(Based on a true story.)
The major touched his moustache briefly and after some hesitation said: “That´s fine, but you better have a good reason for making me come to the Café Gijon for a matter relating to my dog. Tuesday at 11am in the morning any good?”.
“I shall be there at 11am precisely on this coming Tuesday,” answered the German Colonel.
It was a sunny and balmy March morning. The Castellana was packed with its usual morning traffic. The Major’s chauffeur pulled aside and opened the door of the army officer’s Black Seat 1500 for his boss to step out and enter the Café Gijon to be greeted by Antonio, the head waiter, and all the usual staff who knew the Major well. “Will the Major come along to where a foreign gentleman is waiting at the far corner table?” asked Antonio.
The German Colonel stood up and made a formal salutation to his fellow Spanish Army Officer. “Major Benitez, it is a pleasure to meet you. Our mutual friend Father Fernando speaks highly of you.”
“How kind and flattering. And what brings you here to Madrid? My Terrier is not for sale if that is your intention.”
“Major Benitez, please let me explain to you the reason why I am here with you now. I was, as you probably know by now, a well-known German Army officer during WWII. I was serving my country in the Russian front in Stalingrad where I was severely wounded during the Russian Campaign, and was one of the few lucky officers who returned alive back to Germany. My medical condition was not good, but with the help of God and some good surgery my life was saved. I spent the last months of the war recovering in my family home in The Black Forest in the company of my only sister and a little female Jagdterrier puppy who was given to me by a fellow army friend. This puppy was named Kira, and it is the dog you now own…”
The Major was taken by surprise, touché, as they say in fencing, and responded: “But you abandoned the dog and fled to The Argentine, did you not?”.
“Yes indeed, I did leave for Argentina as every German Army Officer was, after the war, a potential Nazi or war criminal. But I was not at all a Nazi and was sent to the Russian front primarily because I was not a great fan of Adolf Hitler nor was my family. But once Hitler was dead and Germany had lost the war it was not an easy affair to prove your innocence. On the advice of friends and family I went to The Argentine where my mother still owned a farm near Corrientes. It took some years before the German Consul in Buenos Aires confirmed my complete innocence and that I could return to my native Germany without fear. For justice had been made over my case.
I know you took good care of Kira and I have no right at all to ask you to return the dog back. But I do ask you, as a fellow Spanish Army officer, to consider my very difficult situation at the time when I left for South America. I had this dog which everyone knew about. There were spies all over Madrid at that time in the late forties and my Jagdterrier would have been a final conclusion point that would have certainly led to my detention, and only God knows if I would have been sent back to Russia to some concentration camp in Siberia. On the advice of my Spanish friends I needed, as a matter of urgency, to get rid of my Terrier dog and Father Fernando accepted to take him and find a new suitable owner. Please understand my point.”
The Spanish Major thought carefully before saying “I will think about it and let you know. Call me in three days’ time and I will tell you about my decision.”
Colonel von Stauffer agreed to the Major’s condition.
Some days later the telephone rang twice before the Major answered.
“Von Stauffer here…” hesitated the German Colonel
“Yes, Colonel,” replied the Major, just before he laid out his well-thought plan:
“It is quite clear that Kira is now my dog, as she was given to me two years ago and has lived with me ever since. She even sleeps in her basket inside my bedroom. And the dog is surely very fond of me and leads a good life both in Madrid and in my country house in Talavera. However, I do understand that you, as her former and first owner and given the very complex and dangerous circumstances of your departure for South America after the war, have also got a right to have the dog. So, let us be fair. I suggest we let the dog decide his future.”
“And how do you plan to work this out Major?”
“We shall arrange to meet at the Café Gijon tomorrow at 10am precisely. Kira will be on a leash. We shall have coffee and then go to the main door. In the meanwhile, Manuel the waiter, who knows Kira well, will hold the dog for us. I will exit the Café and will walk to the right, whilst you will exit as well but you will walk to the left. And at the same time Manuel will release Kira. Do not be afraid because of the traffic. Kira is trained not to cross the street without looking, and she is as careful as you and I when it comes to walking in Madrid. If Kira decides to follow me, she will remain my dog. But should she follow you she will then be yours again… but… only one condition applies. And that is a sine qua non condition: Neither you or I are allowed to call or look back at the dog when we walk out in different directions.”
The German Colonel remained puzzled and thought, “A true Spanish gentleman of the old school”. And without a second thought agreed to the plan.
The following morning both gentlemen met at the Café Gijon. Kira got very nervous when she glanced at her old master Colonel von Stauffer. She trembled and started to urinate all over the entrance of the Café. Something she had never done before. The Major handed the dog over to Manuel and sat at his regular table where two coffees were ordered by the two army officers. Neither of them spoke much except for the odd comment on subjects of little relevance.
“We must now proceed as agreed,” said the Spanish Major. “And remember the rule: No calling or glancing back at the dog.”
Colonel von Stauffer nodded in agreement.
The Spanish Major walked to the right whilst the German Colonel walked to the left. Kira was duly released by Manuel and without hesitation rushed happily to her present owner, the Spanish Major, who smiled in relief.
Kira walked next to him for a few yards when she suddenly stopped. She rolled her eyes as she looked for the last time at her friend the Major, and rushed all the way back to her former master the German Colonel.
* * *
Years later whilst visiting the Tormes River close to El Barco de Avila, Father Fernando told me that the dog reached the old age of 15, the equivalent of well over 100 in human years, or close to that anyway, having spent a good life in the Black Forest of Germany in the company of Colonel von Stauffer who died a few years afterwards when he was well over ninety.