Late one night in March 2013, hungry and bedraggled after the flight from London to Malaga, I walked into a farmhouse kitchen in southern Spain and met one of the loves of my life.
There were other people around, but I only saw him. He made a beeline straight for me. Not tall, dark and handsome, but definitely two out of the three, and far more hirsute than the average gent. The connection was undeniable: We were drawn to each other right from the start.
So far, so romance novel, but there were some key departures from the genre. There was a significant age gap (he was only about six months old), but then I’ve always preferred younger men. Our embrace preceded speech: I knelt to the floor (he was also quite a bit shorter), he leapt into my arms, and I scooped him up into a full-body snuggle. Looking up at the owner of the cortijo, I said, “Oh, I love him! I want him!” She replied, “You want him? You can have him.”
Robbie, along with five other pups found dumped in the nearby streets, had been taken in at Cortijo Uribe. The British couple who ran riding holidays there had decided to rescue some of the region’s multitude of abandoned mutts and find them forever homes. I spent five days getting to know Robbie, forcing myself to consider the commitment: daily walking, feeding, companionship for most of the day, medical care, training and love, for the rest of his life.
Adopting Robbie certainly changed my life. The initial adjustment to a home-bound existence came as a bit of a shock; dogs inevitably curtail your freedom. But the bond we shared was a deep delight. Robbie saw me through family crises, romantic breakups, and seven house moves. He slept on my bed every night and curled near my desk while I worked. We rose together, adventure-walked together, dined out together. When my daughter was born in 2017, he endured the early years of noise and interrupted nights with stoical acceptance.
We moved from London to establish our family life in the countryside, where Robbie survived a severe gastric illness in early 2019 only to develop intestinal cancer the next year. At just turned eight, after a last supper of chicken and ham, Robbie died in my arms beneath a tree on the grass, with a jolt that I’ll never forget. As Anne Pinkerton writes in her essay “Humane”: “I howled like a wolf when it was over, stunned by the rapidity of the process and painfully bereft.”
The theme for Shooter’s 12th issue, Animal Love, happened to be set shortly before discovering Robbie’s cancer. Consequently, not only has the issue turned into something of a tribute to him, but in his honour ten percent of the issue’s profits will go to Spanish Stray Dogs UK, a registered charity working to rehome the abused and abandoned dogs of Spain. If you wish to learn more about the organisation’s work, make a donation, or consider adopting, please visit https://spanishstraydogs.org.uk.
I hope, as you read the stories and poetry in this issue, that you enjoy the transporting levity and engaging provocation of a lot of the pieces. These are, to say the least, difficult and isolating times for most of us, and we might like to read lighter fare than usual as a result. You will find plenty of heartening, diverting and insightful work in these pages. Please go to the Subscriptions page to order a copy.
If, like an increasing number of people during the Covid-19 pandemic, you do decide to welcome a dog into your home, I hope you will look into adopting one rather than buying a puppy, and weigh up the real commitment a dog requires. Many people, finding themselves at home more than usual, are currently acquiring dogs. While that seems like a good thing, if people then find, post-pandemic, that they no longer need to be home as much and therefore no longer wish to look after them, abandonment will rise as well.
One benefit of rescuing a slightly older dog, at least in my experience, is being able to skip the early period of intense housetraining. And if you think it would be a shame to miss the fluffy furball stage, let me assure you that, right up to the point it gets curled into a memorial locket, fur can become even softer over time with all that stroking.
– Melanie White