I met Paddington back in Tinke, I was checking the map when I felt two paws on my thigh. I gave the blighter a cursory ruffle of his furry head and thought nothing of it. Well the morning went on and there he was at my side, or just up ahead wondering perhaps why I’m so ruddy slow. Come nightfall and he is outside my tent, en guard. A group of hikers apparently bikeless, look as if to stop and chat just as I was cooking up dinner for two but Paddington was having none of it, he hurried them on their merry way with a flurry of barks. We couldn’t get a word in edge ways.
It was he who induced terror in the fleeing alpaca amongst the moraines; the a dark shape streaking up and down the hummocky mounds in pursuit. Not even the geese were left in peace. He does all this and still has to wait as I wheeze my way up. There is no need to check the map when you have Paddington he seems to know where he is going. As I make my slow progress he repeatable pops his head over the next rise to check that I’m still coming or as if to say, “hurry up gringo.”
My first error was back tracking to allow the stray to get back on the correct side of an aqua duct that was separating us and allowing him to continue accompanying me. My second error was naming him. It is amazing how quickly this critter wormed his way into my heart. He is adorable. On day one I am thinking how I’m going to shake him but after a cold night with his weight pressed against my back through the canvas of the tent I am dreading the inevitable separation and I am considering my options as to how to take him with me and beyond to the UK; a basket for the bike, a good shampoo, few injections, a doggy passport and perhaps a stint in quarantine. Together we summit a pass at 16,000ft my highest feat yet, a bonding achievement.
My meagre ratios now have to be shared for he did not manage to catch us dinner. He is cute in a raggedly fashion. Black and the size of a spaniel, his two front paws are white as though they have been dipped in peroxide. He avoids the streams and puddles as he doesn’t like to get them wet. I tried to cox him into the porch over night and out of the elements but he is stubborn. It was a frightfully cold night in the confines of my tent let alone out there in the elements and when I emerged in the morning I half expected to discover his stiff frozen corps. Us homogenies a feeble creatures or maybe its just me; I certainty wouldn’t have survived the night lying with my head tucked in my arm pit and with nothing save the hair on my head and my curly chest wig to keep me warm out there in the snow. He is no where to be seen, problem solved. I’m hurt, did I mean that little?
But as I go to shake the snow and ice off my tent he pops his head from behind a rock. In all honesty I was kinda hoping that he might have left me in the night like a date gone wrong but I find myself sighing in relief. So I submit to sharing my breakfast, why he gets the lions share of the fresh and delicious home made yogurt I don’t know. Perhaps I’m a soft touch.
To say it was tough is slightly mild though I’m sure as a hike it would be just right. But I must admit that on reaching the final decent into the grassy plains below I am a touch relieved for soon I will be able to ride my bike rather than haul it. But it means one things, my time with old Paddington is dwindling. We share one was meal of avocado and bread, the tyke is a fussy eater so turns his nose up at the perfectly ripe avo which is now discarded in the dirt. I decide that is it best that it is swift, like removing a plaster, so off I ride into the distance trying not to look back. Stopping for breath some minutes later (its still fairly high) I look back only to see his black shape running towards me, I swear with a smile on his face. One last ruffle I suppose wont hurt. God its heart wrenching but for his own good, he is a mountain dog he couldn’t have a life on a lead back in the UK. So take two.
Poor Paddington is going to have abandonment issues. But it was a touch suspicious that he knew the route oh so well. After telling a local guide about Paddington’s abandonment he tells me that he will know the way home and will likely find another gringo. I thought we had something special so that numbs the guilt.