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Story by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tales



© 1991 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved


Seville! Surely one of the world's most beautiful cities. The parks and fountains, mosaics and museums, cathedrals and esplanades together create an inspiring blend of things Moorish and Spanish, old and new. Even the shortcut we were taking back to the marina, a quiet road that ran along the riverbank, had an old-world charm.

That was where we first saw her. She crawled out from the tangled undergrowth that lined the shore. A wretched little creature, she was so frightened to approach us that she visibly trembled in spite of the warm autumn sunshine. Scrawny tail tucked between her legs, head and ears down, her slouching, servile posture was one of total dejection. She was driven from hiding by starvation, and her sad, rheumy eyes pleaded silently for relief.


Sherrie and I were in Spain, cruising aboard our 37-ft. liveaboard sailboat, Sparrow. Waiting for us back on the boat was our only other crew, our 85-lb. yellow Lab, Shaolin Solid Gold, CD.

We have seen countless stray dogs during our travels together. But this tiny, pathetic mutt by the riverbank was somehow different. She seemed...hopeful, as if she were waiting for someone. Perhaps she'd been abandoned. A small Terrier/Chihuahua mix, she was emaciated and filthy, and not at all what you'd call pretty. In fact, she featured a most unusual deformity - an underbite. The dog's lower jaw protruded so far beyond the upper, that all of her lower front teeth were exposed all the time. With her pointed ears and big brown eyes, it made her look like a tiny gremlin, or a wingless bat.

That day Sherrie and I happened to be returning to our boat from the bakery. All we had to offer the dog was a bit of bread, which she wolfed down as if it were filet mignon. So we left her another piece, and started walking again. She followed us, at a distance, her little legs pumping to keep up. Sherrie tried to explain to her that we already had a dog and that she couldn't come with us. The mutt seemed to understand the meaning if not the words, for she stopped and her head drooped even lower. Then she turned and slowly slunk back into the bushes.

The next day we passed that way again and to our surprise, the same dog was there to greet us. There seemed to be a glimmer of recognition in her eyes, and she came to us a bit more quickly. Even though we had nothing to feed her, she followed us hopefully for several minutes, then stood watching forlornly as we left her behind. Just then a group of young boys on bicycles arrived and, seeing the lone dog, apparently decided it would be great sport to throw her over the riverbank into the water. At a distance, we didn't realize what they were up to until we saw the helpless little dog go flying through the air and disappear over the bushes. Well, boys may be boys, but this was too much! I shouted them away. The little stray went into hiding and was nowhere to be seen.

This was starting to get to us. We didn't want another dog aboard our small floating home, but how could we leave that starving and abused animal to such a fate? We discussed this as we walked back to the marina.

This marina, near which our own boat lay at anchor, was home to a half-dozen middle-aged mariners from as many different countries, all living aboard their sailboats there for the winter. In addition, there were usually a few Spanish employees around. Everyone was on a friendly, first name basis. It was an easy-going community, uniquely set apart from the bustling city that surrounded it. Perhaps the nicest feature of the marina, though, was the "back yard", a small, walled-in, park-like enclave shaded by trees. Everyone occasionally gathered there for group picnics around a campfire. In fact, there was a minor "fiesta" - a cookout - planned for that very night, and that gave me an idea.

Suppose, I suggested to Sherrie, we bring that starving stray here this evening. At the very least, she'd surely make a meal of the leftovers. At best, someone might take a liking to her; maybe even adopt her. Well, we agreed that almost anything would be an improvement over her present circumstances, so I set off to fetch her.

But this time she didn't appear. I searched the whole area where we'd seen her, calling and whistling, but found no dog. Then, as I was about to give up the hunt, I heard a whimper. Peering under some bushes, I saw her huddled up in a plastic garbage bag, shivering and too scared to come out. I had to crawl in to reach her. Soon she lay docile in my arms, though still trembling, as I carried her the half-mile back to the marina. On the way, I even decided on a name for her. But, alas, it wasn't to last long.

That night we introduced our frail foundling to the international group gathered for the barbecue. She was welcomed (in five languages!) and fed meat scraps and bones until her little stomach couldn't hold any more. Better still, she was patted and petted and cuddled by a dozen human hands. Then it happened. One sailor, a Belgian, decided that the pronounced underbite made the tiny terrier look like a cute vampire and he started calling her "Dracula". The Danish boat builder repeated the joke, and I'm afraid the name stuck. From then on, our little stray was called Dracula.

As the evening was coming to an end, the dog chose a leafy corner of the yard to bed down. She was still shy and insecure, understandably. She needed a place to conceal herself - a den. I erected a rough lean-to there as a temporary shelter, and someone lined the floor with an old towel. That night she slept in a cozy bed with a full stomach, perhaps for the first time in her life.

Dracula stuck around the next day - and the day after that. She was rewarded with snacks brought by the sailors and an occasional friendly word or pat from people passing through the yard. Sherrie gave the dog a much needed bath, and we bought her a collar to assure any roving dogcatchers that this wasn't a stray anymore. A French sailor built a proper little doghouse and his Peruvian wife donated a water bowl.

And so Dracula became a sort of marina mascot, happy and, I'm certain, grateful for her adopted home. Everyday, the multi-national residents and the Spanish yard employees made a point to save their leftovers for her. She ate well and put on weight. Best of all, she was getting loving attention all day long. A brave, spunky personality replaced her former despondency. Her tail, like the needle of a ship's ascending barometer heralding the end of bad weather, perked up and wagged more each day. She no longer slouched, but actually pranced when she walked! Sometimes I could swear that peculiar underbite of hers actually curled up into a great big smile! Viva Dracula!


Winter arrived, and with it some bone-chilling cold snaps. More and more, Sherrie and I would find the dog shivering violently in her den. She just didn't have the coat or the stamina to bear the freezing cold nights. Finally, one particularly icy evening, we scooped her up and brought her home to sleep in our cozy, heated ship's cabin. "Just this once!" we assured each other.


The Countess Dracula
Remember to give me food and water.
It is bad luck to let a vampire get hungry!
                                                   Thank you

Well, the next night it got even colder. So Dracula slept aboard again. Then again. And guess what happened.

Today we have a two-dog crew aboard Sparrow: our 85-lb. yellow Lab, Shaolin, and his 8-lb. girl friend. Only her name isn't Dracula anymore. When we adopted her for keeps, we both agreed that she really deserved to have back the name we had originally given her the day we first rescued her from the river bank: "La Rosa Española de Sevilla" - Spanish Rose of Seville! Viva Rosa!

~ End ~

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