This is a picture of Rosa, who lives here. Normally, I am not a dog person (someone who likes dogs, rather than a curious hybrid) but I have become quite fond of Rosa. She is friendly, and comes to say hello when I come in to the courtyard, but she doesn’t jump up, and rarely barks, except when other dogs are about. There are also two resident cats, who are actually more annoying, in that they prevent me from having my window open, and from eating outside, as they have to be fended off.
Both dogs and cats are extraordinarily prevalent here. Small dogs in particular are popular pets, and making sure you aren’t tripped up by their leads does add one extra peril to navigating the streets. I have even seen two dogs on motorbikes (with their owners.) But there are also loads of strays, which wander freely, though it doesn’t appear to bother people. But as dogs do what dogs do, you have to be careful where you tread. They seem relatively benign, and don’t form the dangerous packs which make some cities so unpleasant. On the other hand, there are apparently some more aggressive ones which live near the castle, and one of the volunteers did get bitten recently, necessitating a tetanus jab and course of antibiotics.
But if it’s the dogs who rule the day, as soon as the sun goes down it’s the time of the cats. They emerge from somewhere, their eyes gleaming, with anything from six to a dozen prowling the open spaces: schoolyards, the old mosque, corners of the various parks. And they are easy to pet. I am writing this while sitting in the garden at Ecohub, and three tiny kittens are doing their very best to clamber onto my lap. They are just a couple of weeks old, but already their cuteness factor is marred by the fact that they are scabby and flea-bitten. Despite having looked after Tom for seventeen years, I’m not really a cat person either.