dogs and men

There were no dogs in my parents’ house. There was a black cat that I adopted (there were a dozen feral cats in the backyard) and named Matatio (the name of a black soccer player from Bellinenses, a club my grandfather helped found).

After I got married, there was never any question about owning a dog. Until one fine day in 1996, when the newspaper called me to say my oldest son, Francisco, had brought a dog home. Three month old puppy.

The case is that, after a Bohemian night, at dawn, he saw a tramp with several dogs for sale – and bought one for 5 contos.

When I got home, the animal was trapped in the kitchen. It was a brown and black hybrid. She approached but quickly retreated, for the animal was a small beast. It was in the wild.

The first days were terrible. The dog—which my son called Paco (Francisco in Spanish)—was locked in the kitchen (which was open to a large sunroom), so as not to contaminate the whole house. But, as he was so anxious, he would pull any things he could put on the floor – much to the ire of the neighbours, especially the next-door couple, who came to knock on our door late at night. The problem is that the lady (Danish is married to a Portuguese) had to get up very early in the morning – and according to rumors, the noise from the dog kept her from sleeping.

Then we took the animal to a room on the other side of the house, and tied a long chain to the sofa. However, after a short time, the sofa was completely destroyed: Baku gnawed at it everywhere, from the pillows to the structure itself.

In the meantime, he was getting a little old, and was already going out to pee, and we were beginning to let him roam freely around the house. But then another problem arose: He didn’t like to be alone and barked a lot when we went out. Then the neighbor came to complain: the woman was sick, and she spent the day at home, and could not rest with the barking dog. In his desperation, the man even kicked our door with the intention of smashing it.

Then they referred me to a shop in Cascais where they sold a device called a “cala dog” which, when dogs bark, emits ultrasound waves imperceptible to human ears but uncomfortable to dogs, causing them to silence. The thing worked and the neighbor stopped complaining.

Baku grew up, he became an adult, he went everywhere with us, he stayed in the trunk of the truck waiting patiently when we went anywhere we couldn’t take him. But he loved freedom above all: running in the country on weekends in the Alentejo.

I dedicated a book to him – the dog who thought too much – with the following words:


Which inspired one of the main characters in this book

Who accompanied me silently in endless evenings to write

Moreover, you will never be able to read it.

He lived 17 years. I think he was living a happy life. He slept in my arms forever with a syringe the vet gave him when he stopped eating and could no longer get up.

After that, my wife decided not to own any more dogs. So five years have passed. In 2018, my son Francisco – a diplomat – was sent abroad, after a few years in Lisbon, left to guard his… his dog Laika. And of course soon after we adopted it and pressured it to keep it.

Laika is very similar to Paco: also hybrid, black and chestnut, although it is not sticky. It has a black back and a brown belly.

With Laika, we relived a lot of what we lived with Paco, even though no two dogs are the same. And when he came to our house when he was 5 years old, he didn’t nibble on our furniture.

As everyone who has or has had dogs knows, having a dog in the house, which raises some problems, is a blessing. Dogs give us more than we give them. Your ingenuity moves us. They love us unconditionally even when we ignore them. They keep us company without asking for anything in return. They show us how strong a relationship can be between two beings who do not exchange words with each other.

I wouldn’t say his devotion is absolute indifferent, for he knows we are the ones who provide him with food and drink. But other than that, it doesn’t ask for anything.

Under these conditions, the number of people who bring dogs into the house is increasing every day. And he loves them. In Ukraine, we see refugees taking their dogs on the run. In floods and fires, we see people anxious about saving their dogs. But this strong friendship that has developed between men and dogs (or cats, although their relationship is different), being very real and healthy, has a harmful side.

It’s just that, more and more, we’re seeing dogs replacing humans.

There are more and more separations, more divorces, more people living alone – and partners, male or female, are being replaced by… dogs.

There are more and more women who do not want to have children – and replace them with… dogs. In them they deposit their emotions, for them they direct their maternal feelings, worrying about the dog replaces worrying about their children – with some advantages, such as not waking them up in the middle of the night.

From day to day, these situations are more common. Gradually, dogs are replacing people.

At a time when human relationships deteriorate, when families disintegrate, when new technologies isolate and distance humans from one another, it is deeply disturbing to see that the adoption of companion animals accelerates this phenomenon.

Little by little, women stop having children, men and women stop being companions, humans stop living together – and just adopt a companion animal.

And let’s face it, for the dogs themselves, living with just one person should be a pretty chore.

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