The Dogs - 1975 El Puerto de Santa Maria

It's 1975 and we're living on the Avenida de las Galeras, Valdelagrana, El Puerto de Santa Maria.

Across the road is a wasteland where the wild dogs roam. They come by in packs each day at roughly the same time. I'm not afraid of them, however, for they ignore me. They seem more intent on their wanderings and staying in a pack, their noses sniffing the ground as opposed to checking out the humans on the other side of the road.

The dogs who live with people are regarded as guardians of property, and not as pets. They're tied up in their yards all day and bark like crazy anytime you walk by. They look ferocious, ready to bite.

It's common to see stray dogs just lying on the pavement underneath a tree. They sleep all day and don't bother anyone. Even when someone throws a stone at them or kicks them, they don't fight back, they just remain motionless. Perhaps there's nowhere to run to. And the people who abuse them are the very ones who feed them, so they might as well remain.

One day I'm out walking and come across a box on the pavement. I look inside and discover a puppy. He's been abandoned, just simply dumped.  I pick the puppy up and take him home.

He's friendly and cute and cuddly. Someone obviously has been feeding him, so I don't think he was too long in the box when I found him. My husband welcomes the puppy who adapts very well to life in our house. I buy him a nice collar and leash from the American Naval Base and take him walks. I get him food from the American Naval Base as well. I don't think there are any pet shops here in El Puerto de Santa Maria. Pets that people have are usually birds. You see lots of small cages at the side of houses and you hear the birds sing and chirp. But people don't generally have dogs and cats as pets.

Our house has a small garden enclosed by a wall and railings. It's a safe place to put the puppy, for he's too small to climb up on the wall. To be doubly sure, I tie him up with a great big long rope.

One day, a month or so later I notice the rope has become loose and the puppy is free to do whatever he wants. He's big enough to climb on the wall, yet still small enough to squeeze through the railings and escape. He doesn't do anything. He's happy in his own little world. He knows that he'll have food, water, a nice warm bed, lots of petting. He wags his tail as I approach him.

He never tries to get away, never even peeks out through the railings, so I stop tying him up.

One late afternoon, after cooking dinner, I step outside into the garden. The puppy is gone. He's vanished. I call his name, and I whistle. I open the garden gate and run one way, then another, all the time yelling his name. But he's not to be seen.

He doesn't come back. My husband and I eat dinner in silence. I know it's my fault the puppy is gone. I should have tied him up.

We've heard of the gypsies who roam around. People say that they steal babies. But I don't think they steal dogs. I don't believe a gypsy would have taken the puppy. We search the neighbourhood, ask neighbours if they've seen our puppy, all to no avail.

The next day the pack of wild dogs appears across the road, just as they always do. They're large, ungainly, ugly dogs. Coming up on the rear is a small, cute little dog. It's our puppy!  I call out to him, I run across the road to pick him up and cuddle him. The pack of wild dogs, circle me and sniff at me. They don't growl, they don't bark, they simply stand their ground. I'm in their territory and I better leave. The puppy watches their every move.

And as they walk away, he follows them.

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