For Dogs

A Dog's Wish Come True: Page 2

I want to continue the story of Chelsea in Spain on this page from where we left of on A Dog's Wish Come True.

The first summer living up on the mountain was long and very hot, but quiet and peaceful to say the least. I had joined a band that played on the coast (we called ourselves the "Catfish Blues Band") and that meant making a weekly excursion down to Fuengirola to rehearse. Chelsea came with me in the van and she would have a nap in the back while we made a lot of noise in the industrial estate unit for a couple of hours on a Wednesday night. This was fine though the summer and driving back was not a problem. It would become so later on.

Driving back in the dark was okay as the main highway (caraterra) was good all the way to the village, but once past that it was onto the dirt and gravel track for about a mile of so until I got to my place. Then the fun and games began as I had to transfer my stuff out of the van, which I parked at the foot of the mountain on the edge of my property, into the Land Rover for the next leg of the journey, which was up the steep dirt track to the cabin.

With no lights up there, I always carried a torch (flashlight) so I could see where I was going once I'd parked the Land Rover near the cabin. With not much else to do, it would be a case of hitting the sack soon afterwards.

In the cooler mornings, I'd be up early with Chelsea and we'd be out on the land finding things to do. There was always plenty to keep us occupied, with hundreds of almond trees to look after plus a load of olives, two figs and other wild mountain bushes. I was constantly building around the cabin, carrying up big rocks (as big as I could handle) to stack around the low side as I was building it up to increase the size of the flat area across the front and west side.

A bigger problem was looming in that I now had no work and the band was just rehearsing and not doing much playing paid gigs, which I really needed it to do. What small amount of money I had left soon disappeared and we were for the first time facing life totally broke!

I stared driving down to the coast each Saturday morning and busking in the Fuengirola market to make enough euros to buy the weeks food and diesel for the van. It was tough and we were having to live very frugally indeed. This would continue for the next few months.

Cooking became an interesting affair. With no money to buy the propane/butane gas refills for the cooker, I had to get creative. I had learned how to build a solar cooker and set about putting one together in a wooden box about two feet square and 15 inches deep. I padded it out with cardboard and fashioned some reflectors using more cardboard cut into four trapezoid shapes and stuck together to form a square funnel with aluminium foil to reflect the suns rays into the centre.

A sheet of glass covered the box opening and inside I placed a steel tray, onto which I rested three glass jars half filled with water and the veggies I was going to cook. One would have some potatoes, another pinto beans and the other some chopped carrots or whatever I had. That would be tilted to face the sun in the morning and would be gradually turned by hand so it always faced the sun for about 3 hours, by which time the food was all cooked!

Believe it or not, the temperature inside there got as hot as any domestic oven, hot enough to bake bread, which I also did on those occasions when I actually could not afford to buy it. A pack of wholemeal flour would make several loaves and I was not about to pass up the chance to be this self sufficient!

Chelsea got to eat mostly what I did, with the occasional "treat" of a can of dog food here and there if my meal was going to be totally veggie, which happened often. With no fridge, I could not keep meat, butter or cheese, so I could only buy what would keep in a cool pantry, meaning veggies, fruit, potatoes and tinned stuff like sardines, tuna, pate or cerdo magro which is a cheap tinned ham. I also had cereal for breakfast and powdered skimmed milk which I made up as I needed it in a small jug.

The winter came late that year, thankfully. But once it started raining, things got very tough. The first major problem was the track was too steep even for the Land Rover when it rained. That marvellous vehicle had been my anchor, my rock all the time so far, but now even that began to fail me. Getting home in the dark, transferring stuff from the van to the Land Rover, then trundling up the hill was difficult or even impossible at times. I'd get a few yards up the hill and stop as all four wheels just spun on the slippery clay. Often, we had no choice but to get out and walk up the hill in the rain. Chelsea didn't seem to mind too much, but trying to carry a few shopping bags with a torch stuck in my mouth so I could see where I was going, slipping and sliding up that steep hill was not funny! Getting inside at last, drenched and tired only to find Chelsea was totally covered in mud was even less funny.

Another problem with these dark nights was a little thing called light. With no money to buy petrol for the generator, All I had were four small solar yard lights that I could charge up through the day and use at night, plus a pair of sealed 12 volt, 12 amp batteries that I hooked up to the van to charge up when I was driving and also to a small solar panel for the days I did not. I only had one 12 volt 10 watt flourescent light that I used indoors but that was really not enough to do anything more than read under. I had a bunch of rechargeable AA batteries for the torch, which I carged up using a small solar charging unit, so if I needed to go outside in the dark, I had the torch but no outside lights.

This went on through the winter, although the money situation perked up just after Christmas when I joined a new band that was actually gigging twice a week. That meant no more busking for a few euros and being able to buy gas and other important supplies as well as food and diesel. It also meant I could buy petrol for the generator. That meant some real light at night! I had managed to find a pile of discarded sealed 12 volt 12 amp batteries in the industrial estate where the band rehearsed and most of them were still good. I connected up a bank of 14 of them to give me a good useable 80 or so amps of electricity on full charge allowing for a 50 percent discharge. Whenever I ran the generator, the batteries got charged up, so I could run for a few nights just off batteries with some extra 12 volt lights I had.

I still had the problem with the Land Rover getting stuck on the steep track and quite often I would have to abandon it at night and then dig and/or jack it out of a rut the next day if the rain had stopped. I could not afford to have the track gravelled, because it was just too long and the rain would just wash the gravel down the slope. So that's the way it stayed and is still the same to this day.

The following year saw enough work in the band to get more things done on the farm and the general quality of life improving by a lot. Chelsea would come with me to the coast on the gigs until one night, on New Years Eve, she figured out how to get out of the van. I came out of a gig in Fuengirola at midnight to find her gone and the back doors of the van ajar. The town was in party mood and there were tons of people out on the streets.

I searched all over town and down to the beach road fearing she might have been run over, but found her trotting along the Paseo Maritimo on her own without a care in the world. I was licky that time, but the next time I was not so lucky.

I thought I had secured the back doors of the van so she could not get out again, but I hadn't figured on just how clever she was for a dog! Another gig in Fuengirola a few weeks later saw me return to an empty van. This time I did not find her. I slept on the coast that night in the bakc of the van near to where I had found her the last time, hoping she would come back to the same spot but she did not.

I phoned around local dog rescue places and eventually found she had been taken by the dog catcher to the local pound, although when I had called there earlier I was told they did not have her. It seems the handler had not scanned her for a chip, otherwise they would have contacted me. I had to jump through a few hoops to get her back (bureaucracy is very slow in Spain), but we were eventually reunited and we went back home. After that, she could not come to gigs with me but had to stay on the farm, which she was not happy about! But at least she was safe there.



... more will follow.