They are in every place we have been. From the barrio of Buenos Aires to the endless Argentine pampas. From the war front in Iraq to the war front in Marawi, Philippines. From the jungles of Thailand to the red earth roads in Africa. They are angels with tails: dogs of varying sizes that we meet on our travels around the world. Because that saying applies to us: When God runs out of wings, he uses tails.
The dogs of La Boca
There are the dogs of La Boca, in Buenos Aires.
Three, or four street crossbreed who belong to no one but to the whole barrio. Free to sleep in one house or another, they spend their days with the inhabitants of the neighbourhood: near the benches, in the shade of what could be called a bar, and on the edge of the football pitch. And punctually, at seven o’clock in the evening, they find themselves in the back of a restaurant from which bowls full of smiles and the leftovers from the lunch of sleepy tourists. They are sociable dogs, but if they don’t want to be petted, they don’t approach. And they are pot-bellied: they accept almost nothing from strangers. After all, lunch leftovers here are often delicious pieces of Argentinian meat.
A Patagonian doggie
And how can we forget that Patagonian dog, whose name we do not know, who guided Gabriel to an estancia of gauchos, in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares near El Calafate? Gabriele was walking along a deserted path (if we exclude the occasional unlikely animal that showed up) in search of the gauchos, the true masters of the endless Argentine pampas. After hours of walking and no gauchos, he turns up. They exchange glances, a tail wagging and an innate confidence to follow him off the trail until Gabriel reaches this estancia that would otherwise have remained hidden.
Marshall: a puppy in Marawi
There is Marshall, a puppy born during the military attack by the ISIS-linked Maute group in the southern Philippine town of Marawi. Marshall and his mother were found in the rubble of a house destroyed during the clashes, and a regular army soldier took them with him and brought them safely to the first base beyond the red zone. This same base was also home to journalists and photojournalists; this is how Gabriele found himself sharing his spare food and sleepless nights with them.
Kathì and Mia in Thailand
There are Kathì and Mia, a jack russell puppy and a cross-breed, who live in a house on the edge of the jungle in northern Thailand. Free to come and go, they come out of a hole in the net made on purpose because, as their owner told us, ‘since they wouldn’t be stopped anyway, at least they can get out comfortably’.
In the afternoons you see them sneak out at the call of another dog who comes to pick them up from under the house and then return in time for dinner. One day Kathi, as a good and unconscious jack russell, even scared away a three-metre python that was entering the house.
There are many more and many more to come. Because we like to think that it is Valentino – our jack russell – who sends them to us, to follow us and support us as he can on our journeys. I imagine him summoning the network of wagging tails with a sort of iDog and choosing the ones that suit us best, at that moment. And it can only be so, as they often come to dilute a tension, or tiredness, with a wag of their tail.
And who knows, maybe one day we will be able to collect all their stories in a book entitled Angels with Tails.