Captain Nemo: Sat, Sept 04, 2004

Life really changed for “Bernie” our imaginatively (not!) named St Bernard dog on the day we walked into the pet rescue centre in Granada. He had spent all of his year-long life tied up, and had obviously been a problem to his then owners, hence the rescue centre was called in. He was in need of much love and care as these big dogs will develop problems without it.

He was a bit scary at first because of his size and ferocious sounding bark and growl. Gradually during the first months of our relationship with him he started to settle. He watched the other dogs and noticed how they behaved and he was very careful not to upset the family life he was integrating into. Very intelligent for a big dog, he yearned for the care and attention he had been denied throughout most of his short life. 

Over the past couple of months, however, he has discoved how to ………….. PLAY! Now I don’t know about you, but having a 85 kilo puppy wanting to play (well, throw himself at you actually!) is a bit offputting. This, combined with the inevitable drool all over your shorts and T-shirt, means it can get very messy. He’s seen Rocky and Leo nibble at fingers as an act of playful welcome and so he tries it himself. Unfortunately having his gaping, drooling jowls nibbling at your arms isn’t good for a future in piano playing!

Another funny trait is his total inability to catch anything. Throw the other dogs a titbit and they expertly catch in the mouth, not Bernie. As his eyes are so deep set into his massive head he can’t keep track of the flight of the food. As a result he snaps at it after it has usually landed on the back of his head. Again, very messy.

We took him down Lanjarón High Street last week to the “tourist” end. The idea was that we would put a bottle of Lanjarón water round his neck and take photos of him with tourists for 5 euros a photo. Didn’t work unfortunately as nobody would walk anywhere near him. They all crossed over the street very conveniently about 100 yards before he got to them. Bernie had to settle for an ice cream cornet at the Heladeria instead.

He is also without a shadow of a doubt the most clumsy dog I’ve ever met. Partly due to his size, partly due to his deep set eyes, I guess. He bumps into things and trips over constantly. Now most of the time it’s not too much of a problem but, when you are cooling off in the swimming pool, and this 85 kilo bomb falls on top of you it can be quite a shock. Not half as bad as trying to get him out again though!

Yesterday we put the dogs at the lower villa as we had some Spanish guests (the Spanish are scared of big or indeed black dogs). After 30 minutes I thought things were a bit too quiet. Taking a peak I saw Leo and Rocky circling the pool. There was a faint ripple on the surface of the water. With horror I realised that Bernie must have fallen in. I ran down to the villa half expecting to find Bernie floating upside down. Thank goodness he had the good sense to swim to the side. He couldn’t get out but at least he could stand up on his hind legs and reach over the side. I hauled him out by the scruff of his neck. Undeterred, he continued stumbing and bumbling along. His new nickname ………….. Captain Nemo! Think it suits?

Written by:
Richard Hartley

Richard is an avid blogger and the founder of Spanish Highs Sierra Nevada. He is author of the Cicerone Guidebook Walking and Trekking in the Sierra Nevada