I’m a massive fan of dogs. Always have been, always will be.
It all started when I was born. Isn’t that when most things start? My mom always told me that before I was born, when I was up in heaven, I decided to be born into this family just because of the dog. Mazie was my best friend from the day I was brought home from the hospital until I was 13 years old. We never left each other’s sides and although she snored louder than my dad, she was invited into my bed every night.
My very first business venture was dog sitting. At seven years old I wrote personalized notes to everyone in my neighborhood with a dog and dropped them in their mailboxes. Looking back I’m astonished that so many people took my little kid handwriting seriously, but back then all I knew was that I had been scribbling away in my room for hours to get the notes perfect. When I finally thought it had no errors and was written professionally, I would bring it out to my mom, she would find a small error, and I was back in my room rewriting the entire thing.
Over the summer, I was living in a different city than my parents and my dogs. I missed being able to walk and run with Scout so much that when I wasn’t working my full-time job or photographing for the newspaper, I was walking dogs using Rover.
Obviously, I am a big believer in dogs being a man’s best friend. I am overly and entirely obsessed with the species for some inexplicable but understandable reason. However I have never seen the kind of comradery between an owner and their dogs until I moved to Madrid.
I’ve always believed that the less time a dog spends on a leash, the happier they are. I couldn’t imagine if every time I got to go outside, someone was restricting where I could and couldn’t explore. It’s hard though, especially with my dog Scout. The last time I let Scout off her leash in the park on accident, she sprinted a half mile down the path and jumped into a grimey, moss-infiltrated lake and would not stop swimming. It was a full 10 minutes before she chose to come back to land again, a huge smile on her face, unaware of why I kept screaming her name.
The Madrid dogs are much more dignified than Scout though (it’s not too hard to be, to be honest). They know how to look both ways before crossing the street. They walk on the right side of the road and stay out of the way in crowded areas better than most people do. They never stray more than five yards away from their owners, even in Parque de Retiro when they see a vast expanse of green land in front of them. They are just as content walking with their humans.
They’re not just better behaved on the leash though, it’s also just in their everyday mannerisms. There are so many restaurants with dining primarily outside because of the lack of air conditioning. If my dog Hazel were here walking the streets, these restaurants would have Wanted posters of her because of the food theft she would commit. Once we Hazel her with us to an outdoor concert, and as we were walking to our seats she snagged a chicken finger right off the plate of someone sitting on a picnic blanket. The funniest part? She’s afraid of strangers, but the pull of this chicken finger conquered all else.
This overall better behavior is probably why dogs are allowed into so many stores here, too. I didn’t realize just how common it was until I was in Sephora and saw a dog gazing at eyeliners with his owner. In the same manner there are universal stickers in the United States that companies put on their door to tell you that only service dogs are allowed inside, Spain has the same ones telling them to come right in.
The most common sticker reads, “Keep your family together, dogs are welcome.” As someone who’s always appreciated my dogs as my family (oftentimes more than my own brother) the signs hit home. It seems as though many people in the US think of dogs as just another animal, and don’t understand why humans become so attached to a different species. Just because dogs don’t act or speak like us, doesn’t mean we are that different. All I know is that when Scout is upset, a tennis ball always makes her feel better, so whenever she can tense I’m anxious or upset she runs into the backyard, grabs a tennis ball, and plops it down next to me. Scout always feels better when she has her tennis ball, so she believes the feeling is universal.
They’re always the strangest-looking mutts walking around the city as well. You look at them and there’s no way you can think they’re pretty dogs but for some odd reason, in this particular city, they’re adorable. Skinny little dogs that look like hairless cats… you might think they’re not attractive but then you see them walking with so much dignity next to their owner. You think, of course, a small, skinny dog with no hair would be perfect, they don’t get dirty and you can fit them in your purse!
I always tell my parents that the only thing I miss when I move away is Scout. She gets such a sad look on her face when the suitcases come out, and I can’t sit down and just tell her that I’ll be back in six months. She doesn’t get to talk on the phone with me or look at pictures like my parents do. On campus, I don’t find myself missing her as much, just because there aren’t many students with dogs so I’m not reminded of her all alone back home.
Here though, it’s hard to go anywhere without seeing signs of canine companionship. I would do almost anything to get Scout out here, living with me. Even though Scout wouldn’t necessarily fit in here, she could definitely show these European dogs how to have a good time.
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