Top Dog.

I noticed him as we started walking. He skirted around us, no eye contact. I tried but he kept right on going. ‘Not very friendly’, I said to Sue. But the majesty of the Soulor beckoned and I soon forgot him. 

Up, up, up we went. 

But every breather break was rewarded with views. Behind us the Col d’Aubisque, it’s yellow-walled hotel tiny at the top and seemingly far away. As we rounded a bend, Pau stretched out before us, flanked by mountains, and criss-crossed paths amongst bedraggled heather. Once we came across a gaggle of goats here, basking in the sun, grass hanging from the corner of their mouths, Belmondo-esque. Nonchalance personified. 

Today there was nothing and no-one. Just us and the mountains. Encircled and enfolded. Everywhere mountains. Covered with a sprinkling of snow, like sugar dusting pancakes, revealing cracks and crevices, crooks and crags. We flopped down in the short grass on the plateau.  We were still near the beginning of our walk, but the hard part was done and we’d earned a rest. A chicken baguette never tasted so good. Ev studied her map, even though she knew exactly where we were and we listened to the silence, basking in the glory of it all. 

Happy, chatting, laughing, we set off again, all downhill now. Surrounded by the points of peaks, in front, behind and to the left and right. Vultures circled and hang gliders drifted into view. And down at the col the wonky round lake beckoned. Grasses waved fronds, and ducks paddled. The picnic table was, for once, empty, but we’d already polished off all our supplies. 

Back at the car I saw him again. Front legs stretched out, he laid in the shadow of a white camper van and I breathed a sigh of relief. ‘He’s with them’, I thought, as he ambled over, tail wagging, tongue lolling, grinning. Close up, I could see he was skinny, and scraggy. No more stand-offishness. He wolfed down the remains of my chicken baguette along with the bits of gravel he dropped it in, in the blink of an eye. ‘We can’t leave him’, I said. Ev was already calling the number on his collar. No answer. Sue checked with the camper van people. They shrugged. Ev tried the vet in Argeles Gazost. ‘Can we bring him in’, she asked and with that, our new friend jumped up and into the back, turned a few circles and curled up. Jim mumbled about fleas and pulled his jacket out of his way.  

As we drove down the mountain, he looked out of the window and laughed some more. At Arrens Marsous Ev pulled over. ‘I just want to ask in this shop’, she called over her shoulder as she inexplicably dashed off, only to reappear a minute or two later fist-punching the air. ‘The lady knows him. She calls him Fripouille*’. We all turned round to look at him, and he grinned back. I swear he would have held his paws up in the air if he could. Busted. Fripouille, we learned, pendles back and forth between his valley and the pass every day. He hangs out, and makes his way home in the evening. He was not in need of rescue, not starving, not ownerless at all; but an adventurer, an opportunist, one cool cat.  

‘You can’t take him away’, she told Ev. So we turned around, drove back up into the mountains and back to the car park. He hopped out of the boot without looking back, gave a couple of barks, and took himself off to the far end of the car park, as far away from us as possible. ‘Thanks for the adventure, but that’s enough for one day’, he radiated.

Top dog. 

* means something like rascal!

The photos in this blog are taken from various outings to the Soulor.

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