When I returned home from work it was to find pandemonium reigning. The children were all there and looked tearful. Ursula had a story to tell me and found it difficult after her first opening ‘   …they’ve taken Snuffy.’
‘Who have?’
‘The dog people.’
The story came out piecemeal with prompting questions from me. The dog catchers had been round our district and tumult had ensued along our quiet road as they rounded up any dog found.
‘But how was Snuffy on the road?’ He is always confined to the house or in the front and back gardens.
‘I don’t know.’
I thought that I did, but said nothing.
‘Did you see it happening?’
‘No. dona Celia came across. I went out and a man had Snuffy on a rope and was putting him into the truck.’
‘Didn’t you offer him something?’
‘No. I tried to take Snuffy from him but he was too quick and threw Snuffy into the back with a lot of other dogs.’
A quick tip of 5 cruzeiros would have solved everything but Ursula didn’t work the Brazilian way.
‘I shouted at the man,’ she concluded as the import of my question sank in.
Fat lot of good he would have cared, I thought but didn’t say. ‘Where did they take him?’
My heart sank at her answer. It was at the other side of Sao Paulo – at that time possibly the biggest city in the world and in the industrial heartlands. And here was I looking forward to a quiet cup of tea and a round up of  the day’s news. But this was the only newsworthy item and instant action required. The cup of tea would have to wait. ‘Does anyone want to come with me?’ I asked hopefully. Cliffie hopped into the car and we drove off. Some of the neighbours were in their front gardens or on the road in the Brazilian fashion, waved as we moved away.
On the journey I put some more questions to Cliffie; some he could answer and others not, but I was able to piece together a story. The dog catchers came around twice a year and it was a cost effective operation. In a residential area like our own with plenty of foreigners and a fair number of dog owners there were good opportunities for poorly paid catchers to make some money. They worked with lassoes and were adroit in slipping the noose over a dog’s head and gaining instant control. The catchers also had heavy sticks but rarely needed to use these.
I knew, or guessed, as one does in Brazil, that a small dog near the inside of a gate in the front garden could be easily noosed and pulled over to the other side. Amongst Brazilians and the more knowing foreigners it was understood that you could begin by storming or wheedling at the catchers, but it was futile and you paid up to recover your dog. If you didn’t off went the dog to the dog pound, an hours drive away, and there pay ten times the bung required to square the catchers. It always cost more time and money if you didn’t do things the Brazilian way. I sighed audibly and Cliffie looked to see what was the matter.
‘Do you think we’ll find Snuffy?’
‘Yes,’ I said. I didn’t add that they rounded up some pretty savage strays as well as the domestic dogs and I hoped that these hadn’t taken a dislike to our dignified little Pekinese. But Snuffy was no coward; he could snarl like a little lion in self defence. ‘he’ll be fine.’ encouragingly, ‘only a little bewildered and we can help him there…’
Not a lot more was said in the car as we drove through the nightmare Sao Paulo traffic. The pound was as depressing a place as I had expected; a little like the main bus terminal, vast, crowded, confused. We went through the formalities and then found ourselves standing on a platform behind a barrier. Before us was a hall of half-crazy, snarling, snapping, barking dogs or, cowering, defeated dogs. A canine hell it looked to us and surely felt to the more domestic dogs amongst this horde.
Our eyes ranged across the mass of imprisoned dogs; the noise was deafening. ‘Snuffy,’ I yelled between cupped palms, pitching my voice above the din, and he was there below us in an instant; a whimpering, trembling bundle with his eyes rolling wildly.

‘That one,’ I shouted to the man beside us. A noose dropped and Snuffy was swinging in mid-air. I had him in a flash in my arms and passed him over to Cliffie. He seemed demented.
With his release money paid we were away. One never knew into how many pockets the money went. When you paid the dog catchers on the road to release your dog you knew their livelihood depended upon these payments and couldn’t be sanctimonious about the matter. At the pound they told me that they expected dog owners to turn up to claim their dogs within three days. Unclaimed dogs were kept for a week in case anyone wanted to buy a dog cheaply. After that they were gassed. All very matter of fact.
On the way home with Snuffy cradled, trembling and shivering in Cliffie’s arms we talked about how happy we were and how they would be at home when we returned with our loveable, little family mascot and it made us feel we had achieved so much.