Little Paco came dashing at me from down the trail as though he had me confused for his long-lost lover. It’s been a long and complicated couple years but I would remember someone like this. Once reaching me, there were no hugs, no immediate scratching or catching up or sniffing privates. Instead, he just sidled up next to me like a sidecar and followed along.
For two days.
Paco was happy to take the lead for most of the trail in China’s Tiger Leaping Gorge, though he seemed to be preoccupied and coincidentally unable to go first every time we passed a small herd of goats.
Each time we passed another dog, or even heard one in the distance, little Paco Rhodes would stop for a brief chat to give his testimony.
Our first day together took us up slippery landslides, with bamboo quickly unrooting and signs painted on rocks directing us to distant happy hours and informing us of landslips ahead. I had to make awkward climbs and I’m not sure how my diminutive friend navigated the terrain so easily. When we reached the high-elevation point, I sat down on a rock to look out over the gorge over lunch and Paco stole a quick nap next to me.
Soon after we encountered some of the meanest wind this side of the Pecos, which nearly carried Paco into the gorge. Or so you’d think. But I think he’s been training in wind tunnels (see photo at top), as he locked down in a low position and took it like a Paco.
That night, the guesthouse operator I found made it clear through creative pantomime that the dog was not allowed. Paco left on his own; he doesn’t put up with that kind of shit. By the time I was on the path again the next morning, he was quickly by my side again.
This lasted until I got to the main road, grabbed a quick coffee and some lo mein, and then came out to find a flattened ball of yellow fur on the road. All good things must come to an end. Even Paco.
Luckily, as I made a quick side trip that afternoon, I discovered that he’d faked his own death, presumably to save me the heartache of rejection. He had joined another group. When I saw him, he was polite, but acted like he didn’t know me. Sometimes it’s better that way.
Not everybody gets it, but Paco does. He always has. And I have to respect that. If you see him, say hello.