This is Natas, or so we called him, the stubby-legged mutt we befriended on our visit to the Lagoa Sete Cidades in Azores. I’m a dog lover through and through so the second I saw him walking along the empty road we were on, I immediately crouched down and tried to get his attention. To my delight, he was one of the nicest and most affectionate dogs I have ever met while travelling, leaning his head into my hands to get more scratches and pawing at me whenever I stopped. He didn’t have a collar and no one was around so I would usually assume he was a stray, but Sete Ciddades is a very small quiet village and he looked very healthy. So I figured he must have an owner and was just a very free roaming dog. So after giving him a nice long petting session, we had to go and climb a mountain.
So we started walking… and he started following us. For the first few minutes, we thought he had plans of his own and that we were just coincidently going in the same direction. But whenever we stopped and at every turn we took, there he was, strolling along and looking back at us to see where we were going.
At first I was adamant to make him stop following us. Even though I love every single four legged furry friend I see, I knew that if he really was a stray and followed us all day, the minute we would have to get on the bus to go, my heart would be breaking because we’d have to leave him. And then Lena would be stuck on the bus with me bawling my eyes out because I’d be feeling horrible that we “abandoned” him. So there I was, trying to convince a dog to stop following us. Or at least, trying to give him the least bit of attention. Nevertheless, he was always there. So we gave up and just enjoyed his company. That is, until we reached the beginning of our hike up the road to the top of the mountain. Natas ended up meeting some other tourists by the riverbank and stopped following us. So we said a quiet goodbye and started hiking up.
However, that wouldn’t be the last we see of him. Because after two hours from seeing him last, on our walk back down the mountain, there he was, walking up the road as if to meet us again. By then, I could barely believe it. The hike up was already pretty difficult for us, so seeing that this mutt with his tiny legs managed to walk halfway up the mountain was pretty surprising. At that moment, I couldn’t leave him alone. There were no sidewalks on the road, and cars still drove by rather frequently. So we figured we had to at least get him back to the base of the mountain and off the road for his safety. So we continued to walk down and he followed suit. He made things kinda difficult though when he would go chasing and barking after the cars we were trying to make him avoid.
Once we got him off the road and back to “safety” (which honestly I don’t think we really kept him safe since this fearless puppy kept running after every car we saw and giving me a heart attack), we explored along the lake and enjoyed the afternoon alongside our friend of the day, Natas the dog.
Natas didn’t always stay right by our side. Sometimes he would run off towards the lagoa to get a better view of the water, run through the tall damp grass, hop onto the stone walls, or stop to say hello to other tourists. Lena and I would just keep walking because we knew that we would eventually have to part ways. Sometimes we would walk far enough to lose sight of him but once we would stop and look back we’d see him running after us. (Cue my heart melting)
The day was ending and our bus was going to arrive soon. I started to worry again that he would follow us all the way to the bus stop and that we’d have to leave him behind. Thankfully though, our day with Natas ended in the best way. He walked through the openings of a fence into a big open field of grass… and frolicked with some cows. I swear I can’t make this up. We watched him sniff around his bovine friends and walk further away from us. So like we did before, we kept walking on our way. And this time he didn’t follow. Which was for the best because, despite us not knowing if he had an owner or not, we felt quite sure that he is a happy dog in Azores.
So if you ever visit Sete Cidades and you walk by this dog, give him a good scratch under the chin for me and you’ll quickly make a best friend.