of a table towards me. Without second thought, I picked it up by a leg and calmly moved it to the garden. I have friends who would have been up on their tiptoes, cowering and screaming at such action. To me though, it’s only a spider.
Last week, I was on a plane heading back to this villa after a fine time at Primavera Sound in Barcelona (review here). You can tell those people who are tense on a flight. They purse their lips, forget to breathe regularly and go an unfortunate shade of red. It’s easy to smirk about their misfortune because I’m not experiencing their fear. I enjoy flying. Kudos to them for tackling their phobia head on though.
I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit it but I have a fear of strange dogs. Over the years, I’ve crossed streets to avoid yapping chihuahuas. When on walks in the country, I’ve cowered behind others that I’ve been with (awkward when that other is your son, ten years old at the time). It’s an irrational fear but it’s very real.
The stupid thing is that, by and large, I like dogs. Once I’ve got to ‘know’ a dog and to build up some rapport, I can see that they’re immense company. Truly they are best friends in the making. But strange dogs still do my head in.
I know that many will smirk at this but this weekend I’ve been kept prisoner in the villa by a stray dog. Herbert (we’ll call him/her that even though I have no idea of his/her sex) came bounding up onto my patio early on Saturday afternoon. I had the French doors to the kitchen shut . Herbert made his presence known by howling intensely like you imagine a werewolf might. I then heard something scrapping at the kitchen glass. I went to investigate.
I was taken aback when I saw Herbert staring through the glass at me. You probably could have knocked me down with a feather. I called Sarah. She’s good with dogs and would know what to do although, being back in England, any practical help would be out of the question. It’s not as if she could get on a flight to save me from my phobia (even though I would get on a flight to save her from spiders).
My problem was a very real one. Herbert seemed desperate to get into the villa. It’s all accessed by opening French doors and iron grills. By the time I’d unlocked everything to get out, Herbert would be in. And I was terrified of the ill-looking, desperate Herbert, even more so now after Sarah advised that he ‘probably has ticks and you don’t want to get bitten by one of them’. We were entering into a stalemate and a battle of wills. I lowered the shutter to have a think.
I had a scout online to try to work out what sort of dog Herbert is. His erect, pointy ears and long head were giveaways and I quickly derived that he was a hound (or a podenco in Spanish). There are different varieties of podenco but I’m not confident enough to say what type Herbert is. As Herbert scratched and howled on the steps of my villa, I felt all sorts of despair as I read about the plight of podencos.
Podencos are hunting dogs in Spain. They’re not pets but tools of the trade. And when they are no longer of use to the hunters and farmers they are disposed of. The fact that the malnourished Herbert was on my doorstep was a good thing. His life could feasibly have been ended in ways too upsetting to write about in this post. Here, Herbert was safe from immediate harm (though I still baulked at the idea of heading out to say hello to him). Everything I’ve read about podenco’s says that they’re friendly, affable and loyal dogs which is quite incredible after what many have been through.
I left a message on the answer-phone of the local animal rescue centre. When they called me back, they wondered whether Herbert had a previous knowledge of the villa. They suggested it was odd that he was showing such affinity to my patio. I was perhaps a bit too definite when agreeing with their assessment. I read about dogs who have travelled miles and miles with a sixth sense to get home. And I wondered if Herbert was a legacy of crazy dog woman. Appliances, cutlery, plates and pans had all gone but Herbert hadn’t. Silver clouds and all that. This was surely too far-fetched to be true.
Time passed. Herbert’s howling became intermittent. He seemed comfortable to rest in the sun. I opened the shutters and that didn’t fail to get his attention. We had a stand-off with just a window-pane separating us. Herbert turned away and settled to rest again. This was a dual-edged stake-out; our negotiations were entering an intense period. I had beer and wine in the fridge. I was in no rush to leave (though I did feel very inadequate that I couldn’t take control of this situation like a ‘real’ man might).
Fast forward to Sunday morning. I’d been woken by Herbert’s howls earlier but it had now been some time since I’d heard him. I lifted the blind in the kitchen only to jump back. Herbert was still there looking in on me. More howls followed. I’m too frightened to go outside. I decide I’ve not had a sofa day for quite a while now and that’s what I do. I’ve got to sit this out even if Herbert’s howls do seem to get more desperate as the day passes and night again descends.
It’s now Monday morning. There’s no obvious sign of Herbert but I wonder if he’s hiding in a spot I can’t see until I open the door. The mind plays funny tricks on you when you’re caged up for a weekend. But I had space to roam about in, food to eat and beer to drink. That’s absolute luxury compared to how many of Herbert relatives are kept.
Herbert might have gone but I’ve got a feeling it’s not the last I’ve heard from him. I genuinely hope that some kind soul has found him and is helping him. Should he return, I really need to face my fear head on.