Monday, September 24, 2012

Wild Dog Adventures


Rachel left about 11:30 in the morning, after we had given the dogs a decent walk, and tended to the horses. She had also washed both huskies and groomed them, plus herself, and packed. The woman has boundless energy. She dropped me off at the bar in town and I spent a couple hours having a glass of nice wine, lomo (pork) with raisins and pine nuts, and super fast Internet connection. Then it was time to go. But I had a problem. It was midday, hot, most people were at siesta (indoors and napping), and there were no cars on the road. The house is only 4 kilometers south of town, not a terribly long walk but not pleasant in 95 degree heat either. After about fifteen minutes, the first car to come along stopped to give me a ride. Of course that couple knew Rachel. Their dog Connie was in the back seat, and indicated that she would just love it if they’d pick up strangers on a regular basis. She got scratched and petted all the way to Rachel’s.

The sun drops behind the ridge on the west around 6:00 causing the valley to cool off immediately. Horses fed and tended, I walked the dogs, letting Charlie and Oscar stay in the horse field, and taking Jack separately because he’s so big.  It was a nice first day. I may not have been crazy to do this job after all.


Bedroom in the Rio Gordo Museum
We all got up early, the dogs and I. They ate breakfast, I fed the horses, mucked the stalls, and then I wanted to do the General & Troops walk with them. Not a good idea. For one thing, the most I’d walked so far was two dogs, and there are six of them. Charlie and Oscar went out for their run in the horse yard. Oscar can’t go with the troops, he’s not been to boot camp yet. So Oscar went into a crate. Charlie would have been ok to walk but I thought he’d already had plenty of exercise. In getting the four other dogs out the gate, Charlie leaped over them and ran up the road. So I shoved the four dogs with leashes back into the yard and locked the gate. Charlie, meanwhile had run up a neighbor’s long drive and was terrorizing someone up on the mountainside. I could hear barking and shouting. By the time I got to the bottom of that drive, he’d reappeared on the road and was dancing ahead of me, taunting me, and trying to make me follow him. I knew I’d never catch him.

Big Bad Dog Charlie

A Spanish gentleman rode up on his bicycle and offered to block the dog once he got on the other side of him. I assured him that Charlie was not dangerous. But Charlie ran past the man who had turned the bike sideways in the road. After a bit of chasing, I headed home and glanced back to find Charlie following me! Two men with walking sticks came by and as they passed, Charlie got even closer to me, afraid of their sticks I think. So I grabbed his collar and we went home. He got a leash and went with the rest of us. Five dogs. One is an untrained puppy, but good sized, and two others are pullers. Charlie and Sandy were on my right, marching right along like old pros, and the other three just about took my left arm off at the elbow. Needless to say, we didn’t go nearly as far as Rachel usually takes them.

Rose came by the house at 11:00 and we went to town. She had a little shopping to do, so we stopped in the bar for some of their wonderful coffee.  An elderly British couple on holiday wanted something, but the owner couldn’t figure it out. He asked Rose to intervene and translate. They just wanted beer, but the woman wanted half white lemonade in her beer, a drink I’d never heard of.  Good thing they didn’t ask me to translate, I would surely have misunderstood! Why not put ketchup in your beer?

Old stone olive oil mill
After the shopping was done, Rose took me to the museum, which is only open on Saturdays. From the street it looks like any other house, but actually it was an old olive pressing mill and the original mill is still inside. There was an enormous cone shaped stone that rolled around on a huge flat stone, meant to be pulled by a horse. The flat stone had grooves for the oil to run down and then it drained into a large vat built into the floor. There were old photos of it in operation. One room was just a bunch of the vats sunk into the floor. The town still has an olive pressing operation, but it’s a coop now and has large modern machinery. It’ll be in full operation when the olives are ripe in a couple of months.

Meanwhile the almonds are ready to harvest. Every day I see men in the orchards with large black nets spread under trees, whacking the tree with sticks so the almonds fall off.

The museum was full of other kinds of interesting old stuff, a wheat grinding flour mill, clothing from the last several hundred years, photos, religious objects, books, toys, and several rooms decked out as they would have looked two centuries ago including a kitchen with a huge stone vat for olive oil!

After the museum, we stopped at a little restaurant and had lunch: flattened white fish with salad, shrimp on a stick over buttered garlic bread, and flattened pork pieces on top of a pile of patatas fritas, or as the Brits call them, “chips”.  I had a glass of red wine, and she drank water, because she was driving. I didn’t see the true wisdom of that until we got on the road and went to her house. It’s up a mile of dirt road barely as wide as her car with dozens of tight turns. One wrong move and we’d have plunged down a cliff without so much as a tree to block the fall.

Roses's lovely shaded patio
Rose’s house is lovely, a 60 year old farmhouse with thick stone walls that she and her late husband remodeled into a charming three bedroom, two bath villa with a small swimming pool. It has shaded porches on several sides and a hidden garden with a large sun shade for patio plants.  The master bedroom was originally the stable, and part of the floor is cobblestone stripes that the wagon wheels once rolled across.

Oh, it would have been so nice to end the day on that “Rosey” note, but alas….

Later on, after the many chores were done, I stuck Charlie and Oscar in the horse pen and took the other four for a walk. We hadn’t gone far down the road when Oscar showed up and pranced around the pack flaunting his glorious freedom. The others went all wiry and excited. I turned back, worried that if Oscar got out, then where could Charlie be?

All dogs back within the yard, I went looking for Charlie who eventually showed up at the front gate, anxious to be back with the pack. This time, taking no more chances, I locked up all but Charlie and Jack and went for a walk. Jack pulls but Charlie really walks along nicely. I thought he might be a good influence. We went down into the river valley and up the other side, saw a cat and Jack yanked me harder than I thought he could. So we turned back. Just around the bend, a family of six or eight people were walking up the road and hidden amongst their legs was a small dog. Jack saw that little dog and he and Charlie both went for it at the same time, yanking me off my feet and dragging me across the asphalt into the dirt. Jack’s lead ripped off my hand, but fortunately by that time, the little dog had hightailed it and people were yelling. I had fallen on my left side and was scrapped up badly, on the leg and sides of the hip. Jack ran off, but came right back and I grabbed his lead while still down on the ground. Two of the men came over, took the leads, helped me up, and told me their dog was just fine.

I was a mess. Bleeding and angry, I was mad at myself for not having paid better attention. I should have braced for the possibility of the dogs lunging for the little one but I didn’t see it till the last second.  I didn’t really know either of those dogs well, and so wasn’t prepared.  Back home, I showered and washed off the black asphalt that was stuck in my skin, patched myself up and put the dogs to bed.  I think I have bitten off more than I can chew. Thank God Rachel will be home tomorrow evening. I don’t know how she does it!

Even Worse Dog Jack