Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mexican Diary #11: Mexican Dogs

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

Mexican Diary #11: Mexican Dogs

I’ve never seen dogs like they have here in Mexico. I think that this is because in Europe they would have been put down long before they reached this stage. The RSPCA would have a field day here – though finding out exactly WHO these mangy curs belong to might prove difficult.
But ‘Mangy Cur’ doesn’t really adequately describe your average Mexican street dog. I bet you’ve got in mind a picture of that loveable flea bitten, Walt Disney ‘Old Yella’ type of hound with a heart old gold who’s sadly got rabies and so the little boy now has to put him down. Well you’re right about the last bit anyway – apart from the putting him down bit.
Let’s start at the beginning – I’m no stranger to street dogs. Ask my daughter Mollie – her favourite anecdote concerns the time that I was bitten by a Labrador in Fulham. There was this nutty Czech lady who earned her living by walking fourteen dogs at a time. None of the dogs were on a leash – no doubt she’d tried this but they must have kept getting tangled up. But then she couldn’t have started out with fourteen dogs – I wonder at which point she abandoned the leashes – Seven Pekes? Eight Spaniels? Who knows? – well certainly not her because she was MAD. I’d often seen her with her pack of various hounds: big and small, black and white, pedigree and mongrel. But on this particular day they caught me by surprise, attacking from the rear as it were – like Lawrence of Arabia taking Acabar - and just like in that film, I acted like Anthony Quinn (playing ‘Zorba the Arab’ in this case) and did the worst possible thing under the circumstances – I panicked. Any sane person will tell you that making a run for it is not an option when there are fourteen dogs involved. If there is only one dog, he will chase you for a while, exert himself a little, get a bit of daily exercise and then give up , thrug his shoulders and smile to himself as if to say “well that was a bit of fun” and then go about his doggy business. I know this as a fact - I was not a paper boy for all of those teenage years without learning this simple fact of life. Go visit 443 Queslett Road, Great Barr, Birmingham B43 6EJ and try to knock on the door if you don’t believe me – better still – try and stuff a newspaper through their letterbox – you’ll see what I mean, And if you’re someone who likes to be prepared then have a pair of NIKE trainers handy.
That’s what happens when one dog is involved. Not so though fourteen dogs. FOURTEEN dogs want to show off. They want to prove themselves in front of their piers – in short they act as a PACK- just like the hunting dogs of the Serengeti that you have seen on TV – beloved of Saint David Attenborough of the British Broadcasting Corporation but sadly not to one else – least of all baby lions, hippos and giraffes.
Anyway, now we have another one of those ‘guess what happens next?’ scenarios – except that I’ve already told you that I got bitten – so let’s change that to a: “guess what happened where” scenario to make it more interesting. Answer: my bottom – right between the cheeks.
Have you ever been bitten by a dog? If so, you will certainly remember this – IT DOESN’ HURT! Don’t ask me why it doesn’t but believe me it doesn’t. I THINK it’s because of the sheer shock –the sheer audacity of the situation takes precedent. Afterwards it hurts like hell though. I remember reading the same thing about shark bites – it was in the mid 1970’s when ‘Jaws’ came out and we all went shark crazy and every teenager in the land became an expert on shark behaviour overnight. Apparently a shark’s bite has an anaesthetic effect on your severed leg – well not the severed leg exactly – I mean the bit that you have left - but somehow this scientific fact is difficult to credit when applied to a black Labrador’s canines sunk into the cheeks of your arse.
Anyway, I stormed after the lady and yelled at her “Madam, one of your dogs just bit my bottom!” (Yes I know – don’t ask me why - but I get very polite when roused.) “NO! – not one of MY dogs!” she replied – as if there were any other rampant dogs roaming around the streets of Fulham that morning. I limped home, doing a very creditable impression of the late Charlie Chaplin – minus the hat and cane of course. Once home, the pain got to me, finally reaching my brain and I decided that retribution was in order. I hobbled around to my local G.P – ‘no appointment necessary’ as far as I was concerned anyway, and sat perching precariously on a chair whilst I patiently waited my turn.
“So what’s the problem?” was the Doctor’s predictable question. I explained, without having really though this one through. “Well we’d better have a look at it then hadn’t we?!” (What’s with all this WE – I never understood that ‘we’ – as if I could do it by myself – inspect my own rear – that’s why it’s called a ‘behind’ because it’s behind you – ergo you can’t see it yourself. And besides, why would I bother going to the Doctor in the first place?) He was quite a young Doctor and I could tell that he was having trouble trying not to snigger at the situation. I can freely admit now that it WAS funny but at the time I was sore and angry – angry and the top and sore at the bottom.
“So what do you want ME to do about it?” he asked. Obviously this hadn’t been covered at medical college, neither was it written into the Hippocratic Oath. “Well you could write a note saying what has happened to me.” I entreated. So the Doc wrote a note which said “Mr Cheek has been bitten on the bottom by something that looks like it might have been a dog.” It was the ‘might have been’ that was disconcerting – as is ‘an over amorous vampire’ might have been an equally adequate diagnosis.
I wasn’t exactly satisfied but didn’t know what else he could have done under the circumstances. On the way home I posted the letter through the door of the offending hound. I knew who owned the dog you see – it belonged to our local Conservative MP who happened to live next door to my friend’s Jim and Penny.
Later that day a note came through MY door. It read: “I gather an incident took place earlier today – come to Number 83 if you wish to discuss it” No mention of the dog – clever that. I marched round and was invited in. There he sat, our local representative of righteousness, looking for the entire world like John Bull. “So was there any blood?” was all he asked. I was livid at his casualness, his lack of any form of apology. “No” I replied “ But your next door neighbour Jim and I both have three year old children – and if either of them get bitten by your dog, I will personally take a mallet and break it over his head and THEN we will talk about who’s responsible!” then I stormed out. A cleverer man would have taken him to the cleaners but this was in the days before ‘Claims Direct’ – just think I could have been on their adverts if I had played my cards right. As I said, this is Mollie’s favourite anecdote. Often, during a dinner party, if there is was a lull in the conversation, she would say: “Dad, tell them about the time that you got bitten on the bum by a dog!”

So back to Mexico. Since being here I have only seen two cats, but I’ve seen hundreds of dogs. The journey from the airport was a case in point. We drove past about five road kills which I was certain were dogs. “Are those DOGS?” I asked. “SI” was the reply. The taxi drivers explanation was that dogs are put in the back of pick ups where they get bored or frightened and jump out, getting run over on the highway almost immediately. I guess this is a reasonable explanation along with those strays who just try to cross the highway, maybe to meet a chicken half way. “Why doesn’t someone clear them away?” I asked. Well it seems .like it’s just another one of those OPB’s – other people’s problems. I wish that those old ladies who frequent Broadstairs Town Council meetings to complain about dog turds on the streets could be magically transported to Mexico by osmosis. I have spent hours in such meetings waiting for the pertinent point of order – for example to question why the local beer baron has been handed the lease of our local town hall on a plate so that he can turn it into another of his ‘luxury hostelries’. Somehow whatever the subject in hand, those ladies ALWAYS manage to bring the subject back around to dog shit. I somehow think it would do them good to have to deal with the whole dog instead of just its waste. And that’s just the dead ones – the live ones are more threatening. As I sit waiting for my daily taxi at six every morning I find myself having to study these beasts. Their eyes shine in the half light, once again reminding me of those hunting dogs or wolves to which they are not so distantly removed.

There is a particular dog who ‘lives’ near here who is a good example of what I am talking about. No doubt you have seen a dog with a few scars or bite marks on its hide - well this one is covered in ‘em – just like a Dalmatian, but instead of ‘spots’ he has scars. So I’ve nicknamed this Disney outcast Vincent. This is due to the fact that he only has one ear and thus resembles our favourite Dutch Post Impressionist. In fact I bet if you give could him a gun and an opposing thumb, he too would shoot himself – and in doing so, bring his similarity even closer to that great monauricular painter.
If I was in government here I would set up MexSACruD: The Mexican Society Against Cruelty to Dogs. I’m afraid to say that it would start with the mass round up and slaughter of every stray dog in Mexico – leaving law abiding Mexican’s free to wander the streets with their bottoms intact and in peace.
After a few weeks I have found that I have grown quite fond of the Mexican dogs – believe it or not. I think it’s partly to do with so often seeing them at night in the pouring rain, drenched through but still going about their doggy business, or during the heat of the midday sun sheltering under cars. I even saw two dogs who I swear were holding hands like ‘Lady and the Tramp’ except these two were ‘Tramp and the Tramp’. I’ve had to walk past packs of these mutts so often now that I realise that they are actually on the whole very timid of people. I think that they are shown their place quite early on. I witnessed a small by beating his dog – looking for the entire world like that the little brat in Howarth’s engraving ‘Industry and Idleness’ – he didn’t have the metal poker but that wasn’t his fault. I was in a taxi and witnessed his cruel act as we sailed past, which will have to serve as my excuse for not stopping to chastise him.

You can see pictures of my mosaics on my website: www.martincheekmosaics.com
The Barbados work is shown on page:
www.martincheekmosaics.com/html/barbados_floor.html

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