Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Understanding Brazil: The Dogs II

Of course, not all dogs in Brazil are pampered city dogs. In Brazil there are plenty of beach dogs too. And who wouldn‘t want to live on a Brazilian beach as a dog? It sounds like the perfect lifestyle to me. As long as you aren‘t too fussy about what you eat, food will turn up eventually. Sometimes magically washing up at your feet. Shade can usually be found as can somebody to walk with down the beach.I have only managed one beach walk in Brazil without being accompanied by a dog. They know what they are doing, and follow you as soon as you set foot on the sand. They will run rings around you, chew sand and coconuts, paddle in the sea, fight with their friends escorting somebody walking the opposite way, and inspect and nibble the remains of fish, sea-birds, or penguins, live crabs, and anything else that looks vaguely interesting. After watching this, you should realise that it is a mistake to stroke them.

Sometimes they even try to catch their own food. I watched three stupid dogs trying to catch a bird flying twenty yards out to sea. They followed it backwards and forwards for as long as I could see without getting close and without giving up. I didn‘t want to see how long they would keep it up because that would have made me as stupid as them. They may still be there.Other dogs have escorted me to pousadas, between bars, or to home, all the time looking like they expect to be taken inside to become that extra family member, which is every dog‘s dream. Most haven‘t perfected the pathetic look aimed at winning your sympathy though.

One dog who had definitely perfected the pathetic look lived on a beach in Arraial d‘Ajuda. We were being escorted down the beach by a dog that looked like a lion without the mane. Sandy coloured and with golden eyes, he was almost the size of a Great Dane but more handsome and athletic. His shoulder blades rippled as he walked with a whole coconut casually resting in his teeth. King of the Beach Beasts without a doubt.We were safe with him, that much was certain. Every single other dog for miles barked, then ran and hid, or fawned at his feet.

Except for one tiny, ugly mongrel thing that was too scared to run. It barked until we were within twenty yards of it and then acted like somebody had popped it with a pin. It shrank to the ground in ever-decreasing circles, its submissive tail tucked so far between its back legs that it was tickling its own chin. That chin jutted out with an underbite in an attempt to do I don‘t know what. Look menacing? Hardly. Inspire sympathy by looking so ugly and weak that it would be left alone? Inspire incredulous laughter in us, more like. It never took its eyes off the big guy, even as it collapsed onto its back on the sand. Its counterpart didn't bark, growl or threaten it at all. I‘ve never seen such a blatant display of fear and cowardice, even in myself, than in the Collapsing Dog. One of the funniest examples of animal behaviour I‘ve ever seen. The lion didn‘t laugh. He walked straight past without taking his eyes off the horizon. Now that`s a dog.

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