As soon as Anne phoned me to say that an abandoned dog was hanging around our neighbour’s gate and that I ought to call by and see him, I knew that dog was destined to be ours. Having popped into town to run a few errands, I drove up to the house and saw the dog hanging around their front gate. You have to realise, we live up in the hills and mountains of central Portugal, so when I say neighbour I mean people living anywhere within the radius of a few miles. Another neighbour was also there, and he lives about a further mile out. As a matter of fact, we can see the house where the dog was found from our own place, above the trees in the valley that separates us.
He was a fine-looking beast, maybe not a pedigree, but obviously from the Estrela breed judging by his leonine body-shape and oversize paws. They breed them on the mountain of that name in the much colder north of the country to look after their herds. Even I knew that, although I am no expert on dogs at all.
The really funny thing was, I had dreamed that dog – had actually seen him in a dream some undetermined time ago. Immediately, I recognised the black face with the yellow-gold eyes peering out at me.
Both neighbours already had dogs of their own, so I took it upon myself to take him in until such time as a longer-term solution might be found. Ideally, the owner would be traced and the dog returned. With some difficulty, the three of us managed to lift the nervously reluctant animal into the back of the car, and with a bag of dog food, a food bowl, and lead supplied by our neighbour, I drove him across the bridge over the river on the valley road and back to our place, where Anne was unsurprised at our arrival.
Neither Anne nor I had kept a dog before so any caring for the animal was going to be done on an instinctual basis. The first thing was to lay a blanket in a corner on the veranda where he could feel safe and keep warm. Then I sat with him for hours into the night to calm him down. When he had settled and I had set up a pallet to prevent him going down the stairway into the garden, I closed the sliding glass doors and left him to sleep all alone.
Next morning, he was on the lead and we headed out through the big metal gates to the lane outside our house. At the top of the slope one hundred yards away he squatted and did his poops, as I uttered a silent and relieved hurray: the dog was toilet trained. Everyone thought he was pretty much still a puppy so nothing of a behavioral nature could be taken for granted. We walked on, as he sniffed busily at the edges of the dirt-track road, and I enjoyed the still cool mountain air. Surrounded by thick forest littered with logging trails, I quickly factored in that here was a good place to be a dog.
(To be continued…)