The dogs´reputation preceeds them. Every time we set up a delivery in this small town–from the influential female owner of three businesses in town to the burly, rugged stonemasons–they all say the same thing: “You’ve still got those dogs, right? They terrify me. You´re going to tie them up before we come?”
Yes, we intimidate the populace. And we like it that way. On a remote Brazilian farm having terrifying dogs means that you sleep better at night.
But in my mind? They´re just: The Boys. They’re part of the architecture of the farm, and I adore each one of them. Let me introduce you.
Dragão (Dragon) is the lead dog, elder and sedate and HUGE. He stands nearly meter tall on all fours and towers over two meters when on his hind legs. A gentle giant, he has allowed our ignorant hands to explore and prod all sorts of wounds (most recently a nasty infection broken shin bone from what we think might have been a hunter’s bullet shot–see my previous comments, e.g, why we like it that way). He passively allows us to flip him over and submit him to shots, flea treatments, baths, and other assorted discomforts and indignities.
Legend tells that Dragão has knocked over approaching strangers on motorcycles, killed many a smaller dog, and cornered intruders in trees until his owners arrived (he’s still got it–I witnessed him tree an unannounced visitor just last week). His powerful, immense jaws will gulp down a whole chicken leg in one bite–GLOMP–without it ever touching the ground. Dragão is the defender of the family. In his advanced years he usually can be found lounging in the shade or warming his flanks in the sun, however if my sister-in-law and her children venture to another part of the farm he follows and if restrained from following (no easy task) he will bark and cry until she returns. I scratched my hand stringing a barbed wire fence and he cried and fussed until he was allowed to inspect the wound and lick it clean.
Dragão also loves all things stinky and rotten, often dragging back to the house a piece of rotting carcass of one sort or another. We toss it away, he brings it back, we go further, it comes back, we bury it, and he goes and finds something else next week. Last week he brought back a cow spine and he and The Boys chewed on it for days like a chocolate Easter bunny. Once a sack of dead chickens appeared. At first we thought it was abandoned by a nighttime thief and much family panic and pandemonium ensued, and then we realized the chickens weren’t ours and the next best explanation was that Dragão probably stole it from a few farms over. We had the thief on our payroll. Oh, the shame.
Tigrão (Big Tiger), Dragão’s son, suffers from a severe inferiority complex. Smaller in size and more cowardly in demeanor than his formidable father, Tigrão is a lover not a fighter. I’m sure that in another lifetime he would have made a good therapy dog. He wasn’t made for this tough-love lifestyle on the farm. Show him the slightest affection and you have a lifetime entourage member. Pet another animal, and Tigrão’s nose is immediately under your hand demanding that he receive the attention instead. Leave him outside, and he cries underneath your window. Determined to be where the people are at any cost, he can be found sneaking through any doorway left open, and when confronted he refuses to submit and applies passive resistance techniques that would make Ghandi proud: first flopping his rump solidly on the ground and bracing his legs, then when pushed he falls limp to the floor so that one is forced to lift all fifty pounds of his dead weight and carry him back outside.
The third in the trio, the grandson, is Pitoc. His name has no translation; he once was Pitoco, meaning “little guy“, they nipped his tail and so now he’s been shortened to “Pitoc”. Pitoc is bouncing, boundless energy and a bottomless stomach. He’s also a blindingly fast runner just like his dad, Tigrão. We’re working to teach him to not chase the cows and chickens for entertainment. I’ve tried taking him jogging as a way to wear off some of that energy, but who can keep up with him? The latest strategy is a frisbee that I brought from the USA. He loves chasing it, but isn’t so big on bringing it back. That’s fine because the youngest kids happily chase him with squeals of glee until they can persuade him to give the frisbee back. This effectively tires out doggie and kiddos. Win-win.
A final shout-out goes to our fallen comrade Toquín (Smidgeon), the one dog not related to the rest, our d’Artagnan to the Three Musketeers. He disappeared this month; we found him a week later and we suspect that he was killed by neighboring dogs. The sly mastermind of the group, he was always hesitant to meet your gaze directly and wary of rapid movements in his direction. At one third the other grown dogs’ size, it is clear that he had resigned himself to his fate at the bottom of the pack. However, Toquín could be trusted to be the first to hear a car approaching and he was by far the best hunter, bringing down armadillos and other small prey almost equal his size. When you go for a walk it was always Toquín who appeared at your side, exuberant to delve into a new adventure, his stub-tail wagging his whole rump. Due to his smarts, he was always the first to figure out what was going down. When applying remedies we always had to treat Toquín first, lest he witness the other dogs’ experiences and prudently head for the hills. Anything in an approaching human’s hand spelled disaster to Toquín; flea powder, shots, berne treatments, bath time. Due to his diminutive stature, loathing of baths, and his love for the bush Toquín was always the most disheveled of the bunch–burdocks hopelessly tangled in his shaggy fur, seed pods dangling from his ears, mud coating his crooked little forelegs. Like Pigpen in Charlie Brown, it seems that perhaps our Toquín was most content when filthy. We’ll miss that dirty little adventurer.