We are on holiday at the moment on Boa Vista, which is one of the Cape Verde islands off the west coast of Africa. It’s a beautiful location, perfect at this time of year, as the temperature is around 24 degrees, (it gets much hotter in the summer months), and there is a continual warm, though sometimes rather brisk, breeze.
The people on Boa Vista (and Sal, it’s neighbouring island) are friendly and kind, and the ambiance is relaxed and slow. “No stress” as the locals continually say.
We have been really lucky to see whales off the beach on this trip and have seen turtles when we previously visited in the autumn. But it’s the stray cat and dog population which always carries away my heart every time.
This holiday has taken the same pattern as every other one we have ever been on. From day one, I am searching out the local stray cats and dogs and pilfering food from the hotel restaurant in order to to regularly feed them. I can’t even begin to explain the pleasure this gives me. Unlike my thoroughly spoilt moggies at home who look rather condescendingly at any food I give them, take one bite and saunter off, these stray animals will munch gratefully and continually on anything you can give them. Presumably as they need to make the most of food offered when it is.
The cats seems to live around the hotel – presumably tolerated for their mousing skills, and the dogs live on the beach.
They are all incredibly gentle and the dogs will sit with you at the end of your sunbed for the day as if to mark you as their own. The cats, less loving as would be expected, saunter off after they have consumed my latest supply, but will come chasing me down the hotel thoroughfare when they next catch sight of me. I am beginning to understand how the Pied Piper felt, as I am surrounded by 5 or 6 miaowing moggies looking expectantly at my bulging bag as I leave the breakfast hall.
Andy, my husband, puts up with this twice daily practice with a certain resigned grumpiness. I think he worries that will be get thrown out of the hotel due to my constant food thievery, and being a man who doesn’t like any sort of attention grabbing scene, has to deal with a Mrs Dolittle sitting surrounded by a canine or feline menagerie for various parts of the day.
The hotel staff are ambivalent about these practices, and it very much depends on the individual hotel. When like minded guests start trading experiences, (yes I always gravitate towards fellow animal lovers), there are always horror stories of being stopped by staff and told off for hiding bags of food! The worst experience I ever had however was a stand up row with a hotel employee on Sal, who told me I couldn’t feed the cats. To say that woman received the sort of wrath that I reserve for what I consider to be the very worst sort of people, is an understatement. I imagine she had to go and have a lie down after our altercation. Needless to say, I carried on feeding the cats.
At this hotel on Boa Vista, there was a story circulating last night, (amongst the animal lovers), that one security guard was throwing stones at the dogs from the beach. I reported this to the manager, and was faithfully told that this was not hotel policy, and the security company would be warned that this was not acceptable. Another guest was firing off a couple of emails, so hopefully it has been noted that this is not in any way, shape or form behaviour that can be tolerated.
The rest of the hotel guests seem mostly to ignore me when I’m animal feeding as if I’m doing something weird. A small minority will come over and coo and ahh at whatever little furry I am feeding, but a lot of them look at me disdainfully and some even downright aggressively, as if I am doing something wrong which I find sad. Particularly when they have young children with them who are clearly not being taught a very positive message. I feed the animals away from the food and beverage areas, so am genuinely mystified by any annoyance it could cause.
Kindness to animals should be ingrained in all of us. After all, it was an accident of birth that you ended up as a human. Animals don’t lie or deceive, they don’t ask much of us and their love is unconditional. I guess I would have to admit that I prefer animals to most people. My biggest problem comes of course, as the holiday ends. I’m usually in tears as I feed them all one last time, praying that some likeminded person is getting off the plane today who will take up the mantle.
So next time you are on holiday and you see a beach dog or hotel cat, think of me and stow away a little snack for them in your bag. They will love you forever, and I promise you will feel that you have done something that is a little bit special that day.
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