A British friend of mine comes to our house for a visit, part of a tour of South America that now includes taking the train to the west of Buenos Aires. “We’ve got a dog,” I warn her as we pull up in the car, partly to tell her about the dog but also to explain the yard strewn with bones, and the remnants of chewed empanada boxes and yesterday’s paper. K doesn’t look overly impressed. Until we open the door to Nayla. K’s face lights up, “ooh, you’ve got a proper dog!” she says, instantly in love.
We have a proper dog. A dog with long legs and lots of hair and a pair of big floppy ears. Not “one of those city dogs porteños put in their handbags with collars round their necks fatter than their legs.” There are a lot of those dogs in Buenos Aires. But we don’t have a status dog, in a part of the country where breeds rule and the more compact and stylish the better. We have a dog with spotty legs and a Collie look to her, who is the perfect big/little dog possessing no style whatsoever.
I’ve never been a dog person. I guess that’s another new discovery I’ve made since living here. Not a change, as such, because I believe the dog-loving part of me was always there. It was just buried and unexplored like latent Malbec love, empanada passion and the liking of late nights (OK, only sometimes.) And it’s difficult not to be a dog person here when canines are everywhere. Poor homeless dogs roam the streets drinking puddle water and pulling at my heartstrings. Next door are an ever-increasing pack of bully dogs who piss Nayla off when they break through the fence and trot around our garden like they own the place. The lopsided dog of my title I spotted in the park. He looked like a mole and stared at me with strange pink eyes.
We also had another dog. An outside dog from the street that M called Flaco. He immediately regretted naming him because as soon as we started to get attached he lolloped off to pastures new and a dustier bed. And we don’t know why, because he seemed happy here and we lent him Nayla’s blanket and we gave him food and he had a fine time protecting the house from the bully dogs. We miss him. Come back Flaco.