“My mother would have phoned the police by now.”
“She would have phoned the police or, at least, have rescued that dog.”
“Why?” I looked at the forlorn face of the mutt peering past us and into the restaurant. It had a hang-dog expression for sure as, and this was an assumption on my part based on years of amateur dog psychiatry, it was missing its owner who was clearly scoffing food somewhere in the depths of the same restaurant. But it was absolutely fine, its leash wrapped around a fire hydrant on the opposite side of the narrow, cobbled street.
“Because it’s in distress.” replied my concerned friend.
I looked at the dog again. “No it isn’t, it’s just feeling sorry for itself… as dogs are prone to do when they’re excluded from the social scene.”
“I think it’s been abandoned.”
“What? It has not. It’s just been tied up outside whilst its owner has dinner. I’ve seen similar plenty of times.”
“Well I have never seen a dog left outside a restaurant. In London the RSPCA would have rescued it by now.”
“Well, I have seen plenty of dogs waiting for owners outside bars, shops and restaurants, and if anyone took that dog now it would be a really shitty thing to do.”
At this juncture I have to point out my friend is from London whereas I grew up on a Scottish island where if a dog was left outside a bar nobody would think twice about it. I have seen it in many other small places… which were not London. This time was in an area of Lisbon where there’s still a strong feeling of community. I had no doubt the dog was ‘waiting’ rather than having been abandoned. But London is apparently the centre of the universe and whatever happens in England’s capital city is what dictates… even if you happen to be in a different country.
“Why did that guy duck out of the way?” Inquired an American man of his family on the table next to us. There was a World Cup penalty shoot out taking place on the TV on the other side of our table and the Americans had been giving a running, and quite surreall uninformed commentary throughout the football match. The ‘ducking’ man was a goalkeeper who had just dived the wrong way. Combined with my friend’s insistent and misplaced concern for the dog, I was not having the most enjoyable of dining experiences. Maybe this was also partly to do with the fado musicians, the singer’s soulful voice filling the place with an infectious melancholic saudade. I felt as depressed as the dog looked.
“I’m really worried about that dog.” She wasn’t going to let it lie even though at this point a pair of pugs entered the scene and the dog brightened considerably. His tail perked up and he forgot his owner as he bopped about trying to attract the pugs’ attention. “I think I’ll call the police.”
By this point I was exasperated. I didn’t want to, and it was embarrassing, but there was only one way to knock this nonsense on its head. I stood up and walked over to the barman.
“My friend…” I was making it crystal clear who was responsible for my question. “… is worried that dog has been abandoned.”
The barman looked at me like I was an idiot tourist sticking my nose in… which of course I was.
“It’s a local dog, everyone knows it around here,” he nodded toward a room where the fado musicians were. “The owner is in there. In Portuguese law the dog isn’t allowed in the restaurant. But the dog is fine.”
“Yeah, I know that,” I responded like a particularly sheepish sheep, my travel cred in shreds thanks to my friend. “But my friend’s from London.” I added, as though that explained it.
I fed back the barman’s response which, finally put paid to most of the worries about the dog’s welfare (she still didn’t approve of it being left on its own).
The irony of this little exchange is this is someone who is vehemently and vociferously opposed to the idea of Brits attempting to impose their culture on different nationalities. Apparently there’s an exception when it comes to how other nationalities treat their dogs.