for short story collection in spain The Crazy Lady and the Mama Dog

In 1981 my husband, small son and I were living in Urbanización El Casalot, Miami Playa, Tarragona located some 3 kilometres from the Mediterranean.  It was quite common to see stray cats and dogs meandering throughout the urbanizacion. They'd simply turn up on the road in front of the house and continue meandering deep into the woods. Most of them were like migrant workers who went about their own business, never staying too long in any one spot.
    Two dogs, however, did remain and I got to know them quite well. This is their story.

    Urbanizacion El Casalot was a brand new development where there was still ongoing construction.  Across the road from our house workmen yelled and babbled among themselves, in between peeing on the street, spitting and blowing their nose on the ground. Their transistor radio would be blaring forth loud advertisements for Galerías Preciados, condensed milk and Camel cigarettes - 'El sabor de la Aventura!'. Occasionally the workmen would burst into song, imitating Julio Iglesias singing "De Niña a Mujer" and "Hey". They were actually pretty good singers, not that I'm an expert, but Julio Iglesias himself would have been happy, I'm sure, to be listening to this open-air concert.

    There was something else the workmen got up to besides hammer and bang and make lots of noise. They would play with a puppy. He looked like an Alsation or a German Shepherd pup, based on his colouring as he frolicked about and had lots of fun playing with the workmen. They played rough with him, forcing him to the ground, preventing him from standing. They'd toss left over bocadillos to him then tap his hind legs with their feet as if telling him to go away.  It was difficult to see if they were actually kicking him but since the dog didn't yelp, I can only assume they never did hurt him. All seemed well until they stopped work for the day and went home. Guess what they did with the pup?

They hid him inside the house they were constructing. They basically bricked him up so that he couldn't get out. How did I know all this, you might be wondering? At night I heard him howl his little head off. He was a poor wee soul. I couldn't stand it any more, so one Sunday when I knew the men wouldn't turn up I searched for him inside the house. The howling was coming from a corner where there were bricks stacked up. I pulled the bricks away scraping and scratching my fingers in the process. Lo and behold, there he was! He jumped up and down, his tail wagging, his tongue hanging out. He was absolutely filthy, covered in dust and cement and who knows what else.

I picked  him up and took him across the road to my house and gave him a lovely bath. I fed him and offered him water. I really wanted to keep him, but reluctantly I decided that that wasn't practical. We didn't know for how long we'd continue living in the area, and anyhow, presumably he belonged to one of the workmen. I had no choice but to take him back across the road, place him in the corner and pile the bricks up around him so that he couldn't escape.

That night as I heard him whine and howl I wanted to rush over and cuddle him. I couldn't wait until morning when the workmen would be back for at least then he'd have company. On Monday morning the workmen arrived, making as much noise as a herd of elephants stomping around. I spied on them from behind the lace curtains to see if they would let the pup out. They did, thank goodness. Out he came, leaping up and down, his tail wagging furiously. He looked over at our house as if ready to visit me and have another bath, maybe some tasty food.

The workmen stared perplexedly at him, scratching their foreheads. How did the pup get so clean?!
Did someone give him a bath?! I think my secret was out for the workmen turned and gazed over at our house.

"Señora loca! Crazy lady!"  they called out and laughed loudly.

Thank goodness they were laughing and weren't annoyed that I had removed the pup. Maybe they really did care for the dog after all?

The other dog that I got to know I met when we first arrived in Urbanizacion Casalot, when the whole place was abuzz with cheery tourists laughing and drinking until the wee small hours. People would walk about with towels around their shoulders as they made their way to the swimming pools. You could sit on your front porch and listen to live music at the restaurant just down the road.  It was one long holiday all summer long.

But, come the month of October, and the place became deserted. Even the German tourists disappeared. From one day to the next, the 30th of September to the 1st of October, everything changed as the mass exodus took place. Shops  and restaurants that were bustling in the summer close down for the winter.  All that remained was an eerie silence as I rode my bike or went for a walk. I so looked forward to the week-ends when the Spanish from Reus and Tarragona would come back and spend Friday and Saturday nights in their holiday homes.

There was a visitor, however, who had stopped by every day. It was a large friendly dog who seemed to be constantly pregnant. I had seen her many times meandering about with her pups. But then, the next time I'd see her she would be all alone.  Before you knew it she would be pregnant again and then the cycle would keep on repeating itself.  I would feed her, give her water and pat her on the head before she'd plod off slowly.

One cool autumn day I was walking briskly when three dogs started to follow me. I always found it best to ignore stray dogs for you never knew how they would react. I continued walking, hoping that my uneasiness wasn't sensed by them. They caught up with me and walked by my side. All the while I tried to keep my eyes focused on the horizon as I hastened my pace. The largest of the three dogs began to bark at me and I glanced over it growled and snarled, showing its teeth. The other two dogs were watching closely as if to see what I would do.

I was scared. With all the tourists gone, there was nobody nearby to help me. This was before the days of cellular phones which meant I couldn't telephone anyone either. I could have been attacked, mauled even. Just then, a fourth dog turned up. Now what was going to happen?

You'll never guess what the fourth dog did.

She whacked  the dog barking and growling at me with her front paw, placed her teeth on its neck and pushed it down to the ground. I was astonished. She whacked the other two dogs as well as if to tell them not to even considering growling and snarling.

Guess who the dog was?  It was the friendly one who visited me each day! I believe that the the three dogs may have been from one of her many litters. She was chastising them for she recognized me as the one fed her and gave her water.