Hound dog

Crocker, the hound dog


Almost three years to the day since Horse temporarily adopted us, a dog arrived on the scene. It’s a puppy, male, whose tail has been docked (or otherwise lost), and who has wiry ginger and white hair. He’s a few months old. He was spotted by our neighbours looking hungry, and they gave him food and a welcome. Their own dog, a large, super-hairy, over-affectionate Alaskan Malamute, adored the new small dog. The Malamute shows his love to adult humans with a weighty ‘lean’, for which you need to be prepared and stand full square, and to a puppy by, essentially, crushing it. From under a mass of white and grey husky fur, the puppy would re-emerge and re-inflate quite happily, then go back for more.

We are ever in two minds about having a dog. Estrela’s puppies are ready for taking now, but we have held back. It’s a commitment, a responsibility, a tie, and I have never owned a dog. What do you do with a dog, apart from walk it? Here dogs often live outside and walk themselves. We are not, however, in two minds about the dog’s name. The name ‘Crocker’ is just waiting to be taken up. This is not so much for the love of the name itself – though it is a cool name – as for the way Kojak would shout it across his desk to attract the attention of his side-kick. So any dog we ever get will be called Crocker.

Kojak and Crocker – who could forget them?


Our neighbours named the puppy ‘Crocker’. They started to train him. He learned very quickly. He would sit on command and started answering to his name. The day after turning up, Crocker made his way over to us. He drank from the water butt. I gave him an unfinished restaurant dinner I’d brought back in tin foil and he ate the lot: the meat, the potatoes, the orange rind. He stayed with me in the garden while I chopped olive branches for kindling; then did the same when Husband came home. We both had the experience of thinking he’d gone, only to find that he was so closely attached to our heels he could no longer be seen. He was like a shadow.

I switched the irrigation on. Crocker got very excited by the squeaking noise the water made as it exited a hole in the hose. He dug deeply, getting his paws wet, and pulled out the roots of some wild mint, which he placed to one side. This dog is a hunter, no doubt about that. Not so much a dog as a hound. He looks like a Portuguese hunting hound, the Podengo I believe it’s called, except that instead of the distinctive cone-like ears of that breed – rather threatening, I find – he has soft spaniel ears. That night he went home to our friends, his bed a comfy cardboard box with a blanket lining.

Day two. Having recently completed a piece of work for a publisher in London, I was entirely free. I could allow myself a day in the garden. The sun shone from a bright blue December sky. Five minutes after I heard our neighbours’ car leaving, came the sound of paws on gravel. Crocker came over. We went for a walk. How sweet it is to tread in the footsteps of a dog. When he wasn’t just in front of me, he was just behind, or he’d run off for a ferocious sniff of something then return to heel. This dog has a professional approach to sniffing; he’s a connoisseur. He inhales, then snorts, as though to maximise the spread of the odour across his olfactory cells. Either that or he’s allergic.

For the rest of the day he settled down to watch me – keenly, I might add, occasionally half shutting his eyes but never fully switching his attention off. I gave him bits of biscuity bread to chomp but he’d been well fed and, instead of eating them, he hid them in secret places for later.

So that’s what you do with a dog. You just be. I think I fell in love with this hound.

Our neighbours’ car returned. They have first dibs on Crocker, although I strongly suspect they saw us as having more long-term potential to give the dog a home.

They gave me the bad news straight away. The dog has owners. They’ve been looking for him. He’s a great little hunter and they want him back. As we were talking, they arrived. Two burly, stout men in a red car with a sun-scorched bonnet and a back seat full of dogs: two Podengos with cone ears, and one, a bitch with pendulous teats, more like a cocker spaniel. She got out of the car and Crocker greeted her, but he was otherwise in no hurry to join the gang. He didn’t answer to the men’s calls, so one of them climbed out, grabbed Crocker and hurled him in the car. The two men grinned broadly, reversed up our drive then drove off, happy to get their precious hound back. The image that stays in my mind is of Crocker’s little face in the rear window of the car, looking back at the heaven he’d found.

There’s no point in being sentimental. This is a hound, who earns his living by hunting and probably gets chained up when he’s not at work. Given his propensity to escape, he almost certainly does get chained up, or will do from now. He won’t get the cuddles and the affection he had from us over the past two days. That’s not how Portuguese hunting dogs live, however impossibly sweet-natured they are.


What I want for Christmas is . . . a river. Ours is still dry, unheard of so late in the season. We have water in our well, but the river is a desert. And maybe one day to feel able to take on a dog . . .

Boas festas. A merry Christmas and a new year of happiness and health for everyone.

And, for the memories, lovely Horse, from Christmas Day, 2014






  1. Sue

    Likewise Mari – A very Happy Christmas and all the best for the New Year to you and yours.

    It’s lovely to have a Christmas post from you although it is a very sad tale. Poor Crocker. I hope he escapes again to a further away heaven.


    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you, Sue. See you in 2018. xx

  2. Fatma Nedjib

    Oh no! Was there no way sweet Crocker could have been rescued from his indifferent owners? The image conjured up of him being ‘hurled’ inside the car is too sad. Pay them whatever they want. Get Crocker back. He had chosen you!

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Hi Fatma: that thought occurred to me – paying the hunters for their dog. But it raises lots of other problems. Why pay one household here for a dog, and fail to take – for free – one of lovely Estrela’s puppies? And what if Crocker, long-term, would rather be a hunter? Maybe he was just taking some time out? We must wait and see what happens. He is a darling dog. xx

  3. Fatma Nedjib

    ps. Nice to see Horse again. :)-

  4. BeckyB

    Typical approach to working dogs but oh so hard for the rest of us to deal with. Also explains why he walked to heel, superb training. One day you’ll be ready xx

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Thank you, BeckyB. xx

  5. Clare

    Thank you for taking me on a journey back to 1970s cop shows, a great source for dog names, as you have already gathered: Rockford, Hutch, Ponch, Danno (as in, Book’em)! Happy Christmas! x

  6. Edith (Post author)

    Haha! You’re right, Clare. We have only scraped the surface. For the right dog, ‘Kojak’ itself could be an option. See you in 2018. xx

  7. Peter Bunker

    Dear Edith,

    A lovely letter which resonated greatly with us. When we are in Portugal we work at the APAR dog shelter near Moncarapacho. They have many lovely dogs. We fell in love with one in particular who, appropriately, was called Love. My son and his family decided they wanted a dog and we persuaded them to take a Portuguese rescue dog and showed them a photo of Love. Long story slightly less long we drove down in our little car and brought her back, having spent three lovely weeks with her staying with us in our little apartment. She is fabulous. Anyway, my son researched her and found her to be a floppy eared Podengo. She started off medio podengo but seems to have grown into a grande with character to suit. If I knew how to attach a photo, I would.

    Have a lovely Christmas.

    Best wishes


    1. Edith (Post author)

      Dear Peter, how interesting. So there is such a thing as a floppy-eared Podengo. Oh, I can imagine just how wonderful Love is. (Sounds like a song.) A very happy Christmas to you.

  8. patricia roberts

    Feeling a little sad ,but l dare say it had to be ,you will see him now and then ,he at least has a great name.

    1. Edith (Post author)

      Yes, I guess it had to be. Lots of love, xx

  9. Hazel

    Corky knows how it feels to have been a working dog that lives in a concrete kennel with straw for a bed (his bald thighs of yesteryear are now nicely hairy!). When he came to us he thought he’d died and gone to Heaven. Which is exactly how Crocker would have felt when he met you . . . It’s truly time you had a faithful family hound of your own, Edie! You understand them so well. Lovely post. Thoroughly enjoyed it with a sentimental tear in my eye. xx

  10. Marlene

    Awww, my heart melted for Crocker. Such a sweet dog. And my heart broke for Crocker. Such an unsentimental no-nonsense life ahead of him.

    Merry Christmas and a happy new year too….

  11. Christine

    I enjoyed reading your stories. Great to see your bags of olives too. I can just imagine you going for a walk with a dog tagging along. Crocker sounded great, but maybe a little puppy would be good too. Glad to hear the rain came.
    Have a wonderful Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.

  12. Jerry Grayson

    What a lovely story for this time of year. What goes around comes around and I suspect that this story isn’t ended yet.

    I was astonished to recently learn that the Godfather of my sister in law was none other than … Telly Savalas a.k.a. Kojak!

    Thank you for a wonderful 2017 and beautiful wishes to you both for 2018.

    Much love JerryG


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