I return you now to our two heroes on their voyage across Europe. The two waterway warriors seek, on their journey, local company and to connect with nature. Such a connection, deep and spiritual, they found briefly in Bulgaria.
The tale of the cat debacle in Bulgaria has already grown in glory. It is a tale best told by the cat itself but, alas, the cat is modest and quiet in its new found fame and also dearly lacks aposable thumbs. But that day on the banks of the Danube, our two strong canoeists were confronted with a cat that made several things clear: It liked the boys, it liked the canoe and it was keen to stay with both.
Buoyed on by previous boaters who had cruised the Danube, our lads took enjoyment in the company of the cat and, given her willingness, they placed her gently in the bow of their canoe. But as paddles dipped and sploshed in the glimmering blue water, the cat had a terrible realization. She didn't like being out on the water at all.
And so it was, just minutes after leaving the shore, the boys came to recognize their cats distress. No one, of course, likes to see a friend in distress, and as time passed the boys realized they could not hold back their cat forever. With arms ready to aid and overboard plans in place, the boys watched as their feline companion jumped for the water. As all cats do, she landed on her feet and quenched any fears by displaying a strong swimming technique.
Shortly the cat was at the bank, damp, but content to be back on dry land, she looked back at the boys. There on the water were the two heroes who had cherished the short love of that chance encounter. So fleeting, yet so pure. An engagement with nature that would live forever in their memories. They called a last goodbye to their friend and wiped tears from their eyes.
With this unforgettable experience at the forefront of their minds our heroes now find themselves in Romania searching to replicate what they once had. So it is with hearts leaping that, from nowhere, the hardy canoeists find a trail of paw prints in the sand alongside theirs. It is an arduous day, awash on the shores of the Black Sea the pair are struggling along with all their worldly belongings. Inch by inch, foot by foot, they cover the terrain. They lift, they haul, they drag their gear as waves crash around them. And there, close behind them, is Dogger.
Dogger is small, sleek and black and extremely timid on meeting the famous duo. Though timid, he is equally inquisitive and sticks close to the canoeists as they skirt the coast line. It is there and then, in their first ten minutes together, that Dogger decides he is in it for the long haul. He likes the boys, he likes their aspirational journey, and he wants to be their friend.
In return Dogger is loved and appreciated. He is talked to, he is patted and, once clear that he does not intend to leave, he is taken in as part of the team. Cold, curled up and shivering by the side of the canoe, Dogger is given peanuts and water and the feeling of security.
By the end of the next hour a true bond has been created. As the boys trudge on, Dogger skips along the sea shells in a happy dance and loops from one canoeist to the other.
It is with extremely heavy hearts, then, that the later actions take place. Rounding a corner our heroes are confronted by their growing nemesis: the border police. Perched on a cliff in their dark green four by four, two men call down to the canoe and summon its owners. There, on broken shells and shiny wet rocks, a friendship is torn apart. The police take our heroes on an unplanned path and a path where Dogger is not welcome. He looks on as his friends and their belongings are loaded up into a van, with the trusty canoe sticking far beyond the open back door, and he sits with new men he does not know and does not trust.
Inside the van sit the two boys, clutching the canoe as they are rattled around over bumps and cracks in the rutted road. With their faces pressed against the window, breath slightly fogging up the glass, they watch, sullenly, as Dogger grows smaller and smaller in the distance.