The sky above Salamanca was a dark blue and turning warmer by the minute. It wasn’t expected to be an especially hot day so there was no real urgency in getting started early, but I hated leaving cities after everyone had woken so I left at seven. Even without needing to maneuver around people, cities were stressful places to navigate with Savannah and the cart.
This morning there weren’t many sounds; a car passing, men unloading a truck at a fish market, the left axle of my cart squeaking. I didn’t listen to music in the morning, it was the time of day when things were most peaceful and playing music felt jarring.
At the end of the main road out of Salamanca Savannah and I followed the sidewalk around an intersection and onto a two-thousand year old Roman bridge with many arches stretching across a wide and reedy river.
About eight hundred kilometers south from the bridge was the Mediterranean Sea. From the Mediterranean Savannah and I would take a ferry across the sea to Morocco.
I’d heard wonderful things from friends who’d been, but I wasn’t specifically looking forward to Morocco. I was enjoying Spain. Spain seemed a well concocted blend of South America’s wilder aspects and Europes more tame ones. That I could speak the language helped as well.
From the far end of the Roman bridge the gothic basilicas of the Nuevo Catedral de Salamanca could be seen jutting into the pale blue morning sky as a backdrop to the bridge. I stopped to take a picture then pressed on.
Across the street we entered a park with manicured triangles of grass and birch trees. I let Savannah off the leash and she ran ahead. The path went under the highway, separating itself from the park and entering the dry indigenous landscape. There were joggers and people walking dogs. To my right cars flowed into the city.
Since I had a day off the day before my legs were fresh. Savannah and I followed the path for an hour until nearing the next town. I looked behind me and saw Savannah lagging behind and hopping on three legs, keeping her back right leg lifted. I doubled back and looked over her paw in search of thorns but could find none.
I gave her a pat on the side. “You’re all right,” I said.
She put her paw to the ground and we got walking again. But after another minute, she lifted her back leg again. I noticed now there was a spot of blood on her other back leg too.
I parked the cart and bent to inspect her. Blood had matted down the hair on her paw and long seeds were knotted in the hair. I pulled out the seeds and the source of the blood became visible. There was a gash about a half inch long between her middle two knuckles. She was bleeding a lot. When I parted her knuckles to get a clearer look the gash opened wide and revealed how deep it was.
After looking clearly at the injury for a minute I stood erect and peered down the road we were supposed to be walking, then I peered back at Salamanca and wondered if the AirBnb we left an hour and half ago was available a few more days.
“Okay,” I said to Savannah.
We walked a nearby bench. Savannah stood stock still on her three uninjured paws. I pulled everything out of the back basket of the cart – my camera, dog food, Savannah’s bowls, Savannah’s booties, my external battery – and shoved it all in the front.
I put a booty on Savannah’s injured paw then lifted her and held her hind legs close together and slipped her into the basket. For a moment her hips were caught but with a little push they fit and she dropped inside.
I let go and she readjusted herself so she was sitting on her rump and hanging out of the basket from her front shoulders up. She was no longer the puppy that could curl in the basket to sleep.
Once Savannah was settled I sent the woman who’d hosted us for a few days a message to she if the room was booked for another three nights.
Then I took hold of the cart and began walking double-time back to Salamanca.
I made the hour and a half walk back to the AirBnb in an hour. The host left the keys on the mailbox and after hauling my cart back into the room I left a few hours before, I cradled Savannah in my arms and hustled to the veterinarian.
The vet was unlocking the door as I walked up to it.
I entered and sat Savannah on the tiled floor. Her tail went straight between her legs. Ever since Perú, where a butcher of vet jabbed her recklessly in the back with a massive syringe, Savannah had been terrified of vets.
“Who do we have today?” asked a young woman from behind the counter.
“Savannah,” I replied.
The vet looked through the registry on her computer with an increasingly confused look on her face.
“I’ve never been here before,” I added.
“Oh. That’s why I couldn’t find her. Do you have an appointment?”
“No. She has a cut on her paw. I think a thorn went through it.”
The young woman held up her index finger then swept into the back office. I was the only person in the office. There was a small flatscreen on the wall to my right playing comical music and a montage of pets chasing their tails.
When the young woman returned she brought with her a middle-aged woman with cropped red hair, high cheekbones, and flitting green eyes.
“Tell me,” she said softly. The direct translation to English of her words would be harsh, tell me, but in Spanish the phrase was more akin to what can I do for you?
I explained to her that a few days before I noticed a puncture on the bottom of Savannah’s paw and that I’d been applying antibiotic gel to the puncture and I’d kept Savannah off it for two days, but that this morning, suddenly, a gash appeared on the topside of her paw.
“Bring her through,” said the green-eyed vet.
As I took Savannah around a man carrying a scruffy bichon on his belly took a seat in the waiting room. Both the vets smiled to him.
At the sight of the metal veterinary table in the examination room Savannah whipped around and started running in place on the tiles. The leash kept her upright as her paws slipped. I scooped her up and attempted to sit her on the table but as soon as she touched the metal she was yipping and clawing at my chest as though the cool metal were burning her.
“You’ll have to hold her,” said the vet.
Savannah made to jump off the table but was caught by the short leash. I wrapped my arm around her so my hand was on her chest and pulled her back.
“Savannah. Relax,” I said close to her ear.
She moaned. Her mouth opened and closed as though wanting to bark but knowing she shouldn’t.
I took her front legs out from under her so she would lay down then had to put the weight of my chest on her for her to stay still.
The younger vet pinned Savannah’s backside with her forearms and the older vet squeezed a numbing agent into the gash in Savannah’s paw. Savannah cried and yipped and having her pinned under me I felt her fear like a knife in my chest.
The vet’s green eyes narrowed and she worked downward into the gash with tweezers to remove the thorn.
Savannah stopped crying, but was breathing heavily under my chest. The white of the eye I could see was bloodshot and stayed fixed straight ahead as though afraid to look anywhere else.
After a few minutes the vet said she thought they removed what they could.
I let Savannah out from under me and she toppled off the metal table in her excitement to be free.
“Did you remove the thorn?” I asked.
The younger vet swept bloody gauze into a trashcan then wiped down the table.
“I think so,” said the fiery-haired vet. “But I couldn’t find anything big, there were only pieces. I think what happened is she stepped on the thorn and it was in her paw for a few days but the walking today pushed it out of the top.”
The thought a thorn working its way through Savannah’s paw while we walked was deeply unsettling. How could I have missed an entire thorn like that?
“It happens everyday here,” said the vet reading my consternation. “Everyday.”
“But you think you removed everything?”
“You should know in two days. If it’s healing and the blood is clean then the thorn is out. I think it was pushed out this morning.”
I nodded and looked at Savannah as she scurried around the office wagging her tail as though she weren’t just yipping and clawing at me for dear life.
“You’re walking today?” asked the vet.
“Are you continuing today?”
“Oh, no. We’re going to stay here until she’s healed.”
“Two days and she’ll be ready.”
I took Savannah by the leash and we moved to the front of the office. The vet gave me a pair of her two-year old son’s socks to put on Savannah’s paws to keep her from licking at the cut. She didn’t charge me for the visit.
“It’s a donation for your walk,” she said.
In order to heal I kept Savannah in the apartment all day expect for a brief jaunt to the park in the evening. I knew keeping her inside to rest was the right thing to do, but it killed me having to let her down each time I slipped on my sandals and she sprung to action.
After that first day, where the excitement of getting everything in order for Savannah occupied my mind, the next day was a bore. Savannah was cooped up and I wandered around the city. I had coffee in the plaza and read occasional pages of Harry Potter. But during my meandering grew the fear that my time in Salamanca would soon be just like my dull and friendless months in San Sebastian. I knew I wouldn’t be in Salamanca for more than a few days, but the memory of San Sebastian was fresh, and the prospect of returning to reliving that situation in a new city was terrifying. I needed to do absolutely everything I could to get Savannah back into walking form – as much for her as myself.