Monday, 20 October 2008

A Ticking Off

l was asked to take over the kennels that K9 (in Tenerife) had been given from the council. On the phone Elsie (chairman of K9 also trouble shooter and fluent Spanish speaker) described the place in her usual understated way style, “Well dear, it is a bit rough, but you will soon get it sorted”
I did take note of the you and not the us, that was a big clue. Although to be fair Elsie was a lady who arranged things. Not a messy sod like me that piles into something without worrying about the consequences or cleanliness.

She had under described the kennels. There was 10 of them and 2 small alcoves. After a week or so I scrounged some wire,wood and a door and made an alcove into an 11th kennel.
The kennels themselves were ok. Breeze block, with proper weld mesh doors, and back sloping asbestos roofs. There was a hose pipe and running water. A centre drain that ran down the middle of the open air kennel passage, went underground to just under the compound wall and into the open air too an area l ended up calling “The Swamp”.
The problem was the filth. The kennel floors were about 5 to 8” deep in dry compacted dog poop and fleas and ticks ruled the place.

2 dogs in when we took over. One of the dogs was a German Pointer type that l called Danny the other a scruffy little mutt. Mutely went straight up to a foster home post bath and l did not have anything to do with him, he went to Germany for a fast re-home.

When we met the dogs looked like they had growths on, getting closer l realised it was bunches of tick’s that looked grey grapes hanging off them. I decided that while in theory you shouldn’t pull ticks off this was a no choice situation.
I bought the best tick killer l could find and soaked the dogs in it. After their wash l started to pull off handfuls of ticks and drowned them in left over tick killer.
It took about 3 hours to bath them and make sure that all the ticks were off them. The dogs were bleeding quite a bit by the end, a course of antibiotics was defiantly called for.
This was the opening skirmish in a war between the ticks and myself.

Danny had to stay in for some time, as we had no foster space or flights to Germany for him. His kennel was the first one cleaned, I left him tied up outside, he enjoyed sunning himself.

The next big shock came on the Friday, we had had the kennels for a couple of days and were still awaiting keys for the compound. The council informed us no one was allowed in on the weekend. l spent several hours outside the walls looking for a way in. No luck though l could not get in. It was surrounded by high walls, locked gates and rough ground. I have to say that was one of the worst weekends l had.

Elsie did manage to get a key by the following weekend thankfully. For the first weekend though, we had nowhere to put Danny, so we had to do what the council used to do. I put in several buckets of water in case one got knocked over and scattered lots of small bowls of dry dog food around. Danny got through the weekend ok.

I asked what happened on bank holidays and told oh same as weekends. As it turned out, on fiesta days, one of the council workmen that l got to know who that loved animals would come in and do a check, in his own time, to see the animals were ok.
He said If the kennels were full then every so often the vet would put everything down and it would start again. He felt, and l agreed that the dogs were better on the street, taking their chances.
In the kennels no one had cared if they fought or were hurt. At the end of the day they were only going to be put down. My friend used to let a lot of animals go but had to be careful he was not caught.

I had a heck of time trying to de-poop the kennels. The compaction was so dry that water ran off the top off it. I ended up with a sharp knife, digging it into it, and taking out bits to allow the water to seep under and help lift the mess. I gave up on gloves they kept tearing. It took me about a week of digging and scrubbing to clean the floors.
A few people did come along to help. They never stayed though once they saw what was needed.
Ticks were a constant problem. Every few minutes of digging l had to do a quick check to see what l need to pull off myself. Fleas l gave up on, they were to small and fast to bother about.

Cleaning the Kennel walls was in theory easy, no compacted dog poop. In practice all out war developed between the ticks and l. They lived deep in the cracks.
I used the strongest tick killer and disinfectant l could get my hands on. I would soak the walls, scrub them and flush them. The walls looked spotless.
l would put Danny in with bags on his feet. This was protection so he would not get poisoned by any disinfectant l had not managed to wash away. I would stand back from the kennel quietly talking to him. Within minutes whole battalions of ticks would swarm down the walls towards him, l have never seen the like.
I would haul him, out rampage into the kennel and slaughter ticks as fast as l could. They in turn would do a fast about turn and head for the cracks.
I tried to do it with myself as bait, not Danny, but l would not see so much as a head of a tick. I could only suppose it was body heat, or vibrations.
It took almost a month for me to kill all the ticks in about 4 of the kennels that were worst affected but l won eventually.

As a kennel became scrubbed and cleaned it was placed in use, by the end of the month K9 kennels were open and full with about 22 dogs.

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