Roughly at the end of school term, we packed up and went to Crete for two weeks. It was good. And it was too hot for me to do any training. I managed some swimming, a run up some hills and through a few villages, and one wee trail run. But apart from that it was all family stuff. Playing on the beach, reading books, getting fat.
There were a few days which stood out, one in particular.
This one day, we went a walk up to a monastery at Arsaniou. We enjoyed seeing the foliage and landscape change as we got further inland, and when we got to the monastery, it didn’t disappoint. It looked like a fortress in whitewash. Old style. Bells. Graveyard. No frills. Proper quiet. In fact it was eerily quiet, and we didn’t see a single soul.
After wandering around courtyards and outdoor staircases we found the chapel, which was opposite what looked like a bunkhouse. It sported a rustic veranda providing shade for a large weathered wooden table. Underneath the table, I spied something large and brown sleeping. I couldn’t help notice a large pair of bollocks poking out between crossed hind legs.
Natasha and the boy hadn’t noticed him, and went into the chapel to look around and light a candle or two. I followed them in hoping not to wake brown dog.
When we were done, we started walking back to the gate. And that’s where he picked us up. He just sauntered up. Not directly. Just sweeping past and brushing my leg lightly.
We don’t really know dogs, and we don’t know how to read their signals. So I kept my hands at my side, and said hello with what I hoped was enthusiasm. Brown dog seemed to want to come with us.
He looped around the road outside the gate a few times, coming in for a brush against my side until we accepted the situation. The gate had been open the whole time, so he must be the master of his own destiny. It would be fine for all of us to go for a walk up to the nearest village.
Feeling a bit less nervous but still wary, I walked a good pace and kept myself well ahead of Natasha and the boy. I ventured the occasional pat on his side. Man he was big. Near hip height to me and solidly-muscled. I looked down at his back it seemed as if he was floating above the road as he pulled along.
Round about then, I started to enjoy his quiet company. He wanted someone to buddy up with, and he was letting me feel like he was my dog. Out in front, dog at my hip, no collar, no leash. Rolling.
As we ascended to the village, we became aware Brown Boy wasn’t exactly a welcome sight to the local canine community. Across the village a chorus of howling and barking rose up. Little dogs turned to demons in their driveways, big dogs strained and snarled against their chains. It seemed like almost every house had a dog that had a bone to pick with Brown Dog.
Our four-legged pal completely ignored them. Not a bark in response, not even a glance. I thought maybe he was deaf, but no. He was just a big calm boy. We wove our way through the side streets with our chins up, ignoring the growls.
Back at the monastery, he wouldn’t part company and I had to walk him inside and draw the big steel gate shut between us. We were probably just one of hundreds of families he suckers into going for a wee walking trip round the villages. But it felt a bit special anyway.