In this week’s blog as part of the Hillwalk Stories series, Kathy Lorentz from Ohio, USA, writes about a friendly dog called Rex that her group met while hiking The Dingle Way back in 2017.
On day 3 of our Dingle walk, our hiking group stopped in Ballyferriter for lunch and a bit of a rest while we waited out a rain squall. Leaving town and heading back towards the trail we came across a good-sized sheepdog chasing cars down the main street. His method seemed sound; rush at the back wheels as the car passed, snap at the tires and jump back. The local drivers paid no mind to the dog but our animal-loving daughter was upset that the dog might be hit by a car. She called the dog over; talked with it and offered him a scrap of a sandwich. Obviously feeding the dog was not a good choice as she now had a friend for life. Rex (he had a tag with a name and a local contact number) decided there and then to go along on our hike.
No amount of shooing, waving or ignoring Rex would convince him to go home. He took the lead and the next four hours were pure dog joy as we traversed the beaches of Wine Strand and Smerwick Harbor. We learned Rex loved ocean swimming; diving into the choppy surf several times. When fresh water presented itself in the form of a deep puddle higher up on the dunes he walked in up to his shoulders and lapped away. He knew each turn of the trail and walked well ahead of us as we neared major changes in direction. We thought he might have decided to head for home along the Smerwick Harbour dunes when we stopped to visit with a walker and dog going the opposite way. The walker told us he had often seen that dog out this way and would encourage him to walk back towards Ballyferriter. We weren’t really surprised later as we crested a dune; there was Rex waiting for us with his nose lifted high to the sea. Was he taking a break to enjoy the smell of the sea mist mixed with the amazing profusion of wildflower smells- heather, montbrettia, foxglove and fuchsia?
Near the end of our 25 km day as we passed through An Riasc and began a long stretch off-road towards Cuas. Rex disappeared into a sheep pasture and did a few minutes of show-off herding. Later he was seen hunkered down below a stone wall and we wondered what he was up to. As we approached the wall a very large bull lumbered up from his tethering spot in the field. It seemed as if he knew the bull was there and waited until we approached to show off his local knowledge with a few minutes of fierce barking. The last section of the trail had four stile passes between very muddy fields; surely this would convince him it was time to turn for home (We had agreed not to help the dog over any obstacle that he couldn’t manage on his own). Rex easily threaded his way between the rungs of two stiles, jumped the wall of another and found a hole under a wall of the last pass.
About 2.5 km before our B&B destination we walked along the fast flowing, dark waters of the Feohanagh River. As we approached looking for the bridge promised in our trail directions Rex jumped into the creek, dog paddled across, scrambled his way up the bank, and shook off. While we waited for one of our hikers to catch up Rex crossed the creek a second time. Not convinced swimming was a good idea we decided to use the bridge to cross!
Still with us on the final stretch, he led the way into the car park at An Bóthar where he tussled a bit with the resident sheepdog. We finally were able to call Rex’s owner who asked us to hold onto him for an hour or so. The owner didn’t seem surprised that we were calling from Cuas. Last we saw of Rex he was happily jumping into the back gate of the owner’s truck and settling in for his ride home. On our way into Dingle the next morning; Muiris (An Bóthar’s owner) laughed as we told him the story and he told us – “yes we’ve seen that dog around here before”.
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