Brunete, Spain: A Lesson for Dog Owners Who Don’t Clean up After Their Pets

This is a great story of how one town in Spain, just outside of Madrid, chose to deal with dog owners who don’t clean up after their dogs: send the poop to the guilty owner’s doorsteps in unmarked packages. The idea began with the mayor, who called it a “direct marketing” effort:

After nearly two years in office, he said, he had visited with some 220 citizens in their homes, and the subject of dog owners was the one constant complaint. As spring approached this year, when children started going to the parks again, he decided to try what many here are calling “direct marketing.”

The dog owners got their packages — white boxes bearing the seal of this town and labeled “lost and found” — within hours.

Signing for the curious parcels, they must have been intrigued, though surely unsuspecting.

So far, the boxes seem to be extremely effective compared with Brunete’s earlier campaign, which involved a remote control specimen (very lifelike) that was used around town to get people’s attention. It followed. It banged into shoes. And it generally drew laughs. There was some improvement in behavior. But it did not last long.

And as far as how effective the campaign has been?

Delivering 147 boxes of the real stuff seems to have produced a far more lasting effect in this town of about 10,000 residents. The mayor guesses a 70 percent improvement even now, several months after the two-week campaign.

The sting operation worked because dogs are registered in this city:

The sting operation worked like this: Volunteers were instructed to watch for negligent dog owners and then to approach their dogs to pet them. After a few flattering remarks about the beauty of said dog, they asked what breed it was. Then they asked the dog’s name.

Back at city hall, where more than 500 residents have their pets registered, that was enough information to get to an address.

So this is a case of private shaming, but it seems to have worked in this town. I wonder if it could work in a city like New York.

Saving Real Oviedo

Real Oviedo, a soccer club in Spain, has been undone by years of financial negligence and political strife. The current owner, charged with tax evasion, is missing. The club’s tax bill of 1.9 million euros is due at the end of the year. So a campaign was born to save the club by issuing shares:

Fueled by Twitter messages by a British sportswriter in Spain, fans from Britain, South America, China and elsewhere have snapped up thousands of shares. Real Oviedo alumni playing in the English Premier League bought some and urged fans to do the same. Real Madrid said it would buy 100,000 euros’ worth of shares. One fan near Portland, Ore., promised to get a Real Oviedo tattoo if others bought 100 shares. She got the tattoo.

By Wednesday, the team had raised about 1.57 million euros, mostly from people who had never been to Spain, let alone seen Real Oviedo play live. Nearly 40 percent of the more than 20,000 new shareholders are from 60 countries outside Spain. After the spasm of support, well-heeled investors from Britain, Mexico and Spain are studying the club’s books to decide whether to buy stakes.

It’s a pretty cool story. If you want to participate, here’s the link.

The Spanish Baby Snatching Phenomenon

This is a very interesting piece in Der Spiegel on the baby snatching phenomenon in Spain:

All of these women share a similar fate. From the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, in 1936, until well into the 1990s, more than 300,000 children were reportedly taken from their biological parents and passed on to adoptive parents.

In regions captured by the anti-communist Nationalists during the war, doctors and nuns felt it was their patriotic duty to take newborns from “red parents” and give them to other families. There, they were to be raised in accordance with Nationalist and Catholic beliefs.

After the victory of the rebels under General Francisco Franco over the Republicans, the organized theft of babies became a political tool, a way of depriving leftists of their offspring. In 1941, Franco enacted a law that made it permissible to erase evidence of the ancestry of such children by changing their last names.

Most of these stolen children were entrusted to the care of Catholics loyal to the regime. The aim behind this was to rid an entire people of the “Marxist gene,” at least according to the theories of Antonio Vallejo-Nájera, the national psychiatrist of Francoist Spain, that were widespread at the time.

Here is part 2 of the story.

The Best Moments of Euro 2012

Roger Bennett distills the UEFA Euro 2012 tournament to the top 11 moments in his post for ESPN:

1. Shevchenko’s golden goals

In a tournament blighted by the occasional inability to fill stadia, the noise that greeted the brace of goals headed home in the opening group game by veteran Ukrainian icon Andriy Shevchenko still resounds. The 35-year-old striker’s body may be creaking, but muscle memory kicked in to provide his team with a fleeting moment of glory against Sweden. This was Kiev’s version of a Hollywood ending.

2. Danny Welbeck’s flick against Sweden

Had this late game-winning goal – an improvisational 360-degree flick between his own legs – been scored by a player wearing a Brazilian jersey, it would have instantly been hailed as a masterpiece. Because Welbeck was wearing an England shirt, the world media’s first instinct was to wonder whether he had really intended it. England would soon flounder. But the goal’s lasting significance may lie in the glimmer of false hope it offers long-suffering England fans that a youth revolution is poised to transform their team before the 2014 World Cup.

3. “This is Russia”

After rioting in the streets of Warsaw saw 184 people arrested and at least 24 injured, Russian fans completed their celebration of Russia Day by unfurling a colossal banner taunting their Polish opponents by proclaiming “This is Russia.” This show of power outstripped that of their team, which wilted oddly in the group stage. But the violent scenes do not augur well for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

6. The flood

Donbass Arena in Donetsk, Ukraine, is a spectacular football stadium, but five minutes into Ukraine’s opening-round game with France, its man-made splendor was trumped by the force of nature. A downpour of biblical proportions forced the referee to suspend the action as players and match officials scurried to the locker room to seek refuge from the lightning storm. Unyielding Ukrainian coach Oleg Blokhin stood in the tunnel, monitoring matters with a towel wrapped around his shoulders.

7. Pirlo’s Panenka

With his throwback layered haircut granting his deft performances a timeless quality, the creativity of Andrea Pirlo’s play did not just lift Italy, it elevated the entire tournament. Pirlo’s confidence and experience were best captured by the “Panenka” kick he unveiled to embarrass England’s Joe Hart in the quarterfinal shootout. “I don’t practice it, it just comes to you in the moment,” Pirlo would later say about his poetic kick. “I saw that Hart was very sure of himself; I thought that he had to come down off his high horse.”

9. Mario Balotelli reveals his true self

His second thunderous semifinal strike that threatened to decapitate German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was astonishing, as was his shirtless, stone-faced celebration that followed it. But the controversial Italian striker’s desire to run to the terraces and hug his tearful mother, Silvia, in the stands after Italy beat Germany showed a side of him we rarely get to see. Beneath the swirling tournament storylines of racism and Italian multiculturalism, Super Mario proved that at heart, he is just a mother’s boy.

10. Jordi Alba’s goal

Spain’s tactical flexibility and footballing intelligence allowed it to write history, triggering instant debate as to whether it is the greatest team of all time. La Roja played without a recognized striker, but who needs one when you have a left back who can run at the speed of light to latch onto Xavi’s clairvoyant pass?

11. Gigi Buffon’s singing of the national anthem

Few sights at Euro 2012 were more memorable than the Italian captain Buffon bellowing the national anthem before matches with eyes closed, chest puffed out, enunciating every syllable with pride. The goalkeeper revealed that the two grandparents he lost in World War II fill his mind before the game, but his musical rendition served as a reminder of what the tournament is all about beneath the hype – 23 men proud to represent the best of their nation.

Certainly #11, in my mind, is near the top of my list. I am really glad Spain was able to win the 2012 tournament, their third major tournament in four years.

Four years ago, I was in Spain and witnessed Spain claim the Euro 2008 title. How quickly time flies. You can browse through my adventures in Spain via this gallery.