Whichever the continent, count on me to find and befriend stray animals.
The day before we finished the Camino de Santiago, the small group of us who were traveling together trudged into a small town outside of Santiago de Compostela. It was raining and dreary, and none of us were in the best of spirits. I was thinking about how ready I was to get to the hostel and take a shower when I looked up and saw a little black and white blob running towards me. Suddenly all thoughts of resting and getting clean were out the window.
She was so small and friendly and ran right up to me, tail wagging. I figured she had a home and was just a dog who wandered the town, so I gave her some love and we went on our way. She followed us across town to the hostel, and although I was worried about her being out in the rain, I went inside assuming that she would make her way home in time for dinner and some sleep.
The next morning, we all got up early and made our way to the final stop on the Camino, only to be greeted an hour or two away from the previous town by the same little pup we had met the day before. She had so much energy and was running up to every pilgrim, and I managed to keep her with me just long enough to feed her a few croissants I had in my bag for my mid-morning snack. She gobbled them up like she hadn’t eaten in days and ran off again.
About a half hour later, our paths crossed again as we came upon a busy highway– at this point she was making me a little nervous. I baited her over to me with another croissant and picked her up before she could run away, carrying her across the road and all the way to the town where we planned to stop for lunch. Luckily there was a veterinarian there who scanned her for a microchip and removed some ticks that had attached themselves under her fur. He said that she didn’t seem to belong to anyone, so the best thing we could do was to take her to Santiago de Compostela and leave her at the shelter there.
Of course by this point, I had grown attached to her and had given her the name “Camina”, or “(she) walks”. After the vet, my dad and I bought her a leash and collar and both racked our brains for a justifiable way to bring her back to the States with us.
After a quick lunch for both us and our new friend, we continued on our way. She was exhausted and preferred that I carried her instead of walking on her own. We still had a few miles to go, so the most convenient way to carry her was to drape her over my shoulders and hold her legs to keep her steady.
We continued until we were just outside of the city, where we met a young hippy couple who were chasing a dog who may or may not have had an owner. When we asked them what they were doing, they said that they were from Barcelona and were looking for a stray dog to take home with them. What!? What were the chances? I lifted Camina off of my shoulders and asked if they wanted her. They looked very confused and asked why I didn’t want her, so I explained that I had found her and was taking her to the shelter.
They graciously took her, I cried a lot, and we all continued on our way. After giving her up, I became terrified that I had just given away this sweet puppy to a couple of psychos who were going to do something awful to her, and a pit in my stomach grew bigger and bigger.
A couple of days later my dad saw them sitting outside of a restaurant and feeding her and I knew that there was a reason we ran into them at the time that we did. He found out that they had named her “Tierra” for “Earth” and it looked like they were loving her well. That affirmation was all I needed to calm the nerves in my stomach and to feel grateful to have met such a sweet little pup.
And that, my friends, is the story of the first time I kept a dog I found on the side of the road….