By special request I am sharing Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story and I hope those of you who have not read his adventures will enjoy…
Last time Sam recounts his adventures as a passenger in cars including the 2000 kilometre trip to his new home in Spain.
Chapter Thirteen – Our new home and friends
Late in the afternoon of our second day of travel we arrived at my new home in Madrid. David had bought an old house in the mountains about twenty miles from the centre of the city. I had a large garden to play in and wonderful walks around this pleasant complex of 1960’s summer houses, and the added bonus was the number of lady dogs in residence, who were open to some flirting and kisses through the fence on my nightly excursions with David.
In the evenings the pack would head out to the front terrace and some of us would drink icy gin and tonics, and some would just get ice cubes. I would lie on my rug and look out across the valley and when the dogs began to bark, I would join in and let them know who was king of the castle.
The garden was not as green as my home in Ireland but full of interesting smells… Next door chickens roamed around sometimes poking their heads through the hedge. I soon let them know this was unacceptable behaviour. In the heat of the day I would lie on the covered terrace and if it was really hot, Sally would put on the big wind machine and I would lie in front of it and dream of chasing rabbits.
The next year we also bought an apartment in the South of Spain and we would spend the winter months walking the beach and surrounding area. David was now at home all the time and it was dog heaven. My pack was together every day and for the first time in my life the days passed without a drop of rain.
This is when my previous experience with Henry became very useful as in Spain there are many more feral cats than in Ireland.
In our local area on the Costa del Sol was a band of feral cats that spent their lives rummaging in the bins and catching rats and toads. At first, on our night time walks before bed they would keep their distance, but Sally, who had taken pity on the skinny moggies would take down dried cat food pellets and roll them into the dark corners for the cats to chase and catch. She would talk “Cat” to them and despite the fact that we were in Spain, “Cat” is an internationally recognised language.
This game developed to the point where we would be followed on these night time excursions by five or six black, stealthy figures. After about a year some of the younger cats overcame their natural fear of humans and allowed themselves to be stroked and petted. One cat in particular stood out from the rest of the band.
She was a marmalade cat and had probably been the result of a union between a domestic male and a female feral cat. She seemed to have a litter of black kittens every three months or so and although Sally tried to catch her to be taken to the vet she refused to be picked up and put into a carrier. I did not quite understand why Sally wanted to take her, but I heard the word ‘vet’ and assumed it involved needles of some sort.
Anyway, one of her offspring was a feisty little black thing, smaller than the other kittens, who took an instant liking to me. By this time I was six years old and very well behaved and tolerant. At first she would come up close and we would stand nose to nose this tiny creature and I. Then she would leap high in the air and hiss at me as if she suddenly realised how big I was and what danger she might be in.
However after a number of weeks, Mollie as we called her decided that I might be huge but I was a great asset. She knew that the other cats, although unafraid of me by this point, still kept their distance, and by running in close to my legs she could get more of the rolling pellets without interference from the others.
Although she was Spanish, the basic cat language was the same and although she gave me fleas that took forever to get rid of, I hold her in great affection.
Now that I live in Madrid all year round I don’t meet many cats, just the odd domesticated one who has the temerity to sleep on the sofa on the terrace without my permission. However, I have to say that despite reports to the contrary, dogs and cats can be friends and my friend Henry is often in my thoughts as I get older.
Apart from feral cats, Sally also enjoyed the company of feathered friends. Many of whom lived on our local lake in Madrid. Every day on our walks we would take corn or grain to feed them, particularly in the winter months, and gradually the ducks and one goose became less afraid of us. They began to eat out of Sally’s hands whilst David kept me back slightly afraid that I might afford them treat status. On the contrary. My one delight was after they had all had a good feed was to make a quick pretend dash and watch them scatter back into the water. They and I both knew I was not going to catch them and the fact that they would wander up to me when chasing rolling corn, illustrated their disdain of my feeble efforts.
One bird however got a little too friendly with Sally for my liking. A goose, whose mate had died, adopted her and would fly across the lake from his roost to demand a cuddle and special feeding arrangements. He was a lot bigger than the ducks, and I felt that I might bite off more than I could chew if I got hold of him, so simply sat and glared at him from a safe distance. I won’t go into detail of my thoughts about him but safe to say it was a good thing that David held me back!
I did gain two new pack members on our arrival in Spain and grew to love them dearly. Antonio had worked as gardener at the house for over 30 years and David had retained his services to look after everything for us too. He was a short, stocky man with a very strong guttural tone to his voice and he spoke no English. However, we learnt to communicate very quickly and Antonio soon found out that one of my favourite pastimes was to chase a water hose and to catch the spray in my mouth. Since the garden needed watering every day this provided an hour of fun for me that I really looked forward to. I think that Antonio enjoyed the game too as he would spray the bushes for a few minutes then turn the hose on me. I loved this game and soaking wet I would try to run into the house to tell Sally all about it. For some strange reason she did not see the funny side of it and would grab me and rub me down with one of my old towels as I tried to shake all the water out of my coat.
I used to follow Antonio all over the garden including through the vegetable patch where he grew tomatoes and cucumbers to make sure that all the work was carried out properly – he never shouted at me although he might get a little irritated if I occasionally gave his leg a big hug just to let him know who was really the boss. Even though I am now at retirement age I still help him out every day and watch and wait for him to come through the gate.
My other pack member was Sinead who lived in Greece but who would come to our house in Madrid to look after me if Sally and David had to travel for work or holidays. Sally still did not want to put me in kennels so searched on line for a pet sitter. We were very lucky to find Sinead who I fell in love with instantly. She looked after me several times and I knew, and Sally felt, that I was completely safe when she and David had to go away.
We made other friends near our house and in the south who would join our pack from time to time for something called Cava and Tequila. All I know is that Sally makes sure that there are plenty of my favourites on hand for me to eat during the evening, such as cheese and very handy snack sized sausages, and special Spanish hams. The guests also help themselves to these delicacies but I don’t mind as they are part of my pack too. I have to ask of course if I can have something off the plates as just helping oneself is not polite, but I find that if I pass around to all the guests in turn and say “more” they all are most obliging at sharing the treats around.
My favourite time of year, as you already know, is Christmas and I love helping get the decorations put up and making sure the tasty ‘bits’ were up to scratch.
Usually after a very long dinner and way past my bedtime the music goes on and the dancing starts. At first I used to try and join in but it all became rather excitable so Sally now pops me up in her office behind a rather irritating wooden gate.
On the subject of music my favourite singer is Shania Twain who Sally introduced me to when I was a young puppy. Here in our house in Spain whenever she puts one of her albums on, I will rush up to the office from wherever I am, and Sally and I do a little line dancing. I go in and out through her legs in time to the music with a little barking in between. Great fun and it makes up for not being allowed to join in the pack dances.
However, I do have a party piece that I trot out every time we have guests in return for some small pieces of cheese. They have to ask who my favourite composer is and they run through the usual suspects such as Beethoven, Bach, and Wagner and then they say Shania Twain and I bark madly. Daft really but cheese is cheese.
©sallycronin Sam, A Shaggy Dog Story 2009
About the authors
Sally Cronin waited until she began working for herself, and had the time to commit to the welfare of a dog. before she fulfilled a dream of having another Lassie Collie. From the moment that Sam came home at 8 weeks old they were inseparable, and travelled thousands of miles together and with her husband David, exploring Ireland, Wales, England and Europe. Finally they all ended up in a large house up a mountain to the north of Madrid.
Sam could charm the birds out of the trees and assumed that every human that he met was more interested in him than his humans that were tagging along. He developed a vocabulary and non-verbal clues as to his needs, cheese and sausages being the main ones.
They collaborated on this book, with Sam dictating his recollections and Sally correcting some of his more flamboyant claims pertaining to his adventures.
You can find out more about Sally’s books and their reviews: Sally’s Books and Recent Reviews
I hope you have enjoyed this chapter and will join us again next Sunday.. thanks Sally.