A Dog’s Life: Stray in Spain


I fumbled for the tent zipper and Jack, our 40 kilogram Husky/Retriever/Grizzly Bear cross, charged through the delicate nylon and mesh openings like a bull in a china store, excited as ever to start a new day.

Off the beaten track in Spain

It was December in the south of Spain and our ‘house on top of the hill’ was surrounded by a panorama of frigid mountains awaiting the first glow of sunrise. A scattering of empty bullet cartridges lay haphazardly on the bare earth around us, the remnants of a trigger happy hunting season.

Our course was set for the bright lights of Sevilla and it started with a 23 kilometre stretch of isolated road re-shaped forever by the mining company Rio Tinto.

[Side rant: Rio Tinto, which translates to ‘Red River’, is named because of highly acidic pollution from acid mine drainage… way to go public relations department! In recent years Rio Tinto has won the Worldaware Award for Sustainable development. We are unsure if the award was due to its involvement in Papua New Guinea which triggered the Bougainville separatist crisis, it’s work with the Ranger Uranium Mine near Kakadu National Park in Australia, the ‘severe environmental damage’ from mining in Indonesia, or just being the third-largest coal mining company in the world (2008), one of the fastest triggers of global warming and all of the natural and political catastrophes that entails. I’m sure the ‘Red River’ public relations department will be more than happy to answer.]

The Land of Rio Tinto

We pedaled deeper into the desolate nowhere, gaping at entire mountainsides upturned and left in tiers like a giant rocky wedding cake. Besides some stunted re-growth and some opportunistic herbs the place was silent and empty. Or so we thought.

As we coasted down the other side of the pass a purple patch of Spanish lavender had me pulling off the roadside on a whim for a snack break. When Zoa pulled in behind me, we noticed a blur of movement from our peripheral vision. We were used to seeing animals darting for safety, but this animal was sprinting straight towards us! What was it? An angry rabbit?

Nope,  it was a dog. A tiny dog, completely emaciated, with its ribs bulging out of its shivering body. She looked startled and desperate, like something out of a war zone, not far from death’s door, and after a quick snarl at Jack and Paco she jumped straight into the back of our dog trailer, as if to say wherever you are going, I’m coming with you.

Daza gets a feed

A closer inspection revealed swollen teats, a bloody behind, and big sores on her body which had not healed properly and had started to become infected. A permanently attached hunting collar showed her name to be Daza, with a phone number written on the back. We had ridden through town after town of stray dogs in Spain, but what was she doing out here in the middle of nowhere, so far from any homes? She must have become lost during a hunting trip.

Daza greedily lapped at our dwindling water supply and wagged her tail furiously when we laid out the last of our dog kibbles. We wrapped her up in a blanket and fastened her into the basket on the back of my longtail cargo bike, leaving Paco and Jack to take it in turns riding in the trailer and trotting down the hill beside the bike.

Hunting season in Spain

With the nearest town over 15 kilometres away, it was slow going and frustrating to have to constantly use the brakes after working so hard to enjoy the benefits of gravity. But one look at poor shivering little Daza put our frustrations back into perspective. Paco was less forgiving at having to give up his basket to the new dog on the block, and we spent the next three hours listening to him whimpering with unprecedented emotion at the indignity of it all.

After finally rolling into town we used some basic Spanish and sharply honed miming skills to locate the only ‘farm animal’ vet in town where I was greeted by a sharply dressed young man in glasses, who called the number on Daza’s collar. Phew, problem solved.

Wrong again. Apparently the collar must have miraculously clamped itself shut around her neck because infuriatingly the owner claimed to know nothing about a missing dog. Like a piece of trash thrown out of a passing car window, it seems poor Daza was abandoned to fend for herself in a landscape devoid of life.

After seriously considering the logistics of adding a third dog to our bicycle journey, we reluctantly decided to hand Daza over to the Civil Guard and hoped they would find her a loving home. We have often wondered about Daza, where she ended up, and whether we should have taken her along on our bicycle trip. Whoever said ‘it’s a dog’s life’ didn’t come from Spain.

The cue at the butcher

12 thoughts on “A Dog’s Life: Stray in Spain

  1. Heartbreaking. I’m glad you were able to offer Daza some food and help. Hopefully she’s happy and well now and living in a good home. Love your blog, btw!!

  2. I truly believe that it was meant for you to meet and maybe even take Daza with you on your trip. I know that it was probably a very hard decision to leave Daza behind. Just think about it….. what is the chance that you will find a dog in the middle of nowhere and that you had to be passing by there at the exact time for the dog to find you!!!! Anyways I have a soft spot for dogs, especially when they are lost. Very good blog and safe travels.

    • Yeah, it was a freak of timing and it certainly made us think hard about keeping her. It would have been difficult to fit her on one of the bikes, but I guess if there is a will there is a way. Maybe we should have setup a basket on the front of the Big Dummy for her…

  3. Yes, I think that it would have been hard to make room for Daza. Maybe you will find her again in the future,that is what I am hoping!! Safe and happy travels!!!

  4. Poor little Daza would have starved to death out there. The Spanish hunters can be cold as ice with the Podenco’s. Chucking them out to starve or get hit by a car if they are too old or no good at the job. Hopefully little Daza is filled out and happy now, no doubt thanking her lucky stars for bumping into you every night.

    Now … next chapter? You guys haven’t posted for ages.

    • Yeah, we often think of what Daza is up to now and if she found a loving home. Such a sweet little dog.
      Sorry, we have been neglecting the blog lately, but we’ll start posting again this week. We will be heading off on tour again mid-late October with the dogs. We’re so happy to be getting back on the road again 🙂

  5. Hi, we live in Spain and now have 4 adoptees, that is 4 dogs who have
    adopted us!
    The trouble is we live in the country, just the best place for dropping your unwanted dog out of the car and driving off!!
    The strange thing is the Spanish dogs are unlike any dogs I know, they are
    absolutely full of love and yet totally wild. I have never really had to scold
    them, they were house trained in a day or two, yet they will not sit on
    command and have no idea what no means !
    They just somehow know our house rules and abide by them.
    They are really loving pets.

    • I agree Steve, all the strays we came across in Spain were so gentle and loving. Well done on the 4 adpotees, it is nice to know the strays are being looked after, at least some of the luckier ones. We saw far too many dogs as roadkill in Spain. And far too much roadkill in general for that matter…

  6. Hi Fin and Zoa;
    I have finally taken the time to read your blog and was very moved by your story about the abandoned dogs in Spain. Daza sounds like a dog any dog lover would love to invite into their lives.

  7. fin and zoa, it was good to meet you both as well as jack and paco. hope you received my message. kathy and leroy pacheco live in corona and i spoke with them and they said you should give them a call as you get closer to corona. their phone number is 575-849-3073. if you need another place to stay or have a meal. call me at work 346-6562 or at home 896-3510. blas

  8. Hi Fin and Zoa, this is not what you want to hear. Never hand an animal over to the Guardia. That dog would have been sent to the pound on the same day you handed her in. They only get 7 days once they get there, and it’s 7 days of hell, followed by a painful death. You only have to do some research on Google, there’s plenty of information.
    I’m talking from experience having been involved with dog rescue in Spain for over a year now

    • Hi Julie. So sad to read your message. We were in a rural community and without the help of Professor Google. We tried the number on her collar, and the vet for any nearby animal welfare organisations. None existed. Daza didn’t feel comfortable on our bicycles, so unfortunately we chose what we thought was Daza’s best hope. If we spoke better Spanish we probably could have found a better alternative. Thanks for letting others know of the grim situation in Spain…

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