Rabies is an increasing problem, especially in some new EU countries. Because most EU countries are rabies-free, people expect the newly admitted countries to be same – but this is not so.
In Slovakian, talking to a shepherd, I put out my hand for his Cuvac to sniff; wagging its tail, suddenly it leapt up to bite my face – my sunglasses stopped its teeth, but the glasses were shattered. On its way down its teeth took a chunk out of my wrist.
Reporting for International Sheepdog News, I meet all kinds of dogs, but this was the first time a sheepdog had behaved so uncharacteristically. First rule with any animal bite is to seek medical attention, and the local hospital took this incredibly seriously. The staff at the tiny hospital dealt efficiently with my wound, swabbed it out and bandaged me up – then I was interviewed by the doctor. Where had it happened, what was the dog, what identifying marks, name of owner – everything I could dredge up from my memory. I told them I had a preventative vaccine four years before (I now realise one should have this every two-three years), then I was taken off to the isolation section to await my fate.
The doctor contacted the police, who took the dog off for blood tests. The first test came back negative, but the dog could have been incubating the disease, so there would have to be two more tests at weekly intervals. I was allowed to go, but only on condition that I reported immediately I returned home to my local police station.
All the while I had an uneasy feeling – suppose the dog had been substituted? Animal vaccinations for a farmer earning less than £100 month would be expensive, and it is conceivable that as he had ten dogs, one might have had the treatment and the owner expected all the other dogs to be covered by the same paperwork. I knew the dog’s name, but what policeman would know the difference?
On my return our Government Ministry DEFRA’s website showed Slovakia – and many othe
HERDING SHEEP, COWS AND OTHER ANIMALS
Imagine waking up to sheep, goats and donkeys streaming past your hotel window, dogs darting behind them herding them along the street. A dream? No, this happens during the Festival of Transhumance at St. Remy-de-Provence in the South of France.
Transhumance takes place across Europe at the beginning of summer and again in autumn, and means hard work for dogs. Mountain communities from Slovenia to Spain celebrate the time when shepherds and their dogs take herds up to mountain pasture, and bring them down again when the weather turns cold. At St. Remy it used to take three weeks to drive the herds 20 miles a day up to the pasture, but today they go by lorry at night, as it is more comfortable for the animals. Once on the high pasture, the dogs act as sentries, guardians and protectors against predators.