news: Missing

It’s a word that catches our attention and arouses panic and fear when it relates to the disappearance of a loved one.

I can’t begin to fathom the turmoil of emotions of somebody who realises that a close relative or friend is missing. However, I have experienced the agonising despair of discovering that my loving four legged friend was missing.

An animal is not a person but is a sentient being, capable of giving inexhaustible, unconditional love and humbly teaching us many lessons. Those, whose lives have been touched by a strong bond of love with an animal, can fully understand the pain of losing such a companion. When the loss is due to illness or an accident, one’s suffering is tempered by being able to say a final goodbye. The horror of not knowing the fate of your friend can never be finalised. This is the nightmare I have lived for over a year, since my beloved dog Carlo disappeared.

The initial paralysis of disbelief when I realised Carlo was gone gave way to a flood of energy that fuelled my search. I walked across hills and valleys and drove to villages, towns and cities. I knocked on doors and stopped everyone on my path to inquire about Carlo. I checked with animal shelters, placed ads in newspapers, printed and distributed countless flyers, including a massive distribution through the post. I wrote to all the vets in the Algarve and followed up with phone calls to ask for their co-operation in disseminating the information and keeping a look out for Carlo in their daily interactions with animals.

Many of the people to whom I spoke during my search were astonished at my efforts and simply suggested I got another dog. This view of an animal, as a replaceable commodity, doesn’t take into account the individual traits and personality that make it a unique and loving friend. My sorrow over Carlo’s disappearance can’t be erased by the presence of another animal.

Carlo was my special friend who adopted me. My mother found him with a broken leg in a field under a tree, dying of thirst and starvation. We made several inquiries, but no one seemed to know anything about this dog. My mother brought him food and water on a daily basis and, when she and my dad went on holidays, I continued to do the same. One day he followed me home and effortlessly settled in as if he had always lived with me. He was mute about his past, but his gentle brown eyes conveyed a deep gratitude. I named him Carlo after a very special dog my husband had as a child and which he recalled with great affection.

Carlo was spirited and playful, and loved our walks in the hills and along the beach. He was also quiet and serene, and enjoyed joining me on a lounge chair when I was reading. It’s impossible to detail the numerous daily incidents that led to our strong bond of love. I often relive the many memorable moments I shared with Carlo for eight years and am grateful he came into my life.

During the search for my missing companion, I met many kind and sensitive people who contacted me to give a word of support or to mention an encounter with a dog who looked like Carlo. Among all the people who surfaced to help me, there is one who stands out as an absolute angel in the midst of my distress – Johanna Brito da Mana. Without knowing me very well then, she made herself totally available to type letters and flyers, receive phone calls and go with me searching for Carlo. She, her daughter Victoria and I had many unforgettable adventures together. I remember our long hikes in the hills and a difficult climb over boulders to reach a shepherd, in the hope he might have seen Carlo. Another time, at the end of a long day following up on phone calls of reported sightings, someone suggested taking flyers to a particular gypsy camp and Johanna promptly led us there. Always smiling, with a positive attitude and full of energy, Johanna was a balm to the pain in my heart.

Carlo disappeared as mysteriously as he had appeared and both times he brought me gifts. His appearance brought me his friendship, his disappearance brought me Johanna’s friendship.

Time passes, but my heart continues to ache, longing to know what happened and, until then, I will continue to ask: have you seen my Carlo?

Helena Guerreiro-Klinowski

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