The great divide

If there was anything that shows a definite great divide between the English and Portuguese people it is cats and dogs.

Yesterday while looking for a house in a village near Ansiao I saw a dog with only half a face walking around the streets. If you can imagine that it was missing an eye and all that floppy skin that makes up top lip and top jowl. A very strange and gruesome sight indeed as all its top jaw and teeth was on display.

Twenty Five years ago when I first came to central Portugal it was a rarity to see dogs in the street.  On the other hand in virtually every village there would be a cat as flat as a pizza in the middle of the road like a smelly fur rug.

No one ever thought of moving them.

In 2015 every home and barn in the village where we live has at least one “chicken dog” chained up for life on a two or three meter chain.

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Dogs in Portugal

Their kennel/bed if they have one will be an old metal oil drum on its side with a hole cut in for access and no bedding or a purpose made concrete kennel that must be freezing in the winter and like an oven in the summer.

I also know of one large dog that lives in the rear section of a ford fiesta and has the rear seat as a bed, luxury!

I do know lots of good Portuguese people who realy like their dogs and cats (they don’t treat them like surrogate babies but do care for them) usually not enough to buy them pet food from the shops or to pay vets bills.

You must remember that the Portuguese rural culture is focused on not wasting money. So feeding the animals on table scraps and stale bread is quite acceptable here.

The other thing of course is the value of the dog or cat that the owner places on it in the first place.

The chicken dogs are probably sourced as unwanted puppies from an unplanned litter so would not have cost anything.

I know of a few girls and women who have those very small handbag sized dogs (I do hate to see that) The funny thing to me is that they are often snaggle toothed, curly tailed runts and not what you would call attractive or cute at all.

They just happen to be small enough to fit in a hand bag.

What a life! From being all day in a hot hand bag to living on an apartment balcony in all weathers.

History does have a lot of influence of course and the fact that for many years all dogs had to be kept chained up by law. Because of the rabies risk which is still present in Portugal.

When you see hunters with their dogs out in the countryside all of them have to have an annual check-up at the vets and rabies injections which are recorded on the animals inoculation card. If you don’t have this card up to date and are stopped by the GNR/police you are in trouble.

A good home or a soft touch?

Locally and I have heard of this happening all over Portugal is that dogs are often left outside a British persons home or simply put over the garden wall so that they will be taken care of by these rich, soft-in-the-head foreigners.

A serious warning here!!! There is a very strong likelihood that if they are female the dogs will be pregnant – be prepared.
For some reason most foreigners I meet don’t know that all Camaras (councils) have a dog pound that you can take stray dogs to. They usually have a dog catcher too if a stray is being a nuisance. Just go into the council offices and ask or send an email but be prepared for a long wait for a reply but that is opening up another cultural difference.

One final doggy thing which makes me smile. The Portuguese Podengo a breed of dogs widely used for hunting with good examples selling for significant sums around the world.

There are three types of this fine animal – large, medium and small which also have flat, curly or long coats. I leave it up to you to understand just what a Podengo is – Any beige coloured dog you see could be a Podengo.