Here is Darragh’s memoir of her time in The French Pyrenees – she is a superstar.
Chapter 1 Settling In
It is our first evening in the mountains; the golden sun is glittering on one side of the the peaks. This feels like a good place. It has been a hard couple of days for us since Rome. I am especially missing Cal, my stuffed dog I have had since I was born. I don’t know how I will ever manage without him. What would a robber want with him? Nothing.
I pull on my sneakers, and set out for a walk with my family to explore our surroundings. We have been walking just two minutes, when an old border collie, white with patches of grey, appears. She is beautiful, and I love her at first sight. Her big brown eyes stare at me. She follows us for our whole walk, dropping a stick at my heels. I throw the stick, she runs and gets it, and then drops it at my heels again.
I name her Callie, after Cal. She belongs up here in the meadows, her shaggy fur blowing in the wind. When our lovely walk finally comes to an end, Callie turns and goes.
I don’t see her for a while after that, and I almost forget about her as we settle in to our mountain life.
Our little village is called Sauto. There are many towns and villages in the Pyrenees mountains, France. This is where we are staying for one month. Sauto is my favourite village. It contains only a few houses, and a little church, and it seems far away from any of the other villages. There is never any traffic, and not many people.
I am playing outside in our back yard one day, when I hear a bark. I creep over to the gate and open it. I walk to the little church around the corner. It is Callie! I fast-walk over to her and give her a pat. But she is not alone. Standing behind her is a little black dog with two white front paws, white toes on her back paws, and a red collar. I assume she is a girl and immediately name her Emily. But there’s more; behind her is a stubby brown dog. I have a bag of Chuppa Chup suckers in my hand, so I name him Chuppa! I pat Callie again. She is my favourite.
Chapter 2 Fetch
It is a misty morning in the Pyrenees. Clouds surround the huge, proud mountains. I pull on my gym-pants and walk downstairs. My little sister is pouring maple syrup on a waffle. I sit down at the table and help myself to a one. As I am pouring the syrup, Liah says, “I hope we see Callie again soon”.
“Yeah, me too,” I reply.
And we do see her soon. When I go out to the yard that morning, I hear a bark. I kneel beside the wire fence at the back of the yard, and on the road below us, I see a few houses, and in front of the houses are two dogs – it is Emily and Callie! To get to the lower road, there are stone steps. I slowly creep down them until the dogs are right in front of me. I whistle and start walking back up the steps. I hear a sound, and turn around. They are following me! I stop at the top of the dozen or so steps up to La Fougere, our house. Callie comes forward and drops a pinecone at my feet. I throw it, and Callie and Emily take turns retrieving it. After about 45 minutes of this, it is time to go in. As I reluctantly shut the gate, I can see two bright-eyed, eager faces looking back at me. It is so powerful, I can’t resist! I run out, and their faces become happy and excited. We play the game again and again until I hear a voice calling me. I HAVE to close the gate. I squeeze my eyes shut and don’t look bac
Chapter 3 The Shepherdess
The next four days are the same as the last. I go half way down the cobble steps, and Callie and Emily trot over to me. We play for as long as we can, and then I have to leave. One evening is a bit different, though.
The evening I find out everything, a rainy mountain storm has just passed. My family step outside together to have a little walk now that the weather is calmer. Everything is wet, wet, wet and the mountain peaks are topped with snow like sundaes topped with cherries. We are half way down the road when a little old woman comes up to us. She is wearing a knitted brown jacket with orange patterns, and old, dirty pants. She tries to explain to us (in a mixture of French and Spanish) that she has animals at her house, including “petits lapins”. She leads us to the house where I always find Callie and Emily. Just past it, there is a small shed and a pen full of chickens. She takes us to a hutch-type shed at the back of the little yard, and in one of the cages are four tiny baby rabbits! She puts one in each of our hands; they are so soft! She shows us the mom, dad, and three other rabbits. As we try to understand her, we finally figure out that she is telling us she is the shepherdess, and she owns Callie, Emily and Chuppa! She explains that none of them are working dogs – she says they are “gentil” (nice), but useless! I pat Chuppa on the head and we pick some vegetables from the lady’s garden. She has a kind, friendly voice, and there and then I know I will be seeing her again.
It is very misty one evening as I step outside and I can’t see the majestic mountains in front of me. It is silent except for a few quiet chirps of birds. It is a little bit scary.
SPLASH! I jump back and look down. I have only stepped in a big puddle.
I walk over to the stone steps; they glisten with water. It must have rained, I think. I make my way down the steps, and peek around the corner. No sign of any dogs. I take another few steps and notice the shepherdess sitting on her front step. I run back up the steps. Why is she there? Where are her dogs? Is she sad? I am starting to walk back up to my house when a shape emerges from the mist. I stop and watch. First I see her face. Then her tail wagging as she comes toward me. It is Callie! She comes up to me with the familiar pinecone in her mouth. I squat down to give her a pat and she drops the pinecone in my lap. I throw it. She runs to get it and waits until I give her a pat to drop it in my lap again. After a while, it is getting dark, so I have to go in. I wonder where Callie had been before; she wasn’t working, so was she just wandering, or could she be up to something? Probably just wandering, I think. Although, I have always thought she can be a bit suspicious at times…I wonder…
Chapter 4 Laces
I am going down the stone steps again. The sun is creating a mid-fall heat, but I still have my sweater on. I start playing fetch with Callie as usual, when I hear a little padding on the pavement. Is it Emily? I turn around and look, and I see not Emily, but the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life moving towards me. His tiny legs are trembly, and his body is wriggling like a caterpillar. He is a funny little border collie puppy! He is black with a white tummy and paws, and he looks like he has dipped the tip of his tail into a bucket of white paint. He sniffs me and nips at my leg. Then he wriggles his way to Callie, who gives him a lick. She has got to be the mum! After all, she is a border collie too. I play with the puppy and Callie for a long time.
The next day, when we go to the supermarket, we buy dog treats and ask the shepherdess if we can give some to the dogs. She says, “Oui, merci”, and gives us a handful of toffees for ourselves! She is a lovely lady, and I LOVE her dogs. We name the puppy Laces because he is always chewing my laces!
For the next few days, this is my agenda:
Wake up and go down for breakfast. Get dressed, brush teeth. Run downstairs, get shoes on, shout “Bye!” to Mum. Grab a few dog biscuits and run out the door.
I play with Callie and Emily with Laces on my lap, chewing my shoe laces. I play until lunch. Sometimes my sisters come. My older sister knows some French, so she and the shepherdess chat.
In the afternoon, we go on a hike, and when we come home in the evening, I run to to the dogs. I love those dogs. I love Callie’s gracefulness, and Lace’s fuzzy playfulness. Even Emily’s slobber. I know I will cry when we leave.
I find out that Callie and Emily are not related to Laces, but that when Laces is a bit older, he will go up onto the mountain to watch his real mum and dad for two months and then he will become a herding dog, working with the sheep.
Chapter 5 The Gift
The weather is changing drastically here in the Pyrenees – it is almost November. It is getting very cold and frosty. Some of the leaves are already falling off the trees.It is a chilly Saturday morning, and I walk over to the window in my room and open the wooden shutters. I gasp! The ground has at least an inch of glittering white snow. The rooftops are covered too! The sun is up, and I know it will probably melt soon, so I get dressed, get my big coat, my sneakers, and run out the front door. My body slowly chills all over, as if 100 ice cubes are sinking down my back. The snow crunches under my feet as I step down the stone stairs. Callie is curled in a ball, and Chuppa barks as I approach. I kneel down and pat Chuppa’s head. Callie gets up and drops a pinecone in my lap and I throw it. It lands with a soft plop. After a few minutes, Emily trots out too. We play, then the dogs lay down for a rest while I scratch their bellies. I am really going to miss them when we leave, but for now, I just have to enjoy them.
The next day, my sister and I are sitting at the bottom of the old stone steps. Most of the snow is gone, but it is still on the mountains in front of us. Suddenly, Marie-Jo, the shepherdess, comes out of her house with something in her hands. She gives my sister a little dog figurine, and me a really beautiful bracelet. We say, “Merci Boucoup,” and leave. I know I will keep that bracelet forever. I have already been collecting bracelets, too. I put that bracelet on straight away.
The next morning, the mountains are powdered with snow again. Callie trots up to me with a pinecone in her mouth, Emily eagerly behind her. As I sit with Laces in my lap, I know I will come back here one day. I make a promise to the dogs that I will be back as soon as I can.
The day we leave, it is very sunny. We get our picture taken with Marie-Jo. We say our goodbyes and I slip on my bracelet. A tear trickles down my cheek. I will never forget Callie, Emily, Laces, or Chuppa. They helped me feel safe and comfortable again, even without Cal. I know I will come back to Sauto, and I hope my dogs will be there waiting with pinecones in their mouths.
A very emotional piece of writing. A. J x