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Pablo The Dog

Pablo The Dog

The story of Pablo starts years ago, far away in South America…Argentina to be precise. I was on a leave of absence from my job in order to be with my father as he battled through a diagnosis that had only one terrible outcome. Pancreatic cancer is a death sentence and to be told otherwise is to distort the reality of what’s at hand. While living down there, I sadly had to come to terms with some inevitabilities of life as we now knew it. My father’s last birthday, our last Christmas and New Year’s, my birthday, all dates that might otherwise not bear so much weight until viewed through the spectrum of intense and immediate finality. 

As my birthday approached I could sense something brewing in my pops. He had always known -- due to my personality type and other fatherly intuitions -- that a dog, especially a border collie, would be a seamless integration to my lifestyle. It was some sort of innate ability of his to read into my future and determine that this could be the most prudent choice I might ever make in this life of mine. A partner in crime, a friend with immeasurable amounts of unconditional love, a four-legged soul to be there for comfort, joy and love when my father no longer would be. So we formulated the plan of finding a puppy and in Escobar, a small town just outside of

the metropolis of Buenos Aires, I met Miguel, a small-time breeder with an affinity for collecting cars and breeding dogs. It was my birthday and I was there to pick out a puppy from one of Miguel’s most recent litters. 

There honestly wasn’t some mystical connection where Pablo trotted up and licked my face before all other puppies. I had no preconceived notions as to picking out a puppy…just some basics that I was looking for: male, brown, border collie. Miguel had just what I was looking for and after paying him the most meager of prices I said I’d be back for him once he was weaned off hismom. A few weeks later and I went back to scoop him up

and the little guy was all mine. I knew I wanted a Spanish name due to his ancestry and the fact that he came from Escobar just sealed the deal in my mind. Not that I’m backing the actions of a nefarious drug lord, but it seemed fitting and slightly amusing to see the look on someone’s face when they’re all like, “Pablo…as in Picasso?” And my reply is, “No…as in Escobar.”

 

After spending what I can only describe as the most trying months of my life in South America, it was time to come home. These situations rarely have silver linings and maybe it was with this in mind that my father’s last birthday gift to me was made with such forethought and prudence as to insulate my broken heart from the true depths and despairs of such a monumental loss. Your dogneeds you. He’s looking to you to take care of him and show him right from wrong as you raise him. You can do this. You will do this. So with the heaviest of hearts, we boarded a plane bound for the winter of New York, leaving the summer climates of Argentina behind. The story of getting Pablo

out of South America and into the United States is a story in and of itself…but for the sake of the reader’s attention I will fast forward through that episode.

I’ve been around dogs my whole life, but this was a game changer. This was MY dog. I abhor the term “owner”. I don’t own Pablo, regardless of the exchange of money that brought him to me. To say I own him would devalue and degrade his entire existence. I’m simply his human friend who happens to feed him and take care of him. So here I am in Vermont with a puppy and from day one Pablo was on point. Sure he peed a couple times in the house and he might have even dropped a hot biscuit once or twice…but

other than that I had no puppy problems whatsoever. No whining, no barking, no chewing of anything…which was very fortunate for me because my roommate at the time was a collector of all things Nike; Jordans, Air Max, Air Force 1s, Dunks…all of those spendy sneakers around the house would have set me back something fierce had Pablo engaged in what most puppies are known to do…chew everything! Seriously though…not one shoe!

I knew from the start that I was blessed with something special. A puppy that was extremely well behaved, attentive, and smarter than anything I had seen in any dog to date. He’s cool with cats and other dogs,

and not obsessed with squirrels or any other small critters that can be a dangerous distraction. Given all this, I knew I had to be as cool to Pablo as he was to me…to me that meant no collar and jingling dog tags, no leashes, and as much quality time outdoors as possible.

I mostly grew up in Vermont, hiking around the woods and mountains, fully immersing myself in the grandeur of nature. Looking back, I’m pretty sure this is exactly what my dad had in mind when he presented the idea of Pablo as a birthday gift to me, a dog that would naturally fit into my lifestyle and environment. Having arrived to Vermont in the dead of winter, Pablo took an instant liking to snow, pouncing around as a fox would looking for its prey. From there, we transitioned to summertime swims. Come to find out he loved the water as much as the snow. He was ready and willing for almost anything I tossed his way. One time my car broke down and I found myself having to bike to work. Seeing as we don’t use a leash for much of anything I wondered what would be the outcome of having him trot beside my bike. It took a couple of tries for Pablo to be confident to the point where he trusted me to not run him over…but the trial by fire worked and he loves running alongside the bike (with or without a leash) as much as any other activity we engage in. 

From the beginning I have tried to document our adventures as much as possible. I had always shot photos of Pablo on our explorations…from my old Canon Elph, to my G9, to the first GoPro…I have always tried to snap away on any little excursion. Then came the iPhone and Instagram. For years, my photos simply lived on my hard drives. I’m not big on Facebook, and I don’t have Tumblr or a blog. Not to knock anyone that does, I just didn’t see myself investing that much time after the fact in getting my photos “out there”. But for me the iPhone and Instagram sort of changed the paradigm on how one could present their work and the efficiency with which one could do it. No more memory cards and card readers and back end work just to get a photo on the old World Wide Web. It was instant access. And don’t get me wrong…I’m not about instant gratification and the personality type that needs everything now now now. It simply seemed to be a lot easier than any other method previously at my disposal. 

But the funny thing is, when I first got on Instagram I remember hearing a lot of people claiming the “unspoken” rules to being on Instagram. No food, no babies, no dogs or cats. This is NOT Facebook so don’t go effing up Instagram with your Facebook-style crap. I sort of adhered to that ethos for a while, but then after some time I found myself on these amazing hikes with Pablo and shooting landscapes, as picturesque as they may be, eventually got stale to me. It started with one or two shots here and there with Pablo in the frame and then fully blossomed into incorporating him into just about every landscapeshot. I can’t honestly tell you that he likes to have his photo taken, but I do know that he does not mind it in the least. Being that he’s a border collie, he has an innate desire to be given tasks and commands. So it’s fairly easy to get to a spot and ask him to sit for a second or two. But honestly, believe it or not, the majority of his photos are not staged in the least. Sure, I’ll get him

to sit somewhere interesting, or have him hang back while I hike a little further up to get the photo…but most of the time his expression and where he happens to be looking in any given photo is simply his curiosity as to the happenings around him. And that’s the key to a good photo of Pablo, a genuine expression with a distinct background. 

If you ask me, having a dog instantly makes you a people person. Every single day you’re bound by your commitment to walk this little fella. And that singular action by default opens you up to the possibility of meeting someone new or seeing something new. We were at a park just the other day, the same park I go to every morning and we saw a bald eagle. Seriously…how crazy is that?!? Vermont is not known for its bald eagle population and there we were just walking along and we hear some bird squawking and shrieking unlike anything I had ever heard. And sure enough up in a pine tree is this lone bald eagle. I stared at it for 20 minutes while Pablo tramped around in the snow until it took off across the lake.

There’s also the time we met Momo, an amazing border collie with an equally amazing human counterpart, Andrew. Not to get back on the Instagram tip…but it sort of lends itself to the story. @andrewknapp has been on Instagram for some time now having Momo hide in these creatively laid out “Where’s Waldo” style situations which are amazing photos in and of themselves even if you can’t find Momo…I was instantly a fan. So one day, I’m driving around Vermont I and see a VW bus on the side of the road. Having recognized it from his feed I yelled out, “Momo?!?” And as I’m driving by I see a thumbs up out the window.I doubled back and to make a long story short I meet Andrew,

Momo, and their good buddy Zach who were traveling around in Andrew’s bus while on a little vacation from their lives in Canada. I tell them how they should come to Burlington and meet Pablo and that I’d show them around. A few hours later and we’re walking around the woods together and I’m telling them Pablo’s story and we’re snapping photos and having a good old time. A few months later, I get an email asking if it would be okay if they could publish a photo of Pablo in the Find Momo book! And now in March, with the release of the book, Pablo will have had his photo published!

And that’s the sort of adventures that having a dog can get you

into. There’s always something new to sniff out and somewhere new to go if you let yourself be open to it…having a dog simply pushes me to get out there and explore and do more with myself. That said, I’m beyond blessed and eternally grateful to have Pablo as my co-pilot in life.


words and photos by Tomas Ruprecht

Kevin De Los Santos