There we were. Just the two of us. Sitting in a pavement café in Santa Cruz, coffees in front of us, relaxing in the evening sun and just watching the world go by.
A pleasant looking woman sat at the table next to us. She was accompanied by a little terrier dog and had the end of its lead looped over the back of her chair.
The dog was quiet and friendly and I leant over and stroked it. The woman smiled and we started to chat. Originally from Paris she had lived in Santa Cruz for a number of years. Her husband taught at the university of La Laguna and her son had a business which took him all over Tenerife and the neighbouring islands. They had found the dog at the local animal rescue centre three years earlier and had named him Alphonse.
Alphonse had appeared to be sleeping but at the sound of his name he sat up looking wide awake. I noticed that while one ear pointed straight up the tip of the other fell over giving him a quizzical expression. This was added to when he tilted his head to one side. He was a really cute dog and I could well understand how his owners had picked him out from the others at the rescue centre.
We continued to chat and we were in the middle of explaining how we came to be sitting in a Santa Cruz café when the woman’s mobile rang. Making her apologies she answered it and immediately a shocked expression came over her face. Still talking she grabbed her handbag hailed a passing taxi and disappeared. We looked at one another in disbelief. How could she have forgotten her dog? I expected her to return in a few minutes as soon as she realised her mistake but time passed and she still did not appear. My wife suggested I order more drinks and we would wait with poor Alphonse till his owner appeared. While in the café I explained what had happened. The waiter said the woman and her dog were regular customers but he had no idea where she lived or how she might be contacted. We sat on awaiting the return of Alphonse’s owner but she didn’t appear. Two hours must have passed and eventually the waiter started stacking chairs, a clear sign that he wanted to close up and go home. I said we would take the dog home with us and left a note of our address and phone numbers in case anyone made enquiries about him. I promised to bring him back early the next morning as surely someone would be looking for him by then.
Alphonse was quite happy to walk with us to our apartment as we had been petting him and making a fuss of him ever since he had been abandoned. On the way we stopped off to pick up a couple of tins of dog food so that we could feed our unexpected guest. Arriving at our apartment I recalled that we had two long-unused glass ashtrays. They should be big enough to make temporary dishes for Alphonse. I dug them out from the bottom of a cupboard and soon he was tucking into his food and water and making himself quite at home. We really enjoyed having a dog in the house again after a number of years without one and Alphonse for his part seemed quite happy in our company.
Our apartment faces on to a small square with a grassed area and fountain in the middle and it was there that Alphonse and I had a stroll just before bedtime. We had no idea how things would turn out the next day and we certainly could not spend the whole day sitting in the café waiting for someone to claim Alphonse. I had taken some photos of him and I printed out a batch of the best one. My plan was to leave the photos on the café tables with our phone numbers on the back. If anyone came looking for Alphonse they would be able to ring us so we could meet and hand their dog back. Armed with the photos and holding tight to Alphonse’s lead we set off for the café once again.
I distributed the photos on the café tables and we had hardly settled down at a table with our drinks when a man came running up to us and received a very excited welcome from Alphonse. Sitting down at our invitation he explained that yesterday his mother had received a call to say that his father had been rushed to hospital. In her panic she had dashed off forgetting all about Alphonse. By the time she had been able to see a doctor and receive some reassurance about her husband it was late at night. She returned to the café but by then it was closed and of Alphonse there was no sign. I explained that we had taken him home with us when the café closed and we had been delighted to care for him until he could be reunited with his owner.
The man was full of apologies for the panicked way his mother had rushed off leaving Alphonse to his fate and thanked us profusely for stepping in and taking such good care of the family pet. I said it was a pleasure. We were glad to help out and we hoped there would be better news of his father soon. Rather reluctantly we handed over Alphonse and watched as he made his way along the street. On the way back to our apartment my wife grinned at me. “We have often spoken about getting another dog. Why don’t we have a look at that rescue place this afternoon? Just to see what they have……..”
by Jim Rankin