By Margaret Brown
… a fact of life to accept and from which to move on. So it is for my neighbour, whose aged canine pensioner’s life is winding down after 13 years of faithful service. A black, dense coated crossbreed of intimidating stature guaranteed to deter any strangers from taking liberties, yet a gentle, soft-hearted giant with his family and their friends. Having roamed the farm unfettered, run beside his owner’s horse on her long rides into the foothills and guarded the place day and night, his time is running out.
While trying to identify his forbears, a search was made on Google, thence to a website listing all breeds of dog peculiar to Portugal and up came a picture of her beloved Eddie. Although not pure bred his dominant genes look to be those of the Cão Castro Laboreiro, originally from a village of that name on the border of Spain.
In the concelho of Melgaço but separated from its neighbours by rivers Minho, Trancoso, Laboreiro and Mouro and situated within mountains up to 1,400 metres high, the place has come late to modern ways.
Well fortified against frequent incursions by Celts and dating back to the 9th century BC, the old castle was captured by Afonso, the first King of Portugal during the 12th century AD. Such isolation has been instrumental in keeping this ancient breed of dog free from cross breeding, but also brought it close to extinction until a few dedicated breeders came to the rescue.
A litter of pedigree Castros, fiercely protected from dilution and isolated by the rugged terrain, is expected within the next few weeks and my neighbour has bespoken one. While it is not possible to reincarnate Eddie, the temperament should be similar, together with strong guarding instincts for which this large animal is renowned.
Meanwhile although late, at last summer has arrived with a rapid rise in temperature and very little wind. The ‘Big Moon’ blazed from a clear sky on the night of June 23, bright enough to read by and causing higher tides than usual.
Fortunately, the absence of a strong southerly wind prevented the sea from invading the sailing club foreshore where various dinghies were parked. Since becoming members of Clube de Vela de Lagos in 1987, we have seen many changes.
Run by a dedicated committee of volunteers, there was racing nearly every weekend at home, and from time to time an exodus of hopefuls attended open meetings organised from north to south of the Portuguese coast. The slightly laissez faire attitude to international racing rules and an inability to start a race on time were compensated by their great enthusiasm.
Our holidays were organised round the national and international racing calendar, and the Club was a popular venue visited by European and world class fixtures. It was also home from home to my late husband.
Latterly there has been a slow decline in dinghy racing. Young adult sailors have left to earn a living or for further education, some seniors have bought keel boats. In compensation, today young children from age eight years upward receive excellent tuition, boats are available and they attend competitions both home and away. Knowledge of rules and proper timekeeping are now state of the art, but there appears to be a lack of volunteers on hand to start fun races in Lagos Bay.
At least there is some Cruiser racing on offer despite the cancellation of a three-day event in June. From July 12 to 14 the 24th Regata dos Portos dos Descobrimentos from Mazagón in Spain to Lagos will be held under the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS). There will be three classes of boat: those with offshore racing certificates, those without, and one for Hanse craft (a German design) which has an open transom. For those sailing over the day before, there will be free mooring berths for boats entered by July 1.
It is hoped that the competitors fare better than Christopher Columbus, who departed Palos in August 1492 heading west on a voyage of exploration. He was captain of the Santa Maria (a large carrack) accompanied by Ninã and Pinta (two small caravel) when Pinta’s tiller broke and the small fleet was stuck on the Canary Islands for about three weeks. Eventually reaching America, Columbus initiated the slave trade using native tribes.
The replica caravel Boa Esperança, moored in the River Bensafrim alongside Lagos Avenida, was built in 1990 for the Portuguese sail training association. Having sailed to America, as well as making other long voyages, she now awaits a new owner and is badly in need of a refit.
Back from the sea, the countryside is crisp as cornflakes and the fire risk high. In the back land, some animals spend their lives under the sun without shade, hobbled or tied to a rope, with no water and little to eat.
One equine, on a paddock in the Odiáxere area close to the EN125, tells a tale of stark neglect. Having worked until no longer of use, her retirement is one of misery. A neighbour and I traced the brother of the man to whom she belongs and asked some questions: Is there a bucket nearby? Is it filled daily? The authorities and local sanctuaries have been informed, the neighbour offering to give the sad old beast a decent home until she dies.
Margaret Brown is one of the Algarve Resident’s longest standing contributors and has lived in the Algarve for more than 20 years.