Yesterday was a demanding day of walking as we made our way through the mountains of Albania on our way to Macedonia. Along the way we passed a family harvesting plums and they offered us some of them, so is the hospitality that locals have given us along the way. As we left this generous encounter a dog started to walk with us.
And then the dog kept walking with us, on and on. And some more. And then a little more. In fact he walked with us for over ten kilometres over the rough scrubby tracks, and broad dirt road that is the Via Egnatia.
We were following the ancient pilgrimage road, that leads from Durres in Albania all the way to Istanbul (or Constantinople as it was once called) in Turkey. This way was used prior to the Romans, yet the Romans used their engineering skills to create a road that was first used for military purposes and then as the centuries ensued, for trade and transport. It was used during the Crusades as they too made their ways to Jerusalem, and later on by the Ottomans.
The dog tagged along with us as we traversed up and down the Via Egnatia and at times when the road turned into a treacherous goat track with loose rubble and a steep drop.
He seemed to have been enjoying being part of a pack. Being on an adventure, not knowing where we were going yet fully immersed in the new scenery he was exploring on the way.
I soon called him Boy. He would walk just behind the lead person. When they stopped to wait for others to catch up he would stop. He had in a few hours become part of a traveling band of pilgrims.
As we walked I was enjoying the way he strolled along. Not a care in the world. Every so often he would stop to sniff something in the bushes or on the ground and then look up to see where we were and then fall into line again.
Boy walked with a relaxed bouncing gait at times as if he had springs on his padded paws. With his tongue out panting he never seemed tired and didn’t beg for food. He was just happy to join us for no particular reason, maybe because he was carefree and didn’t have to be anywhere at anytime.
When he was thirsty he would stop at a fresh mountain stream or irrigation channel bringing water down the mountain to water crops. He was my teacher as we walked along the mountain sides, teaching me about just how little we need to be happy in the moment.
Sheep Dog Encounter
About half way through our journey we could see in the distance in an open field goats and sheep grazing. We were warned to keep our distance by the barking of a big sheep dog. Even further along the track we could see the shepherd with his crook.
We approached cautiously as the dog barked aggressively. Then we stopped as the sheep dog gnarled at us at a couple of metres distance away. Boy gingerly approached and the dogs sniffing each other we didn’t know what would happen next.
A few moments passed and as the other walkers caught up I think the sheer number of us may have alerted the sheep dog that we were not a threat. He let us pass yet kept and eye on us as he slowly skirted the passing group.
As we walked along the track a few moments later, and even closer to the flock and the shepherd, another sheep dog came bounding towards us and headed straight to Boy. I had walked ahead and turned around to see the second dog lunging at Boy.
Boy Will Be Boy
Boy I realised, was actually just that, a boy. He was gangly and a young adolescent, still a puppy by all accounts. In the West we may have called him ‘skinny’, yet he looked very healthy. His coat was clean and had a healthy sheen to it. His eyes were clear and vivid. He was also very inexperienced and so naive.
The second dog took a nip at Boy to show his dominance and in a split second I could see the situation about to turn into a fight. Having turned around, I don’t know what got into me, I walked forward not knowing what I was going to do except that I couldn’t let our traveling companion to be savaged by this dog. I looked the dog in the eye as I gestured forward, and maybe in the background the shepherd may have told the dog to back down, and in a moment it was all over.
Keeping An Eye On Boy
We continued along the journey and kept a watchful eye on Boy, making sure that his happy go lucky nature didn’t get him into adventures that he hadn’t yet learned how to handle. Every time he strayed away too far I would whistle and call out ‘Boy’ and he knew to keep in line with his human pack.
Man’s Best Friend
As we continued along with Boy I imagined how it was like for early humans, who were nomadic hunters and gatherers. I imagined how prehistoric people traveled with the migrating herds through the seasons with their canine companions and the close bond that they would have formed with each other.
I imagined their canine companions sleeping by the camp fire at night time, enjoying a meal of the day’s hunt with the family, joining in the hunt and warding off predators.
Boy reminded me of the dingos in Australia and how our indigenous peoples have a long history of companionship with ‘man’s best friend’. With his tan coloured coat and his amicable nature, Boy was our dingo companion.
Boy taught me many lessons in our encounter with him yesterday. He taught me about non-attachment.
We often get so caught up in our plans, that as the saying goes, ‘God laughs at those who make plans’, so setting us on a collision course with disappointment. He reinforced in me to ‘go with the flow’ to allow life to simply flow. To not get too attached to outcomes, but allow life in all its richness and wonder to reveal itself.
Below is a short video of Boy wondering and wandering.
He reminded me about The Wander. That we humans know how to walk. We are upright animals. We are meant to walk. To wonder, to wander. To let our curiosity get the better of us, for in curiousity we can discover new horizons, knew knowledge, new adventures, opportunities for greater happiness.
Be Lost In Wonder
Boy was our companion for a brief time. For a few hours he walked with us and showed me through his happy go lucky nature that it is better to lose oneself than find oneself.
It is ok to get lost in your senses, to sniff the moment, explore, to not have some particular destination but now and here. Boy wasn’t going anywhere in particular, for he had no idea where this particular place we were going to was.
Saying Good Bye
As we approached our lunch stop we climbed down the mountainous valley walls and through private property, past a cow, a gate, a man on a tractor towing a van up a track, a grandmother with her young grandchildren in an old farm house, barking dogs, and then a cafe fronting a wide dirt road where big trucks would rumble past and great clouds of dust would billow out and cover us in a fine powdery film.
I became concerned about Boy. The incident with the sheep dogs made me realise that he was young, inexperienced, and very naive. After all he was a puppy, if a happy go lucky one at that, but I did worry for him.
As the trucks drove past I feared that he would get run over by them as he didn’t have any experience with vehicles and he scattered away to the sides as another one rumbled by.
End Of The Road
I realised that we had come to the end of the road so to speak. That he couldn’t continue with us as we were close to a busy road. I went in to buy a drink and get lunch and I had spared some of my sandwich to share with him, even though I felt it may have the effect of having him tag along even more.
When I went outside looking for him Boy was gone.
I felt a sudden sense of fear and loss. Where did Boy go? Would he be alright? Where will he go? What would become of him?
Then it occurred to me again – Boy was a happy go puppy. He wasn’t meant to be tied down. He was a personality to be reckoned with.
Lost To The Wonder Of It All
He was free. He didn’t run away from his owners. He was a true pilgrim. His holy site wasn’t far away but was the vision that lay just ahead in each moment.
He didn’t know where he was going. He didn’t much care. He wasn’t afraid of the future. For the future wasn’t a concept that he could fathom. He was perpetually lost in the present.
Maybe lost isn’t the right word. It isn’t a positive word. It speaks of being lost in the wilderness, lost in life, and that the answer is to be found. No, Boy wasn’t lost in that sense, he was lost instead in the wonder that is life. He didn’t need to be found.
A Reminder To Travel Lightly
Boy is a wanderer through life. We are too, even if we have trinkets and other stuff that often weigh us down.
Boy was going to be alright, I just knew it as I thought about him. Boy was perfectly fine. He would find food, he would be fed by the kindness of strangers, just like we had found along our journey. He will have adventures, find new sniffing grounds.
I need not fear. Boy wasn’t going to be tied up like so many dogs I had seen on the way. He wasn’t going to be shackle to a stake in the blazing sun, going mad with fury as strangers passed. He wasn’t going to be tied chattel. I felt so sorry for these dogs. Man’s best friend had been chained like property unable to roam.
I had seen one dog a few days earlier barking and snarling with fury, going in circles, trying to grab hold with it’s teeth to the chain that held him bound in the hot sun. It was venting it’s anger – we had reduced our intimate bond to this. I couldn’t think of a greater cruelty than this and it made me sad.
Lose Yourself In Life
We were meant to be free. We stand upright and our bodies have evolved to allow us to be walk freely. To wander, to enjoy companionship along the way, to not tie ourselves down with too much stuff, to enjoy the warmth of the day, to smell the flowers, to peer up at the open sky, to get lost in the moment, in life.
Happy Go Puppy
There is a certain effervescence, a bubbling from within that we can experience when we allow ourselves to get lost. Others sense this and are drawn to us.
A bubbly personality is simply one that takes everything in stride. A person who is lost in the beauty of the moment, in the joy of it all. This joy spills over and makes others smile. We can see the light that fills a room when they enter.
They don’t worry about the future for they are too lost in the present to darken their moments.
Boy was a happy go lucky puppy. He was Boy and he was buoyant. He will always rise to the top. He imbued this energy and lightness and I felt honoured that he chose to walk with us, to venture together.
As we left the cafe to continue our journey, I asked if anyone had seen Boy. He was last seen walking off away from the road back into the mountains. Wherever you are Boy, thank you.