"Is This Your Dog?"
"Is this your dog?" the man asked.
"It's not your dog?" I responded. The large spaniel was trotting beside him on the road, like a well-trained companion.
"No," he answered, continuing to walk briskly. He waved his walking stick at the dog, who remained undeterred. I traipsed from the edge of our overgrown field where I had been working to manage brambles and called the spaniel. She bounded over and hooked her paw on my arm when I pet her.
I decided to take her home while I searched for the owners. So I started walking toward our quad but when I called her she ran back to the man who was walking away as fast as he could. Again she was undeterred and began trotting by his side once more.
I returned to my work but couldn't continue in good conscience. Our high temperature lately has been zero Celcius, with a low of minus four. So I hopped in the quad and caught up to the walker and his unwanted companion. When I pulled over and called her, the spaniel enthusiastically returned once more. This time I pet her and put her in the back of the quad. I had never envisioned that the mesh cage I use to keep wood from falling over would one day hold a lost dog! But it worked.
I took her home, led her to our enclosed side yard, snapped a photo, and put down some food. Then I visited a couple of neighbors, one of whom told me she thinks the dog belongs to someone in the neighboring hamlet. As I began walking around the area, I noticed two people watching me from their house. As I approached, a woman opened the door and instead of asking who I was or what I wanted, invited me inside.
So I stepped in and we chatted as best we could about the lost dog. Michel and Maddie were very patient as I tried to understand French and they tried to understand my version of French. Turns out the spaniel belongs to their neighbor across the street who also happens to be a sheep farmer I've been wanting to speak with because he raises a breed I'm interested in: the smallest sheep in the world. And now I've officially met the man I've seen driving by on his blue tractor over the past couple of years. "Your son is cute," Michel told me. "He always waves to me when I drive by."
As our conversation came to a close, the couple offered a familiar phrase: "If you need anything, let us know."
Patrice, the farmer who still had a herd of cattle on our property when we moved in, made this offer. I took him up on it when I had a problem with the electric fence; I texted him and he came over within a couple hours. Last year when I stopped to ask a man why he was putting step-in posts along the edge of our field, we had a conversation Christophe now describes as "catastrophique" because my French was so bad, but he too, said to let him know if we need anything. He transported Brown Cow to the abattoir for us last Fall and helped sort some of our cows' paperwork. Our neighbor Serge always offers a hand and Patrick, the local dairy farmer who saw us digging holes one day while driving by on his tractor, stopped and helped for a couple of hours.
I don't know if this is French culture, Limousin countryside culture, or just small town culture, but it sure is nice. Little by little, as we are helped and as we help others, I feel more like a part of the community.
I gathered the spaniel from our side yard and dropped her off in front of the sheep farmer's house. When Michel opened his door, the dog promptly ran inside, wagging her tail. Although she was never truly lost, my attempts to help her find her home brought me closer to finding mine.