Toledo Tales: Fighting fires… or peeing dogs?!

This is a story about me getting the wrong end of the stick. And it goes like this:

Along the outside wall of my building, there is a long line of 5-litre water bottles. They are spaced about one metre apart. Here is a pic:

As you can see, there’s a sign on the wall. It says “For exclusive use of the fire brigade”.

When I first moved in, a friend of mine, also a foreigner who’d only recently arrived, threw her hands up in horror when she saw this. She had made the (seemingly) obvious link between the bottles and the sign.

Eeeeek!!! If there really was a fire, that’s how they were planning on putting it out…!

I seriously considered adding a few more bottles myself. To give us at least a fighting chance of drowning a firecracker on the rampage in a waste paper basket.

I must confess, I did take a rather morbid pleasure in advertising the ‘Spanish Economic Crisis Solution’ to house fires to friends and family who came to visit me. And it always got a far more evocative reaction than any of the two-thousand-year-old buildings I’d been dragging them to.

A few months later, however, my bubble of deplorable ignorance was finally burst by one of the local people I used to meet up with for the purpose of language exchange lessons. On this occasion, he was telling me about childhood pranks. One of the most popular, it turned out, was opening the water bottles, which people positioned alongside their walls to deter dogs and cats from marking their territories, leaning them against the front door, ringing the bell and running off.

Water bottles stop dogs pissing against the walls?? Who’s ever heard of that? As soon as I got home, I consulted the Great Oracle of Google.

Here is what I learned from a forum:

Andrea9: Water bottles are a Greek-Albanese tradition and they serve to discourage cats from peeing in the street.

Da Kine: You see the same thing in Hawaii, I was always told that it kept the cats out of the yard, something about the way the light reflected off of the water in the bottles scared them.

Pola: We use them in Italy, too. But I have strong doubts they work.

Jordi Guzman: In Spain (Barcelona) apparently it works.

Aine: Well guys, I have to say it works. It’s common knowledge in Devon (‘cats won’t walk near water’).

Holly9: Apparently this was originally a radio hoax for April Fools Day. It went right around the world. I’m in New Zealand, and you still see some people here with water bottles on their front lawn.

Krista: Great, so instead of just dog pee, now it’s dog pee and plastic water bottles everywhere. Just beautiful!

Lonny1: Sure, those bottles might stop dogs from peeing on the street, but they don’t discourage me from peeing on those same streets.

Scott2 If you leave a water bottle on top of your car in Argentina, it will cause the car to go away because it means it’s for sale.

I am so much wiser now. And just as baffled.

[…and as for the sign on the wall, in case anyone’s still wondering, there’s a dry riser inlet behind it for the fire brigade to hook up their equipment.]

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15 thoughts on “Toledo Tales: Fighting fires… or peeing dogs?!

  1. NorthernStar

    Lol! So it’s not for the fire department then!? You monkey. Well, I believe that now. BUT I do not believe it deters cats and dogs from peeing on the walls. I need hard evidence of this!

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  2. Anonymous

    Hillarious!!! Simone, acabas de desverlarme un gran misterio. Llevaba meses preguntándome para qué servían las botellas que hay al lado de mi casa, jajaja.

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  3. Anonymous

    Tenía la ligera idea de que servían para que los perros no se hicieran pis pero me parecía una cosa tan absurda que me costaba trabajo creerla. Pero tienes pruebas concluyentes de la intencionalidad de las botellas, jajajaja

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yes, conclusive proof indeed! BTW, have you heard about hanging up see-through plastic bags filled with water to keep out the flies?? The theory is that the flies approach the bags, see their own reflections in them amplified to ginormous proportions, and that is meant to scare them off. Oh my.

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      1. Anonymous

        Nope, I’ve never heard of that. However, I have heard of people hunging up cds so that the birds get scared and don’t poo in their balconies… Probably it’s just as useless as the other two methods but very colourful to watch… 😛

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  4. Klaus Pedersen

    They are used here in Malta also, and I found your blog in search for an answer to whether they work (so: thanks for nothing :-))

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  5. Kim in Fiji

    Never heard this one – but in Fiji people put water bottles on top of the electricity meters. There’s been a story going round for decades that water will make the meter show less usage. The electric company puts out flyers to educate folks each year that water doesn’t change the meter readings and is a danger – but people know they know better (sneaky electric company trying to get more money out of them). You’ll like the company’s name – FEA (ha ha ha ha – for Fiji Electric Authority).

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      LOL! I love those little factoids from around the world 😉

      Here in Spain, so I was told by a water company engineer, it’s popular to use some magnetic device to impede/slow down the water meter. That one actually works…

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