Cabeçao is the darker long haired dog. He is about 4 years old and has been a roaming stray for at least 2 of these. He therefore isn’t really accustomed to being inside and he’s having to make big adjustments. He is also very intelligent and has the manners of a refined gentleman. He is a Serra da Estrela and he’s enormous! He weighs about 7 stone and when he stands his head comes up to my hips. Think…big bear! But he’s a big softy, he’s very friendly which is amazing considering his background, and just seems to be very grateful to have a home.
We always intended to get a dog at some stage and at the time we were sitting around not doing much because neither of us had a job. Well we decided that perhaps it was a good time to get a dog so that we would have the time to get it settled and adjusted before going off to work each day. (I’m sure there is some logic there somewhere.) Now there are so many stray dogs in dog homes here in Portugal that it seemed silly (not to mention expensive) to buy a pup from a breeder. So after much research we ended up at Bianca where we met Gosia and Agustin. Anyway we spent a couple of hours with them wandering around, looking at the various candidates and then left to consider our short list. Not really having any specific criteria other than ‘not small and yappy’, it wasn’t easy and we could quite happily have come home with half the shelter. Well then someone had the ever so brilliant and cunning plan that if we got 2 dogs, they would be company for each other while we were at work. (I’m sure there was some logic there too…somewhere!) Well we decided on these two dogs, Sophia and Cabeção. Unfortunately…they had never met so first it was time to give introductions to see if they would get along or not and apart from a few nervous growls from Sophie all seemed fine. We agreed that we would take Sophia with us and they would deliver Cabeção the next day as we wouldn’t be able to get them both in the car.
So we set off with Sophia and apart from a little nerves and being car sick, she settled ok and we got her home without too much bother. As soon as she walked in she found the rug in the living room and that was the end of that. ‘This will do me thank you very much’ was written all over her face! Well I went out and got some pet supplies, and she settled very quickly. Then after a few hours, it was time for bed and I thought it would be a good idea to make her a bed on the floor in our room in case she woke in the night in a strange place! Unfortunately it was about this time that we discovered she had a pathological fear of stairs! Not sure if she hadn’t seem stairs before, or if she had been hurt on them by a previous owner. Hmmm, this might be a bit of a problem in a 3 storey house! So after much persuading which failed miserably, I carried her upstairs and that was all fine and then I thought, damn, hope we don’t have the same problem with Cabeção! So she settled quite happily, until about 3.00am when she decided it was time for a pee! Well would she go downstairs? Not on your life, so once again I carried her downstairs and we took her outside and that’s all fine. We came back in and once again she refused to go upstairs. By now I was somewhat less than amused and as she seemed to have settled quite well, we left her downstairs for the remainder of the night. Next morning (or was it really the same morning) I came down about 7.00am to find her sitting up on the couch (thanks very much) and she had found my small Duracell, rubber cased, waterproof torch. Well it may have been waterproof but it sure wasn't Sophia proof. She had chewed it pretty much to bits and the remains of it were scattered all over the rug. ‘Who me….I have no idea how that happened, I was asleep on the couch and when I woke up…there it was…honest!’ Written all over her face.
So the rest of the day was spent getting her organized, and moving everything possible to above the chewing zone. Then late in the afternoon Gosia and Agustin arrived with Cabeção and that was when the fun really began! Sophia, in only 24 hours, had not only claimed the house as her own, but got very jealous whenever Tina or I spoke to Cabeção. She would bark and growl, and force herself between us and Cabeção, much to the shock and amazement of everyone. We chose her because she was one of the few dogs that they let roam freely around the enclosure because she got along with all the other dogs there. Plus she was a very cute and sweet dog. That night I decided to sleep downstairs in the same room as Cabeção in case he woke up in a strange place, and Sophie was not impressed. She spent the night upstairs sleeping on the floor in our room. At one point Tina woke up to hear her chewing the corner of the bed, my side of course. Then the next morning Tina discovered that Sophie had managed to get hold of a pair of my underwear and had been chewing them. Closer inspection revealed that they were now crotchless. (Now there’s a statement!) The next day Cabeção had hardly eaten a thing and we were starting to get a bit concerned about him. He’d turned his nose up at everything I’d offered him, treats and all. He had adult food and Sophia had puppy food. Well, in desperation we decided to try and see if he would eat her puppy food…from the back of a soup spoon. I don’t believe it. There I was sitting on the floor, spoon feeding this dog, who decided, ‘oh yes, this will do me just fine thank you very much.’ Sophia was by now getting even more jealous and because we were keeping them apart, retaliated by finding something else to chew. I can't remember exactly what it was but already the list of items that had fallen prey to her chewing was growing rapidly.
Meanwhile, Sophia had also reverted to being a non-house trained pup with accidents occurring everywhere despite being taken for regular walks and Cabeção had begun reacting to her jealousy by marking his territory…inside…and with a dog his size…it’s not just a little squirt! Oh and of course, our timing was crap as it was still very much the rainy time of year and we still didn't have any grass so the whole section was just a quagmire of goo, which naturally was now all over the patio, the outside stairs and would come into the house on their feet and our wellies. So the house had also been trashed! By this stage Tina and I were sitting there trying to work out just who's bloody bright idea this was and had worked out a plan that if we couldn't get them to settle we would take Sophia back to Bianca and keep Cabeção as there would be a greater chance of getting Sophia adopted out. But we persevered with trying to give the same amount of attention to both of them and treating them equally. If one got a treat, the other would get an equal treat and so on. We also tried to reinforce a pack structure, by treating Cabeção as the lead dog. He gets fed first and then Sopia and so on. Well, finally all the work paid off and one day I was sitting on the floor with Cabeção when Sophia came over, jumped on him and started biting him. Cabeção was not impressed and gave her a big back handed swipe that sent here flying across the room. Still she came back for more, and then it was all on. Barking, growling, teeth gnashing, everything. Then all of a sudden, I noticed the tails go up, and they started wrestling in the living room like they were best mates and today it is still the same. Yes Sophia still craves attention and from time to time she will still push her way in if I am talking to Cabeção. But it's because she doesn't want to miss out rather than being a possessive thing.
Of course, we were really concerned that all the hard work would be undone when I came home one day with 3 abandoned puppies. About 6 weeks old and hungry. They too are a similar mix to Sophia and to our huge surprise, she took them on and immediately became a mother figure for them. She would look after them and herd them around the house and make sure they didn't get into any trouble. Of course... now they are 6 months old, as big as she is and they all like to play. Sometimes Cabeção joins in now that the weather is cooling done a bit and I end up with all of them running, sliding and wrestling in the living room and if you listen very carefully, somewhere amongst the barking, growling and yapping you can hear this desperate voice in the midst of it all yelling....no playing in the house!!!!!!!! You know the rules... Play outside!!!!!