Friday, August 10, 2007

peregrina the pilgrim dog

On this day in history....

Yes, August 10th was the day I reached the end of my first Camino. And it was a Holy Year, 1999, so the madness was comprehensive, embracing. Fashion designer Paco Rabanne had called for the-world-as-we-know-it to end on the 11th, coinciding with the solar eclipse, so there was no time to lose. I started out from Arca early early on a sunny morning (there had been record rainfalls in Galicia that summer, which is saying much) with five Spanish companions and an old honey-coloured dog whom people called Peregrina (the Spanish word for a woman pilgrim).

No one was sure where Peregrina had started her pilgrimage, though some said as far back as Leon - more than ten days' journey. It was hard to imagine what ever motivated her to start walking. She must have sat and watched the pilgrims pass her farm for years. Then one day she got up and joined them. She slept at the refuges, where pilgrims fed her scraps from their meals. In the daytime she loped along at an easy pace, walking with one group of pilgrims or another. This morning, she had chosen us.

It was noon when we reached the Monte de Gozo, just before Santiago. After the fashion of pilgrims of old, I rushed ahead of my friends to be first to the top. Somehow I ended up losing them. I found out what had happened when I ran into them the next day (August 11th, when the world did not end). It seems Ana had twisted an ankle on the way up the hill. But I never saw or heard of Peregrina again. There are very few pilgrims who walk back from Santiago, so it's hard to imagine her turning around and finding her way back. I like to think that after Santiago, that good-natured, shaggy old pilgrim kept walking till she found a new home on a farm out on the road to Finisterre.

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