Chapter Twelve and Thirteen – Car Rides and move to Spain
At first I was a bit apprehensive about the car rides because the first three times I was in one I had ended up at the vets getting a large needle stuck in me. Every time I was put in the back seat I would start to salivate and felt sick. However, once we got into the morning habit of going to the beach, I decided that if there was going to be so much fun at the end of the trip, it was worth overcoming my original apprehension.
It is at this point that I must say a little something about Sally and cars. She is a bit of a petrol head and rather likes them fast and sporty. When I first arrived she was driving a BMW convertible which she had brought back from Belgium where she and David had been living for two years. It was a left hand drive which made getting into and out of car parks a little awkward, as you have to get in and out of the car to put the ticket into the machine at the barrier. However, I loved that car because when the roof was off I could sit in the back seat in my harness with my head back against the headrests and let the wind whip through my long coat. I can tell you that I was the envy of all the dogs that we passed on our way back and forth to the beach.
After about a year the BMW was changed in for a red Toyota Celica and I rather missed the soft top but there was a great central storage box between the two front seats where I could put my paws and watch all the action as we flashed down the country lanes. Because we spent so much time on the sand, the back seat was covered with old towels, and since of course it rains a lot in Ireland they soon became pretty damp. The car developed a wonderful, warm, soggy, doggy smell to it that Sally was always trying to eradicate with some form of magical spray or other. Personally, I found it rather interesting.
David belonged to the Mountain Runners Club and we used to travel around Ireland to their meets. I loved going to new places and sometimes we stayed overnight, which was also quite interesting as some places have very funny smells. I must admit to doing quite a bit of sleeping stretched out on the back seat, but I always woke up in time to make sure we stopped regularly for sniffs and tea for Sally and David. I also had to mark every few miles or so to make sure we could find our way home again later.
After the Celica came the big Subaru Forester. Sally appeared back from one of her trips to Spain with this in preparation for the long drive to our new home. I thought it was most comfortable, but did need to establish early on that I did not travel in the back piece that was for luggage only, and that I would only consider riding directly behind the driving position in the back seat.
The added bonus to travelling in all of the cars was the singing. Sally had always enjoyed a good tune and would sing along as we drove to the beach. After a few trips I decided to join in either humming or barking in time to the melody. We still do this today when we go out in the mornings to do our mountain walk here in Spain; my repertoire is quite extensive. My favourite is ‘How much is that doggie in the window’ and ‘Amazing Grace’. David made a recording once of our duet but unfortunately it never made the top ten.
Anyway the longest car journey that I ever made was from our home in Ireland to our new one in Madrid.
I have now lived in Spain for five years and it certainly could not be more different to Ireland.
Getting here was an adventure in itself. Sally had to make sure that I had all the necessary vaccinations and I had to endure a rather unpleasant trip to the vet to have a tracker inserted into my neck. I am afraid I have to admit that I find vets fair game, and Sally always puts a muzzle on me when I am going to have a needle job. I am also extremely resistant to having my temperature taken, as unlike you humans we have ours taken the other end. It is neither dignified nor pleasant and I have found that sitting down firmly and glaring over the top of the muzzle is quite a deterrent; many vets have simply estimated my temperature by feeling my forehead!
Another inconvenience was the stipulation that my clean bill of health had to be signed at the Ministry of Agriculture in Dublin, where Sally duly waited for two hours the morning before we left.
It was a hectic week as a large van with rough voiced men arrived and spent two days packing up the whole house to be taken to Spain.
We stayed the last night in a hotel on the main road and then headed out in Sally’s new Spanish registered Subaru for the over 2,000 kilometre drive to Madrid.
I had been on the ferry to Holyhead before and slept in the car without problem. Once the ship docked we drove across England, staying in a bed and breakfast for the night halfway across. I loved driving in the car and slept most of the time and I had the added bonus of marking different territories every time we stopped for a break or the night.
On the second night we stayed in a very posh hotel in Kent; because I was with Sally we were given a suite in the gatehouse which was very up market and swish. Later that night Sally put me in the car and we drove to a railway station. I saw a man walking towards us across the car park and leapt around with excitement when I realised that it was David who was joining us for the drive through France and Spain.
The next day we arrived at the Euro tunnel terminal and queued up with other cars going across to France. The French police are stationed on the English side of the Channel and Sally and David handed over their passports and my papers which we had been told we absolutely needed for me to get into France and Spain.
Sally wound my window down in the back so that they could get a good look at my face too and after a cursory glance at their passports the two policemen started to interrogate me after calling for two more colleagues to join them.
“Eh, Henri, Philippe, come quickly, it is Lassie!”
Sally corrected them politely.
“His name is Sam.”
“Oh, you are a beauty, what a bien doggie, you have a lovely ’oliday.”
Even with my extraordinary language skills I found it rather difficult to follow the ensuing conversation but I found their appreciation of my handsomeness very satisfying.
Sally decided that the people in the queue behind us were perhaps not quite as tolerant of the delay as we were.
“Say goodbye Sam.” With that a chorus of “au revoir Sam” issued from the control booth and I barked back much to the delight of the gendarmes.
The trip through France was uneventful although I have to say I spent most of it napping in the back.
Sally had tried to find a dog friendly hotel for our night in France and had managed to find a beautiful and palatial chateau for us to stay in. I have a very good nose but you can’t beat Sally’s when it comes to sniffing out luxurious surroundings to stay in. David knows more about that than I do but he says he has a flexible friend thankfully.
Again because of my status we were awarded a delightful room in what had been the stable block. This was unfortunately my first taste of marble floors and it took some coaxing to get me into the room in the first place, where I scuttled across to a very expensive looking rug in the middle of the room. I have to say that marble floors are the one drawback of living on the continent as they are definitely not Collie friendly.
Anyway, the staff were very “Sam friendly” and the two liveried bell boys who had greeted us had mentioned that perhaps I might like steak for dinner. Unfortunately Sally declined what I thought was a very reasonable offer and told them that she had brought my food with her!
David and Sally went off to the main chateau for dinner leaving me with dried biscuits and a tin of meat and I have to admit to being just a tad disgruntled.
However, my moods are never long lived and I was just as excited to see them come back as I always am. I slept in palatial splendour at the end of their four poster bed on my blanket stretched across an antique silk rug.
We arrived at the border with Spain the next day and again Sally removed my important papers that I had to have to get into the country from her bag to show to the border guard. Passports at the ready we approached at the requisite snail pace only to find that there was nobody there.
All that trouble to get me legal and able to travel and not once did anyone look at my papers!
Although that was the longest trip we made in the car I regularly travelled between Madrid and the Costa Del Sol which is about 650 kilometres. I have my favourite stopping places en route and in all over the years I must have travelled in excess of 50,000 miles in my life so far which is not bad for a rough collie from Duleek.
©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009
Thank you for travelling to Spain with us and tomorrow I will be telling you about my new casa and amigos…
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