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The move from Spain to France with Rio,Part 3.

Our big, fluffy Basque sheepdog aged 16 months.

Eating out is a big part of life here in France, as it is in Spain. The difference for us now, is that we can take Rio into restaurants with us. Some of you reading this will think that’s a horrid idea, but we thought we’d give it a go. There’s a saying here that if you don’t like animals you aren’t a very nice person. I remember, in Spain, on a cold, windy day wanting to grab a bite to eat and having to sit outside as we had the dog with us, so this is a new experience. We went into a restaurant, which was part of a hotel and asked if it would be ok to bring in our dog. “Mais Oui” said the man, “of course.” “But he’s big - are you sure?” “But of course” again, as though we were mad for even asking. We were shown to a table and we wanted to be in the far corner thinking that Rio could have a bit of space away from other diners. He was so excited when he saw, actually sitting on a chair at another table, a little terrier. They ‘spoke’ to each other and then we pulled Rio over to our table. We pushed him down into the corner under the table but he kept bobbing up again and again. Rio is just the right height for the table, resting his chin on the very clean and white linen tablecloth with his big black nose quivering as he awaits certain delights of scraps, which he isn’t going to get, but thinks he is. We felt so conspicuous - how do other people manage it? It felt just like when we used to take our children as little toddlers out with us, thinking that everyone else is thinking we are bad parents. Other dogs were sitting quietly, but not Rio - he’s too nosey and would keep standing up to see what other people were up to (or eating, more like). The waiter brought along a large bowl of water for him and placed it down on the floor. Before I could move it a little further away from Rio - yes - he kicked it all over the place. The waiter came back and we apologetically pointed out the big pool of water everywhere. He went off to get the mop and was most unconcerned. We saw a man at the next table with his father looking over and hoped they didn’t think the waiter was mopping something else up - which would be enough to put you off your food, even it is good French cooking. We ate as fast as possible and left, thinking that actually, it didn’t go too badly and we would do it again. Perhaps next time would be less fraught. As we were leaving, the men at the next table asked us about Rio and we thought they were going to complain. “What an intelligent looking dog he is,” they said, “so observant, isn’t he lovely, isn’t he fine”. Yes, he is. Phew.

Rio

Actually, the next time was much better. Rio came with us to a lunch out and once he’d met the resident dog there and made friends, he stayed lying beautifully under our table until we finished eating. The soup course was served in a large tureen and left with us so we could take as much as we wanted; lovely. The next course was a delicious beef casserole, which I’m sure, was keeping Rio in his hopeful, salivating position under the table. He was so well behaved I thought I’d undo his lead to give him a bit more space under the table. He chased the resident dog behind the bar where the proprietor was serving drinks to customers. She wasn’t at all put out, thank goodness, so we can go there again - just as well as the food was wonderful. Vive la France.

Rio has made another new friend. There’s a duck farm down the lane where a little brown and white eight-month-old hunting dog called Lucky lives. One day Rio trotted off down there to play with him, and when we wanted to go out, I went to fetch him. The two dogs were nowhere to be seen. Lucky’s worried owners were just going to get their car out to search, when in the far off distance we could see a small beige dot with an even smaller brown dot running behind. Rio was leading Lucky across some farmer’s crop fields. Lucky had never ventured away from his own farm before, so his owners decided they would put him on a chain to prevent him doing so again. Well, they didn’t, because after that day the two rogues have been running around all over the countryside together. Lucky comes over most days and the two of them play a never-ending game of ‘you chase me and I’ll chase you and then we’ll roll over and over’ ….all daylong. Every morning Rio looks out of the bedroom window to see if Lucky’s there, and runs to the front door to go galloping outside to him, even before breakfast, and if you knew how much Rio loves his food, you would appreciate how much fun he has with Lucky...

One day we had an electric thunderstorm while Rio was out playing somewhere or other; we think he was possibly in the large copse of trees we could see from the house. I was quite worried about him playing in there after we saw a wild boar one day. They are very large, brown, heavy, fearsome-looking creatures. Quite timid, we are told, but I wouldn‘t hang around to find out. I‘m only happy up close to one if it‘s on my plate in the form of sausages. There was a cloudburst and the storm raged across the sky with spectacular pink lights. We started to prepare dinner thinking that if Rio didn’t come back soon it means we have to go looking for him in the rain. Then the electricity cut out and we were in darkness and the meal wasn’t cooked. Whilst looking for some candles, there was a tapping on the window - and - here he is! Soaking wet through to the skin, looking like a drowned rat, covered in burrs, putting large, muddy footprints all over the floors and smiling. And Lucky was with him, also drenched right through.

More next week.
© Sue Dayman Mauroux, Lot.

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