On Thursday morning, the fifth of May, 2011, a man shot our dog, Ruskin.
Ruskin has been with us since the 12th of February, 2004.
He is still with us. Ruskin lives.
The man in this car shot Ruskin:*
It appears to be a Nissan Terrano of a colour Nissan call “bluish green”. You can see the man in the car.
The bullet went in here:
And it’s still lodged where it came to rest some distance from the point of entry:
We and Ruskin are very fortunate the bullet missed vital organs. (Sorry: the white line down the middle is the space between two sheets of A3 paper, used to convert K’s studio window into a radiographer’s light table. Aside from his collar, the strange object near his neck is his ID chip.)
Back to the view of the car, from just after the shot (I had to get my phone/camera out while running down the hill with Sandy on the lead in my other hand).
Where is this? Here:The red dot on the satellite map above represents me, with Sandy (on the lead), whence I photographed the car with my ‘phone camera. The red rectangle is the Nissan Terrano.
I saw the man, not tall, perhaps about sixty years old, in a bright red Lacoste-type shirt, holding a rifle, but naturally I shouted. And he realized the dog he’d just shot wasn’t alone, and got into his car before I could get the phone out and into camera mode and “shoot” him. Sandy and I ran down the hill…but his car, aimed to the southwest, got around the bend on the dirt track (its parked location in the photo is a paved street) before I could get there to read or photograph the registration plate.
What is the red X?
The red X is the shell of the bullet. Once we had the vet’s statement that it was definitely a small calibre bullet and not some kind of BB, birdshot, buckshot, or such; as I knew the man certainly hadn’t leant down to pick up anything before getting into his car, I was sure the “brass” must be there to be found. And so it was. I had no spiffy crime-scene numbered ooh-jahs to indicate its presence (and I couldn’t even see it in the view finder for the general view). But my trusty Opinel worked fine to indicate its location.
Here it is, scanned in. (The extra metal object in the second image is a pair of tweezers holding the shell in a rotated position, because it would normally roll back to position 1.)
And here is my impromptu “artist’s impression” of the shooter, since I missed shooting him with my ‘phone camera, before he got back into his car.
And a similar “artist’s conception” of a man seen by both my mother-in-law and me the previous day (4 May 2011) as we were walking the dogs.
That man (in the blue “polo” type shirt) appeared in a field with what looked like binoculars and watched us (along with Ruskin and Sandy) intently. We both noticed him. We both noticed that he seemed to be looking more at Ruskin than at us (Ruskin was on the lead, of course – only being allowed off it normally on the morning walk, to run home to breakfast). We thought the man was strange, and both of us commented at the time he was like a stalker or paparazzo. To me it wasn’t clear whether he was carrying binoculars or a camera. Gwen (who had her spectacles on) is sure it was binoculars.
Since the shooting, I am fairly sure it was the same man. We were “creeped out” by him (the paparazzo/stalker) and turned homewards quickly; but now we wish we had gone nearer to him, up around the corner, as we might have seen a car.
The “artist” is not sure at all about the height of the man in relation to the height of the car. The artist is not sure about the hat a non-descript pale-coloured hat if it was indeed there. The rifle and the shirt were such strong attention-attractors for the few seconds I saw the man - the artist wouldn’t swear the trousers were blue jeans, either.
Additional evidence is available: We have taken license numbers/registrations/matriculas from a few Nissans we have seen that we believe are not guilty. There is an official statement from the vet, and Amanda’s deposition to the Mossos d’Esquadra [Catalan police].
(Above: Ruskin wounded, bandaged being looked after by Grandma and Sandy.)
Why are we re-hashing this now?
On Thursday, 27 September 2012, we went to court.
Now, in the interim, many things have happened. I was called – as I thought – to court last May. But that was only for the rather useless purpose of officially stating that I wished to pursue the case. We are hoping to recuperate the fairly symbolic amount of €70 which were the vet’s fees (accompanied by a somewhat menacing: “as long as the bala doesn’t move. If it moves, you could be looking at much more expense in surgery to remove it.”)
We reported the crime: I made my official statement to the Mossos d’Escuadra – the Catalan police
But also a crime was committed. Or several crimes. It is illegal to shoot a dog, except in self defense. And the weapon was an illegal calibre, except for use on officially designated target ranges.
I want to leap straight to the going to court part.
But it also seems necessary to relate that the police let us know that they had indeed found the perpetrator, and that he had admitted his guilt, claiming that he thought Ruskin was a fox.
This is about as similar as I can find Ruskin (a Podengo) and a Fox. Can you tell which is which? Local foxes – here’s one I saw between the village where I buy milk and bread and the village where I buy meat for the dogs – seem less orange, wouldn’t you say:
It is equally illegal to shoot a fox as to shoot a dog. One might imagine that a self-professed hunter (meaning goes out after partridges and perhaps wild boar with a gun, not that he rides to hounds) would know the difference between one of the commonest breeds of hunting dogs in all of Iberia, and a fox. Maybe.
Catalan court – was it Catalan court?
The clerk (we suppose he was the clerk) called my name and that of the admitted criminal.
We filed into the small, empty courtroom. K was allowed to sit at the back as an observer. We were not sworn in. When I spoke later to our friend, the village Justice of the Peace, he said “In Spanish court you have the right to lie.” I am not sure to what degree he was joking. No-one was sworn in, so perjury was not an option.
It was immediately evident that the judge, a Britney Spears lookalike, didn’t speak Catalan and wasn’t going to try. In fact it appeared she did not even read Catalan well enough to understand the statements in the dossier before her. Her first statement was to the effect that the defendant was accused of shooting the dog in the foot. I was flabberghasted and looked at the little clerkly man who had indicated he would translate. He translated. I said “What’s all this about a foot? He was shot in the shoulder (I indicated on my own body.) and the bullet lodged about here (gesturing). I have the x-ray here.”
Later Keith guessed that she had supposed the Catalan word “espatlla” (shoulder – seriously dissimilar to the Castilian word “hombro”) looked a bit like “patilla” (little foot?). That may add dyslexia to inability to speak the language of the country. I don’t think she should be in that job. Seriously.
She asked me whether I could identify the accused as the perpetrator. I said no, that all along I had said I was too far away to make a positive identification. As the drawings show, only a “gist” of a person is there. If you showed me a six-foot tall African, I could say that was not the person. But among medium-short retired guys whose wives iron their jeans, I couldn’t select one from the other, at 50 metres without my spectacles.
Then she asked him whether he admitted shooting Ruskin. He said he had thought it was a fox.
I inquired whether I could ask a question, and I asked whether it would not be equally against the law to shoot a fox? The judge admitted it would.
Sadly the whole event was so non that I failed to inquire officially whether it was not illegal to carry that particular weapon (I understand it should’ve been in a locked box in the vehicle, or at a recognized target range).
The judge called the perpetrator up to the bench to look at the photo of the car.
Here it gets interesting: He said it wasn’t his car.
He said he could tell it wasn’t his car, because it had a “mataburros” (actually he probably said “matamulas“, which is a more common name around here). A mataburros is one of these:
I’d call it a cowcatcher. They put them on the radiator grill of the car, I suppose really to stave off brush or branches, more than mules, burros, or even wild boars. Now, why would he mention this? Why would he say it’s not his car if he’s admitted to being the shooter?
You have now seen the photo, whatever its quality, that I took of the car. The police themselves identified it from the photo as a Nissan Terrano. (I found out they could do this so instantaneously because Nissan Terranos are frequently used as police vehicles around here.) The police told me, when they saw the photo, that it was a Nissan Terrano with a matamulas on the front of it. Naturally, I’ve stared at the photo a lot, and I can’t see it. Or not see it for that matter. But I deferred to the professional discernement of the police.
Nonetheless, that the perpetrator even raised the subject seems very strange to me. Why mention it at all? Somebody (who?) has been discussing Nissan accessories with him in relation to my photo? Should he even have seen the photo?
And if he admits to doing the shooting, what explanation would he suggest for the photo? Does he fantasize someone rang up someone with a Nissan Terrano and asked to have it parked just there for a photo opportunity? I’m mystified.
That was about the end of the courtroom drama. The clerk informed us that we’d be receiving a complete transcript of the procedings, and information about how to collect the €70 in veterinary fees we will presumably be awarded. Keith also asked – or stated, rather – that he had been advised by the vet that if the bullet should move, later, it might require expensive surgery to remove, and wished to be on record as having mentioned this, because it would be an additional expense caused by the crime.
So I am awaiting the transcript.
I have seen (when I had to deliver a more formal copy of the vet bill to a clerk of the court in May 2012) the actual dossier and I know that it has the physical brass shell in it in an evidence bag.
Until that transcript and further information comes, we are once again in limbo, or abeyance, or whatever state of undecidedness seems apropriate.
When we left the courtroom, Keith went off to the clerks office, which left me and the shooter in the ante-room. He was chuckling to himself. I was staring incredulously, because I still found (and still find) the whole situation bizarre and unlikely. I had to say something. I asked him if he’d had his spectacles checked recently, if he couldn’t tell a coniller from a fox. But he just went on chuckling.
I will just mention one other strange thing…
On the sixteenth of December, 2011 – six months after the shooting (and when we’d finally rescued the Lady only the previous week), there was a knock at the door.
A young woman was outside. I spoke to her (I actually misidentified her as somebody from the Animal Protection association), and she introduced herself as the daughter of the man who shot Ruskin!
I quickly decided that I shouldn’t be talking to her, and called up to Keith to come down.
Strange – no one would tell us who the police had arrested, accused, &c., despite all of our following of Nissan Terranos, or lying in wait for drivers to come back to parked ones…but she could find us with little difficulty. I suppose because she knew which village, and had only to ask at the bar, which is the house of the dog who was shot? to find us.
She told a long sob-story about how her father loved animals, that they kept ferrets at home, along with dogs and cats…that her mother has Alzheimer’s disease and her father was unemployed [except for his part-time job checking on the "coto"?], &c. and would we please drop the charges.
Keith explained that it was, and is, not a civil matter, but a case of lawbreaking. As far as we know, if the police are made aware of a crime being committed, and discover the person who has committed it, then they hand the information over to the prosecution service, and the criminal is prosecuted. The people who may have filed the original complaint are not “in charge” in any way of the continuance of the case. If we were to stop pressing to recover the €70 – which of course doesn’t take into account anguish, anxiety, lost work, &c. – the admitted criminal is still liable for penalties such as gaol- or prison-time and fines, for lawbreaking.
When the transcript arrives, I will bring this up to date.
The end of the tail…
On the 14th of November, 2013, I was summonned to the Town Hall to receive and sign for an official document, which I subsequently turned in at a local bank to receive the €75.51 that we had been awarded by the Barbie-doll judge.
There is a lot of disagreement in this village about feral cats. Owing to the fact that both Sandy and The Lady will chase cats, and very occasionally catch them, and (in The Lady’s case) eat them; a decree came down that it should be Sandy and The Lady who were always on the lead and not Ruskin (indifferent to cats), instead of the two Podengos.
Ruskin enjoyed his new freedom. It was lovely to see; although boring that Sandy (who when not cat-chasing stays perfectly at heel) must be on the lead; and that The Lady almost never gets to run free unless we drive her to another village (she’s fast, and can get back to the village long before us, if we once let her off in nearby fields).
On Friday, the 31st of January, 2014, Ruskin lingered behind on the evening dogwalk to visit a neighbour’s front garden and breath in the essence of the neighbour’s lovely new dogess. K and the bitches had come home.
He said to me: If Ruskin isn’t back by 9:30 so the dogs can go to bed in their places it’ll be too late to watch a DVD this evening. So I went out to fetch him.
The lovely new bitch lives nearest to the highway and the defunct petrol station. I saw no dog. In the petrol station, mossos (Catalan police) were parked, watching for speeding Andorrans, I suppose. They claimed they hadn’t seen any dog, and reprimanded me for not being clad in a reflective safety vest. I walked back away from them calling…
Ruskin appeared but instead of coming to me to tell me all about it, he ran straight into the steady stream of pre-weekend traffic. I heard the thud as something like a black Clio hit him on the left hip. Somehow he turned around and ran back to me. And collapsed on the grassy verge. With little hope, I clipped the lead to his collar and gave a little tug (hea had, after all, run all the way home with a bullet in him) but he could not get up again. There was not a mark on him.
There is no mobile signal in our house, and like nearly everybody, we’ve given up having a landline. I tried ringing various neighbours, and finally got one. I begged her to go next door and tell K to come urgently up to the petrol station with the car. Then I waited, stroking Ruskin’s cheek, as he lay, flat on his side on the grass. I was also, intermittently, weeping hysterically and trying to signal to the police, who were not more than 20 metres away, with their window open, waving my phone in the air, calling for help in all the languages I could think of.
I gather that responding to residents in distress is not among the duties of the Mossos.
Finally K arrived. We gently lifted Ruskin into the boot (where he liked to travel) trying to move him as little as possible, as it seemed flatter than the seats and covered him with my shawl.
We set off driving towards the vet while I rang. Once there had been an emergency service; but I discovered this has been discontinued at “our” vet and “centralised” to a slightly less nearby clinic. And one we’ve never been to.
But when we arrived and opened the boot we discovered that Ruskin hadn’t made it. He had died en route to the emergency vet. K says, that when we heard a sound from the boot, and I said “At least we know he is still alive,” it was probably his final breath.
The bitches still have to be walked. I don’t think I have taken them out once, in the past four and a half months without weeping at some point in the walk.
He came to us on the 12th of February, 2004 – so nearly ten years he was with us.
I scarcely invite people any more. I think I invited people because I wanted them to meet Ruskin.
Sandy and The Lady are lovely; but they haven’t invented barter. Sandy hasn’t even learnt to go back around a tree when she’s on the lead…
We thought Podengos live to 15 or so. But not if they run into traffic.