Now that the kids have moved out, animals and pets seem to have become pretty central to the lives of my parents. On my mother and Denis’ side, there is the feeding of the birds and seeing what they do- especially "Peter the Blackbird" who seems to dominate the morning birdbath- a kind of ‘sento’ (spa) for birdies. Every now and then, a miraculous, white animal turns up- be it Pushinka the Persian cat (who I briefly saw moving between the house and our garden and back again), or the albino squirrel that seems to have disappeared for now, though I did get to meet a regular one who came right up to me. More exotically, I saw a fox bolt across a nearby road on one of our many local walks (these are something I do all over the world, call it my way of life if you will!)
Meanwhile, here in Portugual I did notice quite a few swallows diving over the pool beside me to pick up fallen insects, there are apparently a lot of pesky rabbits to eat the young leaves off trees before they have a chance to grow (but luckily for themselves are too skinny to be at risk of falling into a rabbit pie). The main life here, though is the dogs, in my dad and Rachel’s case being a Weaton terrier (Lula) who is unfortunately on his last legs at around 14 years old, and Bika, a Portuguese fishing dog. You may remember me mentioning them on my last visit.
The Portuguese fishing dog is a rare but unique breed. Developed by the fishing communities which to this day make their living this was along the coast of the Algave, to an extent now unknown in the rest of Europe, the dogs can dive into the water to catch fish in a similar way to the Chinese cormorant fishers use of their birds. Appart from this instinct to retrieve objects from the water, they are amazingly playful, intelligent and at times mischievious dogs. Just yesterday we went to see the breeder who bred Bika and her family. With the opening of a latch, loads of the furry creatures bounded out of their pen, rolling around and rushing about, doming up to meet people. They also showed one of their favourite tricks- stealing a shoe in the hope that the owner will chase them to get it!
We took a drive through the nature reserve where the dogs live, next to a ‘pet hotel’ and with a few notices about these amazing, but sadly, increasingly less-known creatures, and then joined a boat-ride to an island, during which kids come up to pet them. The breeder/trainer, Christine, also has a program for inviting disturbed inner-city kids to meet them and release some of their stress by contact. Aside from being furry and playful, they are also extremely companionable, always likeing to curl up by someone’s feet or sit under the table during dinner. Once we got to the island, the dogs made a demonstration of catching an object thrown in the water, to the obvious delight of the watching kids.
They certainly showed great enthusiasm as they leap in there, none more so than a very little pup who is no more than 8 months old, yet every time beat his peers to the prize. Apparently, this is an amazingly bright one, whom Christine decided to keep for herself rather than sell. An american couple riding a yaught through Europe also took a shine to her and offered any money she would take (they even offered 2,000 Euros, quite a steep price as they’re usually 400 Euros), and to take the doggie all around Europe with them, but Christine was not to be swayed! "Once I decide I’m going to keep one, nothing can change my mind", she said and it is indeed a lovely pup.
Don’t take my word for it- check out the dogs on the ‘net; here.