Cheryl and I have been serious dog and cat lovers since the beginning of time. We both had that childhood pet that seemed to live forever. When you’re a kid, thirteen years is your entire school career (plus one hopefully). When you get older, thirteen years pass rather quickly and you realize you’re gonna have to go through another passing of a best friend. Nigel our black lab is thirteen and he is getting close. Rear end is about shot. I have to lift him up on the sofa when he looks back with those sad eyes. Good god, it takes both of us sometimes to get him up there and my rear end is starting to go too. We look like a hook and ladder truck when the coffee table is in the way. Anyway, the day will undeniably come. We frequently tell him he’s our last dog, our last heartbreak. Pet-wise that is.
Which brings me to a solution to this problem. Since Cheryl and I have been house sitting for over a year, we’ve had the opportunity to keep several pets. They’re like grandkids, ya love ‘em, then you can give ‘em back. With a new pet, it takes a few days to feel each other out and, of course, they will test you like that 2 year old nephew that just gets a timeout when he acts up. “Why my ol man woulda,” wait… that’s for the therapist. We’re dog people dammit and we know the drill. “Don’t you look at me with those big brown eyes… You’re not getting the last bite of my hotdog!” We’ve made the mistake of allowing Nigel table bites and there is hell to pay because of it. Never again.
Homer, on the other hand, has been handled much better in this regard. He must sit on a small rug and “shake paws” to receive that treat. Knowing the error of our ways, we are very careful to adhere to this regimen. This nine month old yellow lab crossed with beagle or something is a large part of our current house sit in Sedella located in the Andalusia region of Spain. Homer’s owners told us he is a rescue dog and he has separation issues. Actually, I don’t see any issues. Our dog Nigel gets mad when we go grocery shopping. We used to take him but we have to… Ya know that hook and ladder thing again. Nigel weighs 105 pounds! Uh! My back! Homer on the other hand is a sleek 48.5 pounds (22 kg). Heck I can Richard Kimble (one arm man) him into the car. Cheryl is already in the habit of walking Nigel every morning for a mile or so. Homer… same thing. But he wants it at 6 am and it’s dark here. Did I mention this house sits among the steepest of the Sierra de Tejeda mountains? That’s right, it sits in the shadow of Mt. Maroma at 2,068.5 meters (6,826 feet). Not the tallest, I said steepest. I previously said Homer was a lab crossed with maybe a beagle, but after a couple of days I’m thinking goat. Yes, I take the evening walk with Homer and Cheryl and at first I said things like, “Wait! You want me to walk down there?… Is there a tractor or something that’s gonna come get us?” Mind you I hike the Appalachian Trail and I’m no slouch carrying 30 pounds on my back and navigating some challenging topography. But these are goat paths (and I know this because there are goats right over there with a shepherd and dogs and everything). After about five days of this, I became acclimated and could handle the steep terrain. It was always a workout though and building a fire and helping prepare dinner afterward was a joy.
There happened to be a cat detail affixed to this house sit that was a big concern to Homer. There were 7, no 8 (not sure) feral cats that the homeowners were feeding and we marveled at the pecking order, rules, and social proprieties. Homer seemed to tolerate the ruling three, but the others, not so much. The three rulers would not flinch when Homer passed by and would continue issuing their orders such as “r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-roooooul (must be Spanish with the rolled R) which meant time to rotate since there were only three bowls. These cats would announce to us each morning it was time for breakfast. Cat mess was at 9 am (but we would get the call at 8:45 to give us time to prep).
When taking a break, we glance out across the peaks and valleys and see two men teams trimming the olive, almond, orange, and carob trees, as well as the grapevines, that thrive here in this dry soil. Too steep for tractors, plowing is done by mule. They plow frequently, so the earth accepts the small amount of rain yielded by this arid climate. This ensures low noise so you can hear the wind and the bells from the ever-moving goat and sheep herds that mow under the trees growing on these steep slopes. It’s extremely remote out here in the mountains. I think it’s like five km to the hard road, then another two to the nearest small town of Sedella. It seems we’ve lost this simple agrarian way of life for the most part in the US. Right before my eyes as a matter of fact. And the quality of food, wine and olive oil is so noticeable in this region. Hand raised, free range, farm to table. It’s very inexpensive as compared to home. I can actually survive on the pittance social security gives me and eat noticeably better. Hopefully Homer’s folks will take another trip come next winter. If so, as Arnold said, “I’ll be back”.