Dogs are like the rest of us; they grow old and die, so from time to time you have to get new ones. For any number of reasons it’s men who tend to pop their clogs before women… I wonder if, and where, the Wife will look for a replacement for me. For a new dog though, we go to Albolote. There’s a refuge there, a huge compound that takes in about three hundred dogs. They don’t put them down if nobody comes to adopt them; they – the team of heroic and selfless volunteers who run the place – just keep on looking after them, feeding them and walking them. The staff are paid nothing at all and the whole thing runs on a charitable foundation. Anyway the place is absolutely full; there’s room for not one dog more, and as a consequence of the economic troubles, there are ever more dogs being abandoned. Spain is a land of abandoned dogs and it’s getting worse.
On Thursday we went to fetch Mami (their name), a big white Mastín that the Wife had seen on their website. She is about five years old and big and affectionate and fairly recently abandoned. Since Thursday she lives with us on the farm, with Bumble, and Bao, who also came from Albolote. The first couple of days we walked her up the river on a lead… she might have done a bunk and tried to make it back to Albolote. But she seems to know the score now and is terrified of the sheep, so now we let her run free.
To my mind it’s hard to imagine anything more pleasurable than watching a creature that has been maltreated, abandoned or confined in a concrete pen, as it starts to understand that it now has the freedom of the countryside. The expression of happiness on their faces and tails as they race up and down the river, sniffing the things that dogs like to sniff, works its way deep into your heart. I like to have a dog along when I go walking because it seems to me that they manifest pleasure in the most extraordinary way, and redistribute it to anyone with eyes to see, through their tails. So, if you want a dog to accompany you and fill your solitary walking with joy, or lie contentedly by your feet before the fire, don’t waste good money on expensive pedigree dogs; these creatures need you. Give Albolote a go.
Of course we had to change the name, as Mami doesn’t begin with a B. She’s Babouschka now, which is a bit of a mouthful, but nice.