I dream a lot. I can’t help it. But equally I don’t want to help it. My dreams are where all my ideas live, where I play everything out before they become a reality. In this way, my dreams are great, so long as I don’t get lulled into a dangerous cycle of keeping all my ideas solely as dreams. So one dream that I thought was nearing fruition, a dream tucked somewhere on my long, continually-being-added-to list of dreams, was the goal to have our own chickens.
I love eggs. I love poaching them, scrambling them, frying them and putting them into a skillet and cooking them on top of Moroccan spiced peppers. I love quiches, omelettes and Spanish tortilla (why else would I be in Spain?). And I love chickens too, for the funny noises they make, their odd look, the way they walk and of course because they give us eggs. My dog, Rocco however, does not like chickens.
Rocco, is our middle dog. He is the dappiest, daftest dog on this planet. We actually call him the ‘professor’ because we have a theory that he is so intelligent that his intelligence has done a full circle and he is also incredibly stupid. Stupidly sweet and the softest, sappiest, gentlest dog you could wish for, who is brilliant with our little man. But he does not like chickens.
Rocco is what the Spanish call a ‘Podenco’ – a type of hunting dog, which are commonly used here by hunters because they are the ninjas of the dog the world. They are sharp, they are stealth and they are incredibly fast but they do not like chickens.
Our nearest neighbours had about fifteen chickens. Do you notice how I used the past tense there? Yes, this story does not have a happy ending. Soobs left one morning to go to work and as he does every morning, he presses the control to open the gates, he presses the control to shut the gates. This morning in question, the gates did not shut behind him and Soobs was long gone to realise this.
As I do every morning, I let the dogs out so that can do their peeps and poops and have a good run about before they have something to eat. After about forty minutes, I began to wonder why they had not come back for breakfast. They ALWAYS come back for breakfast. Then the coldness set in. Don’t you hate that horrible coldness that sweeps over you? I headed out to the garden and saw that the gate was wide open. I walked up the lane and saw our eldest dog Pancho sitting patiently by our neighbours fence. There is only one reason why he would be waiting patiently when his brother is off galavanting and that’s usually because he is too big and not lithe enough to follow ninja dog through small holes in fences.
I entered our neighbours garden and just about managed not to step on a chicken. Its one eye stared back at me. I’m not sure where the other eye was, but it was not in its head next to the other one. There was a hole through his body where his chest used to be. I didn’t have to walk far before I found another two, both having suffered similar fates; some parts missing, holes where feathers should be. I saw one chicken cowering in the bush and doing its best to camouflage its red and brown furs among the green foliage. I told it that if it knew what was good for it, it would stay where it was.
After what seemed like a long time, Rocco made an appearance. He came bouncing and leaping up the path, as he does when he is pleased to see you and pleased with himself. The wonderfully generous dog that he is, bought me a present, too. A chicken. Another dead one.
There is some good news to this story, one of the chickens survived. But the bad news is that due to its severe post traumatic stress, it seems she has gone from laying daily eggs to laying none whatsoever.
Rocco left us with a lot of apologising to do and many chickens to replace. Our neighbours understandably were angry with us, although I did not point out to them that although it was our fault for not ensuring the gates were closed, perhaps if the hole in their fence had been fixed, Rocco might not have got in. When someone is upset, it is a terrible thing to make them feel worse. And to make it worse for us, a few days beforehand, (like fate couldn’t have planned this a bit better) our said neighbours gave us a bag full of the most delicious eggs, which we were still eating long after their bearers had been so savagely torn to shreds. We didn’t want to waste them, you see.
So what does one do when their loveliest, softest dog doubles up as chicken-killer in his free-time? As we have lots of land, we thought about cordoning off an area and letting the chickens be free in their own space, but although this might stop Rocco from killing them, it would not stop him and our other dogs from terrorising them, jeering at them through the fence and basically making their lives hell. I doubt very much that chickens living in these conditions would lay any eggs. And having chickens in a coup for most of the day, entirely defies the point of having natural-living, free range chickens.
So does this really mean I will never be able to tick this dream off on my list? Can a seven year-old dog be trained to live with chickens? I would really love to know, otherwise it really is bye bye to my chicken dreams.