The Big Pine Woods are a favorite Expedition around here. It´s several acres of pine plantation about 7 km. from the Peaceable, on the far side of Terradillos. Up there dogs can run and romp in the forest, where there are lots of fascinating smells to run after and no farm animals to tempt their killer instincts. We humans enjoy the terrain -- it´s hilly, and covered in pine and oak, with a few mouldering sheepfolds scattered here and there, and the occasional outburst of exotic toadstools and mushrooms. It´s not hard to get lost up there, but I have a pretty good sense of direction. So far.
But Tim doesn´t. We were about an hour into a long hike on Monday morning when all four dogs vanished for a good three minutes. We called to them. Una, Nabi, and Lulu reappeared. But Tim did not. And Tim is the only dog we own who listens when we tell him something. Tim has only ever gone to the Big Pine Woods in the car. He didn´t know his way home.
We whistled and shouted and called him by name, for hours. We took the other dogs home, and I went back and shouted for him for another hour, and had a good cry, too. I went up to Legartos, the village nearest to where Tim was last seen, to put the word out. There in the little plaza sat two old men. Flung casually over the benches and verges round about were dogs: galgos, a black Labrador, and a couple of snaggle-tooth lapdogs, all in complete Lounge Mode. A couple of them raised their heads and flapped their tails when I spoke, but they soon grew bored and got back to the business at hand.
I greeted the geezers, shook the hand of the younger of them. The older one, wearing a balaklava against the morning sunshine, called me "hija," daughter, and kissed my cheeks. I figure he must´ve mistaken me for someone he knew.
"I am looking for my dog, a lost dog," I told them.
The younger man looked at the other. "Have you seen a dog?" he shouted.
"Nope," the old guy said. The half-dozen hounds scattered around him were not part of the equation.
"Which one´s missing?"
"He´s a Brittany Spaniel, young."
"He´s fat," the younger man said. "He´s castrated, isn´t he? So you know nobody´s going to take him home and keep him. No good for hunting."
"He won´t be chasing girls, either," the old guy yelled, cackling.
"You know my dog?" I asked.
"Yep," the younger guy said. "We´ve seen you guys out here, walking with the dogs. From Moratinos, right?"
Woah, I thought. Our fame has spread to faraway and exotic places!
And then I remembered the Eduardo, our sweet-natured neighbor, has ties to Legartos. Everyone within ten miles of Moratinos has some kind of friend or family tie with the people in the similar tiny towns. We must´ve been talked-about, even out here. And our little dogs, too.
Which is to the good. The men assured me Tim would be alright, long as he stayed off the road. He´s probably on his way home right now, the younger man said. Give him a day or two. He might be out chasing deer. He said two of his galgos vanished about five years ago, nobody knew where. And they turned up again, on their way home, along the road to Villada -- a good 10 km. from home. It took them a YEAR, he said, but they came home!
I don´t want to wait that long, I told him.
Don´t worry, hija, he said. Tim might just roll up in Legartos, ´cause plenty of dogs do -- the other dogs call to them, and there are 18 galgos living here in town. And if Tim showed up they´d bring him home, they said. "I´ll bring him home to Moratinos, and just ask for the house of "La Rubia," the old flirt said. "The blonde."
I was reassured. I went home. We had lunch, we cleaned house, we kept busy, we kept the music turned low, so we could hear if anyone came to the door. I expected it.
The first time the galgos shouted at the door, nobody was there but Eduardo. He´d been in touch with his friends in Legartos. No news.
The second time the galgos shouted, nobody was there at all. The afternoon ticked away.
And the third time, even Una jumped up and bayed and ran for the gate. I sang out "¿Quien esta?," and no one answered. But when I opened the latch, someone pushed from the other side.
It was Tim, come home all on his own. The girl dogs exploded into wags and yips and leaps. Paddy ran down the sidewalk, asking in a honeyed voice, "Where have you been, you bastard?" I hugged Tim´s smelly, curly neck -- he´d been rolling in manure. And Tim? He said nothing. He did not wag, neither did he snivel, or shiver or shake. He was perfectly... reserved. Exhausted. Done-in, after a long, long run. He had nothing to say for himself. No excuses, no explanations.
Like Murphy before him, somehow Tim found his way home. He drank a huge drink of water, downed a dish of kibble, and slept by the fire for hours. We let him lie there and stink. It´s his home, after all. God knows what the pilgrims thought!
In other news, the calendar says May. The weather says March. The garden looks very geometric, but the vegetable plants are going nowhere. They need to take lessons from the fields, where the poppies and oats are going great guns despite the cold nights and windy days. Enough already. Time for someone to turn up the HEAT out there! San Isidro day is coming right up... maybe the Holy Farmer can put the right word in the Big Ear?
Paddy had a minor surgery on his right hand yesterday in Palencia. They kept him in the hospital overnight, which he hated. But the man in the next bed was in much worse shape, which kept Paddy´s complaints to a minimum. Today we are full of thankfulness: For our dogs, for our hands, for pilgs and plants, neighbors and strangers so willing to behave like friends.
How lovely indeed is the Ordinary.