Along the way, we fell in love with the remoteness of its mountains
and the generosity of the kind folk who lived in its small villages.
Many cycle tourists are wary of dogs, but we, perhaps imprudently, couldn’t help but develop a fondness for them. They rarely chased or barked for long; instead, they would sidle up to us for some attention. We happily fed them our leftovers and rubbed their bellies on many occasions.
One day, after a long ride, we stopped by the roadside in search of a place to sleep, just as we had every other night. What happened next was unlike any other evening we spent camped in the woods. Just as we were setting up, two pint-sized border collie pups pranced out of the woods and into our camp, as if out of thin air.
Much to our delight, they quickly made themselves at home with us.
“Where did you come from? Where is your mama!?” we asked them, as we petted their soft, fluffy fur. Even as the words escaped our lips, we knew full well the most likely answers. Their mother might be dead along the roadside, one of the many canine corpses we passed. Or perhaps she was chained up to a barn, barking her brains out, with just three feet of tether in which to live.
Life isn’t easy for a Romanian dog.
As night fell, a bitter cold descended on the Romanian countryside, and we knew we had to do something, or the pups would likely be frozen by morning. So, we brought them into our tent, where they slept like babies, breathing softly between us.
By the time the sun rose the next day, we knew we couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t leave them. Though we werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t equipped to be traveling with animals, we decided to take them with us anyhow. So, that morning, I cooked them mushy pasta while my husband emailed anyone he could think of that might connect us to some Romanian version of the Humane Society.
Without a plan, we fed them a starchy breakfast and packed them each in a backpack, which we wore facing frontwards.
and then we set off, with precious cargo against our chests.
We wound our way up hills and mountains, stopping often so the doggies could run around and play. The tough climbs were followed by precarious and nerve-wracking descents. With one hand on a brake lever and the other trying to calm a squirmy, panicking pup, we sped down the slopes as semis blasted by us on the shoulder of the road.
In each of the villages we passed, we stopped, looking for a friendly person to adopt them. Every time we were turned away, we felt more desperate, hopeless, and utterly unequipped to care for these two small lives.
It was a small miracle when the four of us rolled into town, exhausted and sweaty, but safe and sound. We cheered to celebrate our success, and then we waited anxiously for rescue to arrive. Not long after, a blue van showed up – it was the good doctor, and it was time to say goodbye to our little puppies.
With final hugs, we bid them farewell, tearfully happy in the knowledge that theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be well cared for, but very sad to be letting them go.
Our little border collies were loaded into a dog carrier
and driven away, to be vaccinated, neutered, and adopted by a loving family.
It’s been over a year since those pups waltzed in and out of our lives, and the experience remains one of the most memorable of our two year adventure across Europe and Asia. Though we’ve tried numerous times to find out how they are doing, we have yet to hear word.
I like to imagine that the pair are happy and healthy, and that somewhere in the deep recesses of their canine minds, there exists an inexplicable, dream-like memory of the wind in their faces, and of the reassuring hands of two cyclists who loved them.