Monday, February 24, 2014

Cafu the ranch dog - Joanópolis

Meet Cafu. No, not the captain of Brazil's 2002 World Cup-winning team but a gorgeous German Shepherd who lives at the fazenda (ranch) where we rent a house. He was born in 2002, hence the name. He's my dog Caju's best friend, and it amuses many who hear us calling "Caju....Cafu..." And even more amuses those who see the two pal around together--both old now, limping, grey-muzzled, one tall and the other squat. 

Cafu spent his first year in São Paulo, growing up with and being trained by my friend Pri's gaggle of border collies. Then he moved out to Joanopolis and the enormous tree farm where he would be the guard dog. He is the size of a wolf, has a mean bark, and in his best years, could run like a deer across the fields. I have twice seen him bite men he does not know, until called off by the owners. He still does not like stray dogs and will attack them if on a hike where we cross paths with one. 

The life of a ranch dog can be pretty tough. They are really working dogs and will go out with the ranch hands to fix fences or cut trees, following behind tractors. At night they sleep out in dog houses at the barn or up at the main house. Pri's ranch dogs are the lucky ones, however, as she feeds them well, gives them the best in veterinary care, and they get plenty of social time and love during the weekends that we are all at the fazenda. Cafu is the undisputed favorite of the working dogs.

Back away from my ball!! (circa 2009)

Cafu now limps because he was hit by a car, possibly even twice, and had surgery to put pins in his leg. Unfortunately they could not remove the plate after two attempts, and this causes him significant pain when he walks. He was so upset and pained after the second attempt that he spontaneously attacked and killed one of the ranch kittens. That was his last surgery.

He can be a jealous guy--once when the twins were small they started playing with the ranch hand's small dachshund instead of Cafu. Cafu came over, flipped the dog onto its back and bit it, opening a three-inch gash in its stomach. He easily could have killed it, but I think the message was "stay away from my humans." He has never attacked Caju though, though the play used to be rough between the two with Cafu nipping at Caju's neck when the latter got out of the lake. It was rough enough that Caju has one scar from a chomp.

Cafu has never hurt any child. Visiting kids go from trembling fear of this huge wolf to launching themselves bodily on top of him. I used to be afraid of him coming too close to the twins but I know now that he would never hurt them. Not even when they pulled his long ears. Or stepped on his enormous paws. 

This past weekend we were at the German house, the house we rent about one mile away from the main fazenda house. On Sunday, I locked my two labradors in the kitchen and we drove down to the main house to ride horses and swim in the big lake. Cafu was there and he sniffed all around the car to see if Caju had come with us. He seemed vaguely disappointed that it was just the humans.

Three hours later we piled back into the car and rode up to the upper ranch--with the exception of BH who walked up. I said goodbye to Cafu at the lake, and watched him grow smaller in the rear view mirror. When we got back to the upper house, we started to prepare lunch. About a half-hour later, Cafu walked in, puffing and limping. He had walked all the way from the lower ranch to the upper ranch--it's not an easy hike for anyone. Caju jumped up (as well as he could) and went over to nuzzle his buddy.  

It's good to have a best friend. 

Chopp (1999-2010), Cafu (2002-) and Caju (2000-). Circa 2009.

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