Written by Zara W-P of Wellington, New Zealand
My cousin, my sister, her boyfriend and I were traveling through the mountainous region of Peneda-Xeres, which separates Spain and Portugal. It’s pretty desolate with scrub and pine and lots of enormous bare-rock cliffs.
We had stopped at a lookout on top of a hill to enjoy the view and stretch our legs, and when I turned around to go back to our car, I found myself face-to-face with a very sorry-looking young dog. He was huddled into a patch of dry grass in the full glare of the sun and wasn’t moving, just panting in the heat. None of us had noticed him for a while because he was lying so still and he matched the color of the scrub. We tried talking to the dog, but he was unresponsive and seemed sunk in misery.
He Had to Be Desperately Thirsty
We got our water bottles and lined a depression in the ground with some plastic wrap to make a drinking bowl for him. He immediately drank all of the water and perked up a bit. Next we offered our lunch (some cheese rolls we’d packed) and he gobbled up every scrap. The dog looked in relatively good condition and showed no fear of us, so it was clear that until recently he had been looked after by humans. Yet the hilltop we were on was shadeless and desolate, and there had been no source of water for miles. We decided to take the dog to an animal shelter so we coaxed him into the back of our car and we set off down the hill.
We stopped at the nearest village, about half an hour’s drive down a dusty road, to ask directions. A local man started chatting with us and through a combination of my rusty French and my cousin’s better Spanish, we explained where we’d found the dog and what we planned to do. The man told us that people came to the region to hunt boars and that the dogs who weren’t brave or strong enough were often abandoned at the side of the road to their fate.
He took a look at the dog, who was recovered enough by now to even wag his tail and bark at the local dogs who’d come to take a gander. Although the village was small, the dogs looked happy and well-cared for and the man explained that in these parts dogs were treated with respect and affection and that the hunters’ behavior was frowned upon by locals. The man considered for a bit and then offered to take the dog off our hands and give him a good home. We let the dog out of the car, and he capered around with the other dogs. The man wouldn’t accept any money for the dog and promised to take good care of him.
In the space of an hour, the dog we’d found slumped hopelessly in the baking sun had been transformed into a creature bursting with joy. His spirits had risen as we drove down out of the mountains, and now he seemed to sense that his circumstances had changed for the better. We left him racing around in a frenzy of excitement, greeting all the local dogs and sussing out his new owner.
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