Oscar, my shadow
People who know me, probably know, or know about Oscar. He is one of my greatest friends and joys in life. His needs (food, water, walks and pats) are so simple
and he so easily delights in them, I sometimes wish my life were so straight forward. And his exuberance, dancing step and wagging tail when I return home, whether that’s from an all day outing or a 3-minute sojourn to take out the rubbish, is a huge boost to my well-being and sense of feeling loved and important. Settling in to life in Valencia, I’m also grateful for the connections he makes with other canines and humans when we are out and about. Already one week in our new neighbourhood, we’ve got half a dozen ‘dog friends’ we greet and chat with.
Lately I’ve also started calling him ‘my shadow’ because he follows me everywhere. I’m
pretty sure this is because I am the one who generally feeds and gives him walks. But it’s also because our new flat is in the shape of a ‘U’ and he has to be on the move to keep his eye on his pack.
where’s the pack?
Off the hallway by the front door there is a bedroom, ian’s work space and the door to the ‘terraza’. Turn the corner, and there’s a long hallway (great for playing ball) with other doors to a bedroom and the kitchen. Then it it opens up to the right leg of the ‘U’ where there’s the living room, bathroom and back bedroom, ‘my work space’.
Not open-plan like Symington Mews where he could just sit on a pillow and watch everything in the main living/dining/kitchen area, or the canal boat, which was all open plan. If Ian shuffles some papers, Oscar runs off to see what the noise is about. If I get up to get a book off the shelf, he comes running back. I have thought at least he’s getting low-impact, self-initiated exercise.
where’s the spunk and jump?
Oscar’s will be 12 years old tomorrow. That’s 84 in human years. In my last post about Oscar, I wrote that he had a lot of spunk and jump in him. But during this transition from London to our new home in Valencia, I’ve been shocked and saddened about how ‘old’ Oscar seems to have grown and worried about this spunk and jump level.
For five weeks we stayed in a flat in the old city centre. In/out of the charming yet quirky flat were 56 steps up/out, (and another 12 between the two floors of the flat), and Oscar sometimes slipped, stumbled or struggled, (and I did too at times). Moreover the steps are twisty, polished stone and the corner one a bit smaller than the rest, so it was a bit of a test of balance and vision.
I probably shouldn’t discount too how much he may have been picking up on my own anxiety and upset feelings of being in limbo. Every day we had some official paper work to do, a potential flat to visit, or the general business of landing and settling to attend to -getting new mobile phone contracts, opening a bank account, and so on, and still not done. Last and certain to be most joyful: tax and social security.
no more long marches
I am saddened to notice too, he can no longer go on long marches around the city like he could have a few years back. He simply can’t walk non-stop for hours, and he needs more recuperation time between big events, like all of us do as we age and tire more easily. This does limit the area we can cover and activities we can do together because, unlike London and the UK generally, dogs cannot hop the bus, tube or train and zip off with their humans. Big dogs not allowed, ‘small dogs’ are OK if they are in travel kennels. In fact, this little rule nearly meant we had to abandon Plan A of our journey here from London.
dogs on trains in Spain
When we boarded the French – Spanish train in Narbonne to Barcelona, a French conductor was right there to ask if we had a dog ticket. We didn’t, he sold us one. A Spanish conductor was soon on his heels, asking if Oscar had a travel kennel as required for train travel in Spain. We didn’t. We knew this rule because 5 years ago when we went to Barcelona from London for a month’s winter respite, we’d researched that dog travel on public transport, and bought a travel kennel for that journey. But no one ever asked about the travel kennel. Once a train conductor from Bareclona to Tarragona asked us if we had a muzzle, we did. Other Spanish friends have also told me the rule is ‘flexible’ so we assumed we’d be OK. In fact we’d given away his travel kennel bag we’d bought for that 2011 trip when we left London as we were already burdened enough with our own bags.
This time we showed the Spanish conductor the muzzle and assured him Oscar would be good. He said fine, we are still in France, and all dogs need are a ticket and a muzzle, but warned us, his Spanish colleagues from Barcelona to Valencia might not be so understanding.
The dog kennel dilemma
When we got to Barcelona, no only did we have to confront the kennel dilemma we had to be re-ticketed, because our overnight train had stopped part-way to its destination, Latour-de-Carol and our planned onward connections null. So we went to travel services and showed the print-outs of our original tickets with the short note and a small, yet terribly official looking stamp from the French rail colleagues: ‘Due to bad weather this train was cancelled. We have re-routed these passengers through Narbonne, France to Bareclona, now please re-ticket to the final destination, Valencia. Thank you.’
We knew from our stay there 5 years ago there are pet shops nearby and go could buy one if we had too. Or figure out some Plan B.
We showed our tickets and explained the situation about the cancelled train and asked about the dog kennel saying ‘We know that’s the rule but we’ve travelled in Spain with this little, friendly, cute dog before without problem. And look, we left London yesterday morning and travelled all the way here without problem. Now we have three more hours to go on the train but this afternoon your colleague on the Narbonne to Barcelona train said …’
At first we were unable ‘to read’ the Spanish rail person’s response. He said, ‘This is quite an odd situation, and how am I to know that you didn’t just write this note yourselves? But then, why would you complicate things like this for yourselves? So I’ll re-ticket you, and the dog
kennel, well, just a minute …’ And he went into the lost and found closet and brought out a tiny dog kennel and said ‘Your dog probably won’t fit, but now you have one which probably will satisfy my colleagues.’
And it did! 30 minutes later we boarded a train to Valencia, and no one ever said anything about a travel kennel, or muzzle. We asked if we needed a dog ticket, but since we’d booked first class tickets, dogs are included and all the on board staff said to us was ‘What would you like to drink?’, and ‘Here’s your dinner, vegetarian or the meat-option?’
Sigh, all that was 6 weeks ago, which feels both like a long and short time ago. And finally we’re at home. We have been in our new (still mostly empty but lovely) flat one week now. Setting up our home and settling in will take time. Happily I think Oscar is perking up and seems to have more spunk and jump than we were in limbo. I think not having all the steps helps, as does getting sunshine on his furry bones, and of course plenty of naps.
Happy Birthday, Oscar. Tomorrow, 17 March 2016, he is 12.