Sunday, May 29, 2011

Portugal's Scruffy Dogs and a Reykjavik Chihuahua

My husband and I just returned from a fantastic vacation in Europe, and, of course, we have hundreds of pictures of the beautiful Algarve region around Salema, Portugal where we spent a week; Paris, France where we spent most of the next week; and Reykjavik, Iceland where we spent a too-short three days on the way home.  But I'm not going to share all those beautiful pictures here...not the role of this blog. Instead, of course, I'm going to share pictures of some of the scruffy dogs we encountered in Portugal -- running free, unfettered by leash laws or protective humans.

Most of the dogs we saw in Portugal were scruffy. Some by breed or hair type, but most because they hadn't had a bath or brushing in quite a while, if ever. That's not to say the Portuguese don't love their dogs. They certainly have a lot of them around and the dogs all seem quite healthy and happy. But as to the guardianship of any particular dog, that wasn't immediately obvious -- the dogs at seem to be more wards of the community... constant, roaming features of the Algarve landscape.  Based on stories told to me by my grandparents, this is much the way small town dogs lived here in the US a couple of generations ago, in the days before things like doggy daycare and puppy beauty spas. But the dogs clearly knew who their humans were...

In the town of Salema, a small fishing village on the southwest coast of Portugal, early morning was the most interesting time of the day for observations of local life, both human and canine.

We saw a scruffy little dog trotting cheerfully with a boy and girl, accompanying them to the school bus stop. Children delivered and mission accomplished, he then went about his other job of roaming the cobblestone streets, sniffing and marking all the light poles, shrubs and parked cars.

We walked down to the beach not long after sunrise to find the locals already busy at work. A group of men, most of whom appeared to be well beyond middle-age and all of whom were wearing the same kind of wool driving cap perched high on their heads, gathered around a lean-to next to the beach. They untangled fishing lines and nets, prepared plastic tubs and waited for the fishing boats to come in.

The dogs also arrived early and took their places along the beach. Some waited on the sidewalk, others roamed the rocks and driftwood at the edge of the high tide's last sweep.  At first I wasn't sure what they were waiting for (it seems dogs in Portugal are always waiting for the door of a pub, a store or, in this case, on a beach). One black dog ran out to the edge of the water -- his ship was coming in. Well, boat is more like it. The fishing boats in Salema are usually small one- or two-man boats, not the large boats I'm used to seeing in our local harbors. The dog waited patiently for the boat to drive up on shore (yes, the boats just drive straight up onto the beach), at which point the boat was chained to a tractor that pulled it up the beach to the area next to the lean-to. The black dog excitedly welcomed his fisherman home and the cadre of wool-hatted men went about emptying the boat and sorting the fish. It was quite something to watch.

(Sidenote: As soon as the boats came in they were swarmed by dozens of the local cats, most of whom seemed feral, sickly thin and mangy looking...definitely not faring as well as the local dogs. As soon as the fish were unloaded, the cats jumped into the boats and cleaned out the detritus and remains of fish that were caught in the nets. There always seemed to be a few dozen cats hanging around, largely ignored by the dogs.)

Cabo de São Vicente

 This grumpy old dog came out as soon as the gates opened at Cabo de São Vicente. He was intent on digging something out from under that door and was very annoyed when we tried to distract him long enough for a photo. Eventually he gave up and decided to lie down for a nap and tourist photo op.

Podengo at Praia do Castelejo
Finally, we got a picture of what I believe to be Grande and/or Medio Podengo -- the national dog of Portugal. We saw two of them wandering the hills around Praia do Castelejo.  The smaller one greeted us as we drove up the road toward the beach and then proceeded to watch us from above. The larger one was napping on a hillside covered with white flowers. Every once in a while he would stand to survey the landscape, turn around a few times and lie back down in the sun.


In the afternoon, we would see dogs stretched out napping in the shade or curled up next to the boats.

In the larger city of Lagos, east of Salema, the city dogs also roamed free. This one, below, wasn't exactly scruffy, but her eyes were mesmerizing. I love this picture (like all of the others, courtesy of my photographer/artist husband, Jamie).
Not exactly scruffy, but the most soulful eyes...Lagos

This Spanish Water Dog in Salema was a tourist roaming the beaches with his human. At first I thought he was a small Portuguese Water Dog (after all, we were in Portugal) but when I inquired, his owner quickly corrected me. The dog was cute, but not very friendly and I'm not sure how Jamie got this picture because he never stopped moving...

Spanish Water Dog in Salema

We didn't get any great dog pictures in Paris this time... but we couldn't resist this decidedly non-scruffy Chihuahua in a store window in Reykjavik, Iceland. At first I thought he was part of a display, then he opened his eyes, blinked and went back to sleep.

Reykjavik Chihuahua

That's it for this edition of "Portugal's Scruffy Dogs." I hope to return as soon as possible to continue my research (and enjoy more of those long, lazy, warm days by the beach).