There’s a common belief people identify as one of two personality types: you’re either a cat person, or you’re a dog person, and never the twain shall meet. Of course, there are also those who aren’t ‘animal people’ at all, but we all know that’s just code for being a psychopath. Or allergic. Anyway, whatever gender, or non-gender, you associate with, whether you’re a good person, a bad person or somewhere in between, no matter how young or how old you are, there’s this generalisation – thank you internet – that you must declare your allegiance to the feline or canine species and stay faithful to that species for the rest of your days.
I myself have often been lumped into the cat person category – ‘crazy cat lady’, to be more specific. I can see why people might think this. I have two cats who I love more dearly than I could ever love any human being. I have the Japanese kanji symbol for cat tattooed on my neck (there’s a story that goes with that). I have another tattoo of yet another Japanese symbol, the enso circle, that’s been fashioned into a curled up cat on my wrist (there’s a story that goes with that too). I wear a lot of leopard. One of my writing pseudonyms is Kit Willow (and Willow was the name of my best friend’s cat back home). I make friends with stray cats in the street, going so far as to give them names. I have a fascination with big cats – as in tigers, lions, panthers, pumas, cheetahs and even the local Ibiza genet. But you might be surprised to know, I don’t consider myself a cat person at all. Well, maybe a little bit, but in my heart I think I am a dog person.
I love dogs. I have always loved dogs. I have always been a dog person. Until I moved out of home anyway (which, umm, was about 20 years ago). I had a German Shepherd called Sarah (yes weird name for a dog – it was the 70s, blame my mum and Fleetwood Mac) who I loved with all my heart for the first 18 years of my life. I still have framed photos of her on my mantle. After that I had a little black terrier – who was the Toto to my Dorothy. In fact, her name was Toto. I’m shedding a little tear now as I remember her. OK, so as always, I’m digressing. I was a dog person, then I left home and lived in apartments and couldn’t have a dog, so I got a cat. The cat that started it all. The cat that moved all the way across the world to Ibiza with me. The most amazing cat that ever lived (sadly, she’s in kitty heaven now). And the cat that made everyone come to think of me as a cat person.
Which brings us to today. Recently, the dog person in me has started to rear her head – or prick her ears up, however you want to envision it. You see, I’ve been thinking lately it would be nice to have a dog again. A dog would make me take nice long walks every day, get me away from the computer, off Instagram and just generally out in nature more. But, alas, I live in an apartment and no matter how big it is (the people next door have a Great Dane living in the same size flat!), I just don’t want to have two cats and a dog in a place without a garden. And I don’t want to move. You see my dilemma?
Enter Sa Coma. A dog shelter in the countryside near San Rafael that’s in desperate need of volunteers, donations and obviously new homes for their dogs. Dogs end up at Sa Coma for all kinds of reasons – some are found while they’re wandering the island lost, and need to be reunited with their owners. Others have very been abandoned, by people who can no longer care for them and very sadly, some have been hurt by horrible humans or injured by cars or other animals. All of the dogs need rehoming, but while they’re staying in Sa Coma, they obviously need to be cared for, fed, watered and – this where volunteers (and me!) come in – walked.
When I first learned that you could volunteer to walk the shelter dogs at Sa Coma, I felt a little bit of trepidation. What if it was too sad? What if my dog escaped while I was walking it? What if (gasp!) it didn’t like me? What if it bit me? What if I accidentally adopted a dog, even though I know I can’t have one in my apartment? But as with most things in life, I realised very quickly there was no point in thinking about the what ifs of the situation. Because forget all the negative what ifs – WHAT IF IT’S AMAZING?
I arrived at Sa Coma, dressed in my very best Sporty Spice attire – after reading the website instructions about volunteering and packing a bottle of water and a container for the dogs to drink out of – and was so happy to see a host of people from all walks of life happily traipsing up and down the camino and in the nearby fields with dogs of all shapes and sizes (though many were on the larger scale). What a beautiful thing. There were elderly men and women, there were families with kids, there were super young English girls, there were big tough guys, there were people in groups, there were plenty of people walking solo… and there was me!
I have to be honest – I thought on that first walk that my dog was totally going to fall in love with me and want to come home with me, but I quickly realised (especially after the second and third walk), they don’t see you like that. You are their connection to nature, to the world outside their cages, but they’re more interested in just being outside than who is on the other end of the leash (in the beginning anyway – of course if you walk the same dog on a regular basis, you could build up a bond with it). But what I didn’t realise was just how incredible it would be to watch a dog’s mood and body language change from the time they are led out of the shelter (a little bit timid and pensive), to about 30 minutes later when they are bounding in the grass with happiness. You really do see exactly what a difference you can make in their lives, even if it is just for a short time a couple of times a week.
The sad reality is however, that is just two hours of the dog’s day. For the rest of the day they’re confined to the equivalent of a jail cell, with a concrete wall and with no regular affection or companionship. Don’t get me wrong – they’re treated well, and always looked after, but it is an animal shelter, just like a pound you might find anywhere else in the world. They’re not all running free and being best friends like a canine commune, like we’d love to imagine. They’re sad. They’re lonely. They need love. If you’re in Ibiza and you’re like like me and you’re not in a position to adopt a dog, then please think about volunteering your time to walk some dogs, and bring some temporary happiness to their days. Or donate some money to contribute to their food and vet bills, and the general shelter running costs.
But if you are thinking about getting a dog – please please adopt, don’t shop! And if you’re a cat person, I have some good news! There are also cats and kittens waiting for adoptions at Sa Coma too. I think it is possible to be both a dog and a cat person.
Sa Coma invites volunteers to walk dogs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9am to 11.30am, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3pm to 5pm (in winter, summer hours are 6pm to 7.15pm). Adoption times are Monday to Friday from 12pm to 2pm.