I have previously mentioned how many stray dogs there are in this part of Portugal, which I first discovered while out on a run. Since that troubling experience, whenever I'm on foot, I am keeping a keen eye out so I can spot the dogs in time to avoid them. Occasionally, one slips through the net and I stray far enough into his territory to pique his interest. The dog will then inevitably run up to me, barking. Never having owned a dog, the problem I have is that I don't understand their behaviour, so I can't tell if a dog is approaching in a friendly manner, expecting to play games and have his tummy rubbed, or whether he's looking to sink his teeth into my flesh and maul me to death. It seems sensible to always assume the worst of these two scenarios and, consequently, every time a dog approaches, I'm scared stiff.
|Free oranges picked from a tree growing by a road we walked along|
More often than not, the dogs do little more than spend some time barking and don't kill me. I have to pretend to not be scared, though, because people always say that dogs can sense fear. I don't know if you have ever tried not being scared while actually feeling terrified, but it's no mean feat and as I saunter down the street, whistling nonchalantly as I go, I usually end up feeling even more scared. This is because, on top of being worried about getting attacked, I'm now also concerned that I'm either not doing a sufficiently good job of acting casual, or that I'm overdoing it and the dog will know that I could never possibly be this relaxed anywhere other than while being pampered in a five star spa and he will spot the ruse. Thoughts about why a dog would attack me if I'm scared also cross my mind, for example, if it is so important to be unafraid of a creature, lest it immediately jump at your throat and end your days prematurely, surely this beast is the perfect candidate for a healthy dose of fear?
|More free citrus fruit: A tangerine tree at a local train station|
In any case, above is a description of my usual canine interactions. However, on two occasions now, something most odd and unexpected has occurred. While out walking, Kate and I have been come across dogs that have wholeheartedly adopted us without the slightest input on our parts. In fact, I'm usually fully engaged in the 'no look, no touch, no eye contact' technique and offer absolutely no reason for these dogs to attach themselves to us. The only thing I can think of that would prompt this behaviour is that my act of serene fearlessness is convincing enough that they pick up on my unearthly relaxed vibe and feel so completely uncompelled to attack me that they conclude that I must be their master.
Kate has already mentioned, in an earlier post, the first dog that adopted us. She was a little cutie who simply joined us on our walk, running ahead to check the way, sniffing here and there and then reporting back to us. After this had continued long enough for me to convinced myself that she wasn't a threat, I plucked up the courage to stroke her, albeit in tentative manner such as you might stroke an unexploded landmine, and the friendship blossomed.
The most recent adoption occurrence happened while walking back from a nearby town, Portimão, where we had gone to source spare parts for the boat. We had stopped to check our map when this rather scrawny looking dog sniffed around our feet. That was all it took. From that point on, he obediently stuck by our side. I didn't graduate to the stroking phase with this little guy because I never felt that safe around him. He looked on edge, as though he was a drug addict itching for his next fix, always on a knife edge between managing to remain composed and freaking out. The weird thing was that he seemed to think that we were at threat from passing cars. It was nighttime and traffic was light. Whenever he heard a car approaching, he would position himself between us and the car and crouch down into a defensive posture. As the car drew near enough for it to 'threaten' us, he would attack in the most fearless manner. It was lucky that traffic was light, because many of the car drivers got a right shock and swerved off course.
|The conveniently-positioned wreck, as seen from the water. If you moor your dinghy there at high water, you will have a surprise on your hands when you return at low water and find it impaled on the sunken fishing boat|
We were scared that, while in his attack-mode-frenzy, he might accidentally turn on us. I was in fits of uncontrollable laughter, partly out of nervousness and partly because what was happening was so bizarrely funny. The height of my amusement came when our protector went for a cyclist. The cyclist didn't see him coming at all, so the dog just suddenly materialised out of the shadows at the cyclist's feet in a tumult of barking and growling. The cyclist jumped right out of his skin while I, and the cyclist's mate, further up the road who saw the whole thing unravel, clutched at our stomachs and tried not to collapse from laughing so hard.
The embarrassing thing was that this dog really looked like our dog. When he wasn't busy attacking passing vehicles, he would trot obediently to heel. Thus, it looked like we were responsible for this four legged terrorist and were irresponsibly failing to control his madness as chaos broke out on the road next to us.
As we approached the built up outskirts of Alvor, the dog started to get very agitated and didn't seem to want us to proceed into the town. I suspect that he has maybe had bad experiences with cars and while being in towns, and therefore thought that we needed to be protected from both. We didn't know what to do because, if we proceeded into Alvor, he got worked up into such a state, but we couldn't very well stand at the town's perimeter all night. In the end, we ducked into the first shop we came to, a small supermarket, and spent absolutely ages picking up a few essentials in the hopes that he would have got bored and wandered back off into the night, which is what happened. I felt bad that we couldn't say goodbye to him, or thank him for so valiantly protecting us from all of his perceived dangers, but I was very relieved that the problem was solved.
With what spare mental capacity remained while the rest of my brain was consumed by fear, I created a short, badly shot video of the anxious dog as we approached Alvor. Watch it on YouTube.