One of the beauties of living on Claudio Alvargonzales street in the Cimavilla neighborhood is our proximity to the Jardines de la Reina (The Queen’s Gardens), a beautiful little oasis of green grass and giant palm trees filled with benches overlooking the Puerto Deportivo (Sport Port) marina. During the day, the park is filled with seniors strolling arm and arm, parents pushing strollers, young people laughing together on their way to school, bicyclists and dog walkers…lots of dog walkers. At the edge of the park is a lovely glassed-in bar called the Terrace at the Queen’s Garden, with many outdoor tables looking out on the park and people enjoying coffee in the morning and gin-tonics (pronounced hin-tonik) or vino later in the day.
Since this park is only a couple blocks from our apartment and is our closest access to grass, we have become frequent visitors. Every morning for the past ten days we have stumbled out of bed, thrown on some clothes and a coat and dragged ourselves to the park to let Wilma go potty. Somewhere between the 8th floor apartment and the park, our mood would start to shift from utter annoyance at having to go outside so early to almost total appreciation that we get to live in such a gorgeous place. We have seen some inspiring sunrises and been able to enjoy the city gently waking up after a long quiet night of covid-related curfew from 10pm to 6am. The street sweepers are out doing their part to keep the city clean and there are a few other dog walkers as well.
Maybe if we only had to repeat this ritual once per day, we might have been more tolerant, but sadly we faced the same routine at 9:30pm every night so that Wilma could get her business done before curfew. We resorted to laughing and desperately offering each other “1000 Euros if you take her outside on your own this time!”
Something needed to be done to allow us a more leisurely morning and an uninterrupted evening. When we lived in The Henry Apartments in Tacoma, Wilma got used to going up stairs to the roof park designed just for dogs complete with indoor-outdoor grass. As a result, she associated the phrase, “Do you want to go upstairs?” with relieving herself. We tried asking her that and leading her to our lovely terrace but she looked horrified at the thought of defacing our deck. Her look said she thought we were barbarians. So down we went to the Queen’s Garden, once again.
Rocky had the brilliant idea to purchase a patch of indoor-outdoor grass for our deck so we could recreate what our princess was used to. When we moved here, we made a commitment to purchasing local and not relying on delivery, even though we could use Amazon Espana, the Spanish version. Because Gijon is so dog-friendly, we were sure to find something we could use in one of the many boutique “stores for spoiled dogs.” After inquiring in a few places where we were told they had never heard of such a thing and certainly didn’t carry it, we met a woman who initially gave us hope. “Ah, yes! I have heard of that,” she said in Spanish. Then she added, shaking her head, “Only the Americans use those.” Schooled. Even as we attempted to acclimate to the Spanish way of life, we could not help but slip back into our American commercialism and comfort-driven ways. We slinked out of the store, hoping she had not recognized that we were in fact, Americans, but knowing that she probably had.
Then we did what any good American consumer would do. We found what we were looking for on Amazon, but sadly not on Amazon Espana. (After all, only Americans use this product, right?) It was only $30, until we added taxes, shipping, etc. Remembering that we had been willing to pay each other a grand to take the dog out, we decided it was worth it and placed our order.
Yesterday, the treasured patch of faux-grass arrived. We unfurled it into a cozy corner of the terrace away from prying eyes so our little princess could have her privacy. She immediately ran to it. This was going to work! Then she proceeded to lie down, roll around and stretch as though it were her very own yoga mat. Later, we tried the trusty, “Want to go upstairs?” phrase on her and led her to the mat when it was her normal potty time. She looked at it, sniffed and ran to the front door. Ugh. We got our coats and walked back to the Queen’s Gardens, reminding ourselves that we lived in a beautiful place, and weren’t we lucky to be able to take so many walks every day?
This time while we were in the Queen’s Gardens, I collected a few choice smells on paper towels. If any of our new Gijon neighbors were watching, I’m sure they chalked it up to the “Crazy Americans.” When we got home, I wiped those choice smells on the faux-grass. Wilma turned her head from side to side like she was trying to understand what we were up to. About an hour later, she peed on our new terrace garden!! We danced around and praised her like she’d just learned to play the piano. Later on she did both numbers on her new Secret Garden while her proud parents looked on.
This morning, we got up, rolled out of bed and stayed in our PJs. We let Wilma out on the terrace and made coffee while she took care of her own needs. We recognize our “bougie” ways and we are OK with it. There are other ways to acclimate that we can embrace more fully, like hanging our clothes to dry on the line and giving up our car. We know we will continue to get our 10-15,000 steps in every day as we explore the city on foot. We will be able to choose when we want to go for a walk though, and that, My Friends, is priceless.