HOME FOR DRACULA
1991 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Remember to give me food and water.
It is bad luck to let a vampire get hungry!
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!
to List of Tor's Tales