Tuesday. A cat stuck in cladding and a runaway dog. I should be out gallivanting, or at least celebrating the development of antibodies after my second vaccination. Instead, I’m standing around outside a supermarket in 30+C heat.
Others are trying to coax out a cat trapped in a narrow tube of cladding. How the hell did it get up there, anyhow?
The dog, a massive, magnificent beast, had been adopted from the town kennels last week, but promptly broke free and ran off from his new family before he could be properly introduced. Everyone involved spent an anxious week after reports that he was hanging around his new home, seen at night but refusing to be caught.
It’s easy to be critical of municipal dog kennels; the town dog pound, or ‘canil’. On the whole, I prefer these civic concrete bunkers with morose dogs nosing through bars, to the alternative, which is scraping dogs off from roadsides. The Olhão canil provides food and shelter, with a staff who, if there were such a thing as social justice, would be adequately rewarded for hulking around 20kg bags of dog food and shifting tons of dog poo while avoiding the maws of some difficult dogs. But no. They are on casualised contracts and the minimum wage. They appear to be scorned by the other municipal workers who breeze around in shiny new fleets of vans, smoking through their masks. The canil recently got a ‘new’ van: a hand-me-down from the bombeiros. It refuses to start except after many maledictions against local saints. It finally replaced the old van which had self-combusted.
After nightfall, the canil staff went out to capture the runaway dog. He came to them, people he knew and trusted. He is now safe in his new home. On the other side of Olhão, some dedicated people, including the local PAN representative, managed to free the cat stuck in the gaily decorative cladding, after the supermarket had closed.
Wednesday. The canil staff look tired and a little bit teary after their efforts last night. A few years ago a group of us got permission to walk the dogs from the canil. Our objective is to exercise and socialise the most adoptable dogs. Every successful adoption is a small victory. Today, we take out the easiest dogs, as usual, then a new dog comes out for the first time. He is euphoric and practically seems airborne. Some have to be carried or dragged out the first time, but then realise there’s no harm in walkies and are happy; tails up, laughing. We walk the dogs on Wednesday and Friday mornings, before the heat kicks in. If you live in Olhão and would like to join us, please email me, firstname.lastname@example.org. There is probably a similar group in your town, wherever you are in the Algarve.
Friday. Cats and supermarkets don’t mix. When a stray cat appears in a super- or hypermarket warehouse, it is clearly not welcome. It could activate the alarm system, destroy sacks of pet food, or pee and poo all over the place. Local councils have no answer to the problem. They don’t have cat shelters to take in these animals and where private charities or ‘associações’ exist, (such as ADAPO*) they are usually already overloaded, overcrowded. We have reached our limits. What happens, in fact, is that the supermarkets have acquired their own traps, or they contract pest control companies to do the job. We don’t know what becomes of the captured cats. They may be dumped in the countryside somewhere, unsterilised and perhaps with illnesses or injuries. Or worse. Certainly, the municipal vets are not informed.
ADAPO is appealing for donations for a campaign of trap-neuter-return which will target specific colonies of street cats in Olhão, starting with large numbers at the Olhanense stadium, the Municipal Piscinas area, Olhão cemetery and other sites. We work in conjunction with trusted local vets. ADAPO volunteers will capture the cats, and transport them to the surgery where they are examined, sterilised, receive a long-lasting antibiotic and rest overnight before they are returned to their colonies.
All cats will also get a microchip and anti-rabies vaccine, legal requirements, funded by Olhão Municipal Council. We welcome your suggestions for names. ADAPO will photograph each cat captured and publish details of their return on our Facebook page.
If you can donate, ADAPO will be able to pay the vets for the surgery for as long as funds allow. Please give a reference for any donations: Olhão Urban Cats Project. Details for donations are as follows:
NIB: 0033 0000 4526918084305
ADAPO main FB page (in Portuguese): https://www.facebook.com/adapo.pt/
ADAPO Bigodes/ Whiskers for Adoption (in Portuguese and English): https://www.facebook.com/ADAPO
For more information, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
*ADAPO - Associação de Defesa dos Animais e Plantas de Olhão. Founder: Célia Caravela