It doesn’t seem so long since we last left for Argentina, at the start of winter, our first trip in our semi-repaired Space Oddity. Three months later, when the frosts were thinning and the snows were falling less frequently, the same visa-related reasons compelled us to repeat the journey. Which was a problem for our ever-expanding German Shepherd crossbreed Zibby, whom we’d adopted after the first trip as a six-week-old puppy. Without his vaccines he’d be unable to leave his homeland of Chile, and he hadn’t had them due to an unforeseen difficulty. The ordering of parcels to Puerto Williams, one of the planet’s remotest places, is an exercise in optimism or at least in patience. And this applied to the vaccines as much as anything else, awaited by vets since Zibby was a baby. These still hadn’t appeared on the day of our departure.
So our friend Roberto, the minder of our little yacht prior to our purchase, offered to care for Zibby in the week we’d be away. We motored off without incident across the Beagle, hoisting no sails since the calm was absolute (also our rigging requires mending rather seriously; we’ll add more on that in another article). The Zib settled in at Roberto’s house, learning doggy things from his tolerant elder Gringo by day, and taking to snuggling in Roberto’s son’s bed at night-time. We made the most of various benefits (functional showers for instance) that came with being in a bigger city.
Then one sunny morning Zibby, trotting along after Gringo in his typical way, ran across the street outside after his friend and was struck by a lorry. Witnesses hurried to assist Zibby, hindered by a howling Gringo, who’d decided to defend the fallen Zibby. The local vets were limited by the lack of facilities, so administered a few medicines, then recommended more treatment elsewhere, diagnosing breakage in the back legs of some variety. Punta Arenas on the mainland is the nearest Chilean city, 150 km of mountainous channels away, connected by a single flight daily. Our thanks therefore to numerous people – Roberto and family, some of their neighbours, Roberto’s naval buddies, and the staff of the 20-seater plane – who combined efforts to help out the poor puppy. He was flown to Punta Arenas the very next day, pretty impressively. The vet there determined he had a hip fracture, as shown by the X-ray, with the head broken off the long femur leg-bone. She had to perform an operation to remove the head of the bone, leaving the joint a little incomplete. But it’s thought that eventually the limb will work normally.
So it turned out that the Zibby, instead of staying in his own city, travelled far further than us in the week of our absence. After his operation he had to be hospitalised for a short time, and the return of the snowstorms then stopped some flights that should have brought him back here. Thus he remains in Punta Arenas, where he has at last received his vaccines, so in future he needn’t be left behind by Space Oddity. We and all his well-wishers await his arrival on Wednesday, the eve of his five-months birthday. Hopefully he’ll soon be back to killing balls in his habitual style.