One of my favourite things about living in Mauritius is the music.
I don’t mean sega (a lively Creole sound with a great beat).
Or seggae – a cross between sega and reggae (which I’m a big fan of).
I mean the everyday stuff that I hear.
Mauritians are very musical, and will often spontaneously burst into song.
Right now, it’s the little girl across the road playing in her garden and singing to her toys. She’s very cute.
A little off-key, but cute.
Or sometimes it’s the lady next door, singing Ave Maria as she sweeps the yard or hangs out the washing.
Or her son, making up lyrics as he goes along. He songs usually complain about his mother making him do chores around the house (which makes me laugh), or talk of his dreams for a better future (sigh).
Or the builders up the road whistling while they work.
Sound travels here.
Even the birds twittering away in the trees, or the swishing of palm fronds, is music to my ears.
It’s lovely and relaxing, and it always makes me smile.
But then the dogs start barking.
Before I continue, let me set the record straight – I don’t hate dogs.
There are some I really like – Sam and Lyn’s Rottweiler, Betty (gorgeous); Mitzy from Rocksheen Villas (so sweet); Robin and Alain’s two cute, if spoilt and naughty, dachshunds, whose real names escape me as Robin has so many nicknames for them.
The reason I like them, is that they’re trained (well, the dachshunds, not so much – but they’re still cute), and they don’t roam the streets in packs, barking and waking me up in the middle of the night.
There are a lot of stray dogs in Mauritius.
A non-profit organisation called PAWS (Protection of Animals’ Welfare Society) does its bit – it takes in stray dogs, puppies, cats and kittens, sterilises them and then offers them up for adoption.
If you’re an animal lover, and are thinking about donating to a charity, give them some thought – they do a good job.
They also offer a paid sterilisation service, though they will sterilise pets from low-income households for free, or for a minimal fee. They’ll even pick you and your pet up if you don’t have transport. Again, for free, or for the cost of petrol.
There really is no excuse not to get it done.
(I’ve heard of some expats who pick up strays at the beach, shopping centre carparks etc and pay for their sterilisation, before releasing them again. Nice.)
Up until a few years ago, PAWS had a mobile clinic that set up in various spots around the island.
You could take your pets there, and they would sterilise them while you waited. If you couldn’t get there, they would pick you and the dog up, and drop you home again.
Our ex-landlord, Robert, took his two female dogs to one of these clinics, but refused to take the males.
It offended his masculinity.
Which reminds me of a story I heard – a friend offered to pay to sterilise her maid’s female dog, as it had given birth about four times in as many years, and, as a result, was sickly.
The maid accepted, but cried, saying that sterilisation was a sin, as the Catholic Church is against birth control.
Mmmm. And no comment.
To date, it hasn’t been part of the Mauritian culture to sterilise pets, but hopefully, things will change, helped along by PAWS’ education programs, and the fact that PAWS will even do it for free. Like everywhere else, money’s tight here.
As an aside, our housesitter, Amy, who was recently in Athens, was told that prior to the Olympics, the Greek government paid to catch and sterilise all the stray dogs, then released them back onto the streets. The Athenians then undertook to feed and look after them.
They are now a healthy, and attractive, addition the Athens tourist experience.
And, best of all, their numbers will reduce naturally.
Alf and I spent a few enforced weeks in Athens during that same lead up to the Olympics – at the time, we read in the English-language newspaper, that the government had considered poisoning the stray dogs, but decided against it, as tourists might find the sight (and smell?) of dead dogs off-putting.
I’m so glad they found a better alternative!
Back to Mauritius – the MSPCA vans occasionally do the rounds, chasing and catching any dog loose in the streets. If the dog is a pet, the owner can call the MSPCA, and pay to retrieve their dog.
Unclaimed dogs are put down.
Which finally, brings me to my point.
I get the whole sad business of the stray dogs – PAWS have a long and tough road ahead of them.
But why are there so many pets roaming the streets?
Where we live, any time between 4 and 6pm , there’ll be an explosion of sound, as owners return from work and let their dogs out. These dogs have collars, and appear well-cared for.
The dogs band together and run around the neighbourhood, barking at the dogs still secured in their front yards, and setting off a round of barking that’s repeated throughout the evening, and sometimes into the night.
They’re also a menace to drivers, and a pack of barking dogs running towards you when you’re out for an evening stroll, is intimidating to say the least.
If you want to exercise your dog, buy a leash, and take it for a walk – don’t be so bloody lazy!
Owning a pet comes with responsibilities – to the dog, and to your neighbours.
A dog’s not there just to guard your house while you’re out.
And your neighbours shouldn’t have to put up with incessant barking.
Sterilise your pet, train it, take it for walks, feed it properly, and show it some love.
Or don’t own a dog.
But if you do decide to take that walk, don’t forget to pick up, and dispose of, your dog’s poop – no-one wants to step in it!