When Juanito had suddenly announced that
his Podenco bitch was missing, we had all jumped to the conclusion
that she and Flipper were missing together. Coincidence would
be strained too much if this was not the case. But it soon
became clear that what appeared to have been the nearly simultaneous
disappearance of the two animals, with the inescapable sexual
implication, however ludicrous - Flipper was a very small
dog and the bitch was not - did not in itself tell us very
much about where they might actually be. Or anything at all
about in what condition they might be, when and if, found.
The only concrete advantage which came with the knowledge
that the two beasts were almost certainly together, was that
the bitch could not be lost in what was her home territory;
ergo, Flipper was not lost either. Ultimately, she would come
home and he with her, given that they were both all right.
So it was not too surprising to me when
one of the three options which Juanito pointed out was that
we should do nothing for the moment. He suggested that the
bitch would surely return home when hunger intervened. Flipper,
he said, could be counted upon to return with her. This option
presupposed that both animals would be in good enough physical
condition to make it back home. Another option was to search
for the missing dogs with the help of Juanitos male
Podencos. But this option carried with it the possibility
of danger to Flipper. Juanitos thinking was that the
dogs could be counted upon to find their missing sister and
her suitor, little Flipper. But that since the finding would
probably take place without human supervision, since we would
be far behind the swift hunting dogs, it was impossible to
foretell what their reaction would be when they found her
with an outsider - Flipper. It was conceivable that they could
simply accept the situation, or, just as conceivable, that
they could quite possibly tear him to pieces. And it was impossible,
he said, to put them on leashes. They had never been leashed
before, and to do so now and expect them to perform a search-and-find
expedition during their first leash experience would be highly
unrealistic. The final option was for Juanito to search for
the two of them on his own, or with me along to help. His
bitch was a well behaved girl, he said; she came on call under
normal circumstances, and it was quite possible that she would
come to him if he could manage to get within her hearing distance
of his call
she would be followed, of course, by Flipper.
In the end we decided to try the last
of the three options first. Juanito and I would set out together,
hoping to be able to get close enough to the missing animals
so that Juanitos call and whistle commands could be
heard by the bitch. But even in the happy event that we could,
the great question was: would she respond to his call despite
the urgently compelling sexual distraction telling her not
to? So with another Christmas salsa downed to reinvigorate
me, Juanito and I strode off in the direction from which we
Picture © Harold Liebow 1966
Podenco (Ibicenco Hound)
Picture © Josep Solá, Nave y Buil
Picture © Harold Liebow 1966
left was the front rank of the great west coast pine forest
which had advanced closest to the sea. And on our right was
the elemental coastline. Everywhere were vast sloping shelves
and towering pillars of ancient volcanic rock in a scattered
conglomeration of what must have been one of natures
wildest moments. Through this intimidating landscape Juanito
threaded his way as easily as a trout flashes through his
home waters. Once again I was hard put to stay with my guide
until I found the right rhythm and the assurance which came
with it. And then we became a coordinated pair. My strides
matched his. We even breathed in unison. There were no words
except for those used in calling the names of the animals
as we went. Strength and energy must be preserved. What there
was was plenty of determination. Both of us were deeply committed.
I had no idea of to where Juanito was heading, or for that
matter, if he was heading for any particular place at all;
and, for awhile, I wasnt sure he had any idea, either.
But it soon turned out that he had. He was heading for the
little cove just north of Madames house where I had
tried the temperature of the water in the morning. He was
sure that if the bitch had led Flipper anywhere, it would
be to that cove. It was the favourite hunting locus of his
dogs. So we pushed on and the afternoon shadows lengthened
as we went.
I should interpose a word here about our
communication. Neither understood the language of the other,
of course. So there was a serious obstacle to communicating
with each other. But what astonished me was how, under the
lash of necessity, communication became possible. Juanito
was able to inform me of his thinking, of his conjectures,
of his observations. I was able to pass on to him some of
my own thoughts. And this happened by using the few words
we did have in common plus expressive body language gesture,
and hand, eye, head and mouth gestures. A raised eyebrow,
as you can easily imagine, became a question mark. And other,
more obscure and frequently hitherto unknown body actions
quickly came into play as imperative pressure called them
out of hiding. It was soon established that we could convey
our thoughts by the use of a few given words and our own just
discovered sign language.
And so at last, we reached the cove. It
was just as I had last seen it in the morning. It was beautiful
it was deserted. There was not a living creature to be seen.
Neither animal responded to our calls. We even marched up
to Madams house itself, but it too was on its own. In
the end there was nothing to do but to track back to Juanitos
following as different a path as was possible and using Juanitos
dog whistle as well as calling with what was left of our voices.
Option number three had failed. We could now decide to return
and do nothing. Or, even though the afternoon was running
out, we could return and take the dogs out and try to track
our missing pair. What to do? We thought and thought about
it as we trudged the long way back. Both of us were secretly
hoping, I think, that the conundrum would solve itself. That
when we arrived at Juanitos we would find our errant
doggies. But hoping was not enough. We did not find them anywhere,
at Juanitos or on the way back to Juanitos. What
we did find was a group of very demoralized people waiting
impatiently for news and for us.
Rest was indicated and sorely needed. Especially
by me. I had made the gruelling trip three times and would
have to make it once again on the way home. So Juanito and
I were treated as returned warriors from the fray. Wine and
food were produced in abundance and both of us made as comfortable
as that ruin of a house would permit. We began to calculate
what the latest hour would be that we could leave and be assured
of arriving at Madames house before nightfall. For to
make that return trip through that rock strewn wilderness
in the dark was unthinkable. Even for Juanito.
Madame was especially supportive and compassionate.
It seemed she had once lost a beloved pet herself and could
empathize completely with my misery over the loss of Flipper.
And both Jacques and Alberto were also consolatory in the
extreme. I was grateful, of course, for their concern, but
I was grateful also, for something more. I felt in their manner,
in their approach, in their way of being near me that something
had changed in their feelings for me. I felt that somehow,
by unspoken common consent, I had been accepted into the club.
Some magic spark had been struck and there was no longer any
chance that we should all be sadder rather than gladder after
the Christmas holiday was over. If I had been invited to stay
with them for Christmas it had been a well advised invitation,
after all. And a feeling of great calm began to pervade me.
It was a sign, I thought, that perhaps, after all, I would
fit. I would fit, not only into the club of which Madame was
the mistress, but into this whole new life of mine, this just
adopted new life of mine at age 45, in a strange land with
customs still strange to me. A land in which Juanito and his
family could live quite happily in an open ruin and all alone
on a beautiful beach. Where else could such a thing happen?
Only in Ibiza, I thought.
Madame said, Tomorrow we will visit
our friends on the other side of us. There are four of them.
It will take your mind off the loss of your little dog.
My God! I thought. Salsa four times over!
It looked very much indeed, like we had
run out of options. Flipper looked like being lost for good.
Even Alberto was deeply depressed as we helped him along on
the last way home. And though we kept alert to the possibility
of hearing a jaunty welcoming bark from a wayward Flipper,
alas, there was nothing of the kind. It was a tired, defeated
band of bedraggled hikers who finally flopped down and out
at Madames house just at late sunset that evening.