Ibiza History Culture

Established 1982
Ibiza Artists Anthropology Bibliomania Ecology History Features


I Remember Ibiza
by Harold Liebow

Part Twelve
The Hunt For Flipper


I Remember Ibiza

When Juanito had suddenly announced that his Podenco bitch was missing, we had all jumped to the conclusion that she and Flipper were missing together. Coincidence would be strained too much if this was not the case. But it soon became clear that what appeared to have been the nearly simultaneous disappearance of the two animals, with the inescapable sexual implication, however ludicrous - Flipper was a very small dog and the bitch was not - did not in itself tell us very much about where they might actually be. Or anything at all about in what condition they might be, when and if, found. The only concrete advantage which came with the knowledge that the two beasts were almost certainly together, was that the bitch could not be lost in what was her home territory; ergo, Flipper was not lost either. Ultimately, she would come home and he with her, given that they were both all right.

So it was not too surprising to me when one of the three options which Juanito pointed out was that we should do nothing for the moment. He suggested that the bitch would surely return home when hunger intervened. Flipper, he said, could be counted upon to return with her. This option presupposed that both animals would be in good enough physical condition to make it back home. Another option was to search for the missing dogs with the help of Juanito’s male Podencos. But this option carried with it the possibility of danger to Flipper. Juanito’s thinking was that the dogs could be counted upon to find their missing sister and her suitor, little Flipper. But that since the finding would probably take place without human supervision, since we would be far behind the swift hunting dogs, it was impossible to foretell what their reaction would be when they found her with an outsider - Flipper. It was conceivable that they could simply accept the situation, or, just as conceivable, that they could quite possibly tear him to pieces. And it was impossible, he said, to put them on leashes. They had never been leashed before, and to do so now and expect them to perform a search-and-find expedition during their first leash experience would be highly unrealistic. The final option was for Juanito to search for the two of them on his own, or with me along to help. His bitch was a well behaved girl, he said; she came on call under normal circumstances, and it was quite possible that she would come to him if he could manage to get within her hearing distance of his call…she would be followed, of course, by Flipper.

In the end we decided to try the last of the three options first. Juanito and I would set out together, hoping to be able to get close enough to the missing animals so that Juanito’s call and whistle commands could be heard by the bitch. But even in the happy event that we could, the great question was: would she respond to his call despite the urgently compelling sexual distraction telling her not to? So with another Christmas salsa downed to reinvigorate me, Juanito and I strode off in the direction from which we had come.

Picture © Harold Liebow 1966
Podenco (Ibicenco Hound)
Picture © Josep Solá, Nave y Buil
Picture © Harold Liebow 1966

On our left was the front rank of the great west coast pine forest which had advanced closest to the sea. And on our right was the elemental coastline. Everywhere were vast sloping shelves and towering pillars of ancient volcanic rock in a scattered conglomeration of what must have been one of nature’s wildest moments. Through this intimidating landscape Juanito threaded his way as easily as a trout flashes through his home waters. Once again I was hard put to stay with my guide until I found the right rhythm and the assurance which came with it. And then we became a coordinated pair. My strides matched his. We even breathed in unison. There were no words except for those used in calling the names of the animals as we went. Strength and energy must be preserved. What there was was plenty of determination. Both of us were deeply committed. I had no idea of to where Juanito was heading, or for that matter, if he was heading for any particular place at all; and, for awhile, I wasn’t sure he had any idea, either. But it soon turned out that he had. He was heading for the little cove just north of Madame’s house where I had tried the temperature of the water in the morning. He was sure that if the bitch had led Flipper anywhere, it would be to that cove. It was the favourite hunting locus of his dogs. So we pushed on and the afternoon shadows lengthened as we went.

I should interpose a word here about our communication. Neither understood the language of the other, of course. So there was a serious obstacle to communicating with each other. But what astonished me was how, under the lash of necessity, communication became possible. Juanito was able to inform me of his thinking, of his conjectures, of his observations. I was able to pass on to him some of my own thoughts. And this happened by using the few words we did have in common plus expressive body language gesture, and hand, eye, head and mouth gestures. A raised eyebrow, as you can easily imagine, became a question mark. And other, more obscure and frequently hitherto unknown body actions quickly came into play as imperative pressure called them out of hiding. It was soon established that we could convey our thoughts by the use of a few given words and our own just discovered sign language.

And so at last, we reached the cove. It was just as I had last seen it in the morning. It was beautiful…and it was deserted. There was not a living creature to be seen. Neither animal responded to our calls. We even marched up to Madam’s house itself, but it too was on its own. In the end there was nothing to do but to track back to Juanito’s following as different a path as was possible and using Juanito’s dog whistle as well as calling with what was left of our voices. Option number three had failed. We could now decide to return and do nothing. Or, even though the afternoon was running out, we could return and take the dogs out and try to track our missing pair. What to do? We thought and thought about it as we trudged the long way back. Both of us were secretly hoping, I think, that the conundrum would solve itself. That when we arrived at Juanito’s we would find our errant doggies. But hoping was not enough. We did not find them anywhere, at Juanito’s or on the way back to Juanito’s. What we did find was a group of very demoralized people waiting impatiently for news and for us.

Rest was indicated and sorely needed. Especially by me. I had made the gruelling trip three times and would have to make it once again on the way home. So Juanito and I were treated as returned warriors from the fray. Wine and food were produced in abundance and both of us made as comfortable as that ruin of a house would permit. We began to calculate what the latest hour would be that we could leave and be assured of arriving at Madame’s house before nightfall. For to make that return trip through that rock strewn wilderness in the dark was unthinkable. Even for Juanito.

Madame was especially supportive and compassionate. It seemed she had once lost a beloved pet herself and could empathize completely with my misery over the loss of Flipper. And both Jacques and Alberto were also consolatory in the extreme. I was grateful, of course, for their concern, but I was grateful also, for something more. I felt in their manner, in their approach, in their way of being near me that something had changed in their feelings for me. I felt that somehow, by unspoken common consent, I had been accepted into the club. Some magic spark had been struck and there was no longer any chance that we should all be sadder rather than gladder after the Christmas holiday was over. If I had been invited to stay with them for Christmas it had been a well advised invitation, after all. And a feeling of great calm began to pervade me. It was a sign, I thought, that perhaps, after all, I would fit. I would fit, not only into the club of which Madame was the mistress, but into this whole new life of mine, this just adopted new life of mine at age 45, in a strange land with customs still strange to me. A land in which Juanito and his family could live quite happily in an open ruin and all alone on a beautiful beach. Where else could such a thing happen? Only in Ibiza, I thought.

Madame said, “Tomorrow we will visit our friends on the other side of us. There are four of them. It will take your mind off the loss of your little dog.”

My God! I thought. Salsa four times over!

It looked very much indeed, like we had run out of options. Flipper looked like being lost for good. Even Alberto was deeply depressed as we helped him along on the last way home. And though we kept alert to the possibility of hearing a jaunty welcoming bark from a wayward Flipper, alas, there was nothing of the kind. It was a tired, defeated band of bedraggled hikers who finally flopped down and out at Madame’s house just at late sunset that evening.

Harold Liebow