Guess how much our meal cost?

Portugal is pretty awesome for a bunch of reasons, but I have to say that the cost of living is amazing.  My priest was doing a church service in a stunning little town an hour and a quarter away from Lisbon.  He goes there monthly to attend to the English speaking community in the town of Caldas da Rainha.  My girls and I hung out in a beautiful park, complete with a small lake where you can row a boat on, until he came back.

I researched a place to eat dinner near the historic center of the town.  I found a highly recommended Italian place situated on a beautiful square.  We were the first people in the restaurant, which made me nervous, except we were eating at 7pm and the Portuguese don’t even think of eating until 8pm at the earliest.

We ordered appetizers:  garlic bread and cheese knots and a massive caprese salad.  All were delicious.  By the time we finished our appetizers, the restaurant was full and lined out the door into the square.

My priest and I had drinks.  Beer and sangria.  The girls each had soda.  For the main course, both girls had a margherita pizza.  I had a fabulous spinach and Gorgonzola cheese penne and my priest had a seafood linguini, so full of fish it was crazy.

Finally, we finished the meal with tiramisu for the adults and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for the girls.

What do you think this abundant meal set us back?  I know in Canada or the US, it would have been at least $100…if not much more.  Did you take a guess?  Wait for it…the whole meal including tip was €43.  That is about $50.  Hard to believe.  Now, I think I want to drive to Caldas weekly, just to eat like royalty for pennies.


Our dog died. I can’t stop crying.

My priest didn’t come home with us to Canada this summer.  He intended on visiting us for two weeks, while we stayed for a whopping six weeks.  Instead, he stayed home in Portugal to look after our 16 year old Bichon Frise, Piranha.  Piranha wasn’t just a dog to us, she was an extremely important family member.  We didn’t think she would be happy without us and we didn’t want her to suffer.

There were days over the last 16 years, that I didn’t want to get out of bed.  Days when I wanted to bury my head and cry, but I was never alone…Piranha was by my side.  My priest might have been busy, or the cause of my anger, my daughters might have been at school or oblivious to their mother’s pain, but my dog wasn’t.  She just loved me.  As she got older, she didn’t want to cuddle as much, but she was still by my side.  I was her favorite human.

Last Friday, my family went out for the morning.  We came home four hours later to a barking and happy dog.  Piranha jumped up on me and followed me out to the grass.  She was bouncing and wanted a treat.  I said, “come on sweet girl…let’s get a treat.”  I gave her two of her favorite soft treats and she hungrily ate one and then fell over.  My priest screamed.  I saw her legs splayed in an unnatural way.  I scooped her up and thought maybe she was choking.  In her puppy days in San Francisco, I successfully did the Heimlich maneuver on her when she choked on a pen.  This time, I rushed her outside, just in case she puked up everywhere.  While still in my arms, her body released and she peed.  I felt the life go out of her.  She had lost all body control and she was gagging.  My priest was still screaming.  In shock, scared and freaked out…his yelling brought my daughters to the scene.  They were crying and Maggie started praying intensely.  “God, please save my dog.”

We drove the three minutes to the vet.  I yelled at my priest to stop crying.  He was frightening the dog.  I continued to tell Piranha that she was okay and that I loved her.  She died in my arms in the car.  I felt it.  We still rushed into the vet hysterically.  My whole family together for the last time.  Our puppy in my arms.  The vet could see our desperation.  Everyone could.  He listened to Piranha’s heart and said she died less than a minute ago.  I don’t know how he knew that, but I didn’t ask.  I just cried.  We spent time holding her.  We said our goodbyes.  The vet pulled up her file and said he had never heard of a Bichon Frise that old.  We knew that.  We were chasing the European record for the longest living Bichon…we were only 9 months away.

We arranged to have her cremated and then we left her wrapped in Maggie’s special blanket made for her by my mom.  It was only right.  Then we left incomplete and heart broken.

I know that I prayed for her to die naturally.  I never wanted to have her put to sleep.  Thank God she didn’t make me do that.  She died of a massive heart attack.  When we came home, the second treat she didn’t eat was still on the floor.  Her dog bowls, her bed, her blankets…she was well treated.

I had a friend once tell me that having a dog was his favorite part of his life.  He loved his family, but he loved having something love him unconditionally and he loved coming home to a barking and happy dog.  Our home is less happy now.  No welcome home barks.  No shadow in the kitchen when I am cooking.  No foot warmer  in my bed.  No one barking for cheese or trying to steal pizza.  Just the humans.

People who have never had a dog might not understand my heartache and to them I say I am sorry.  I am sorry that they haven’t opened their hearts to the love of an animal.  It is a special bond.  It is one you undertake knowing that it will end in heartache, but you do it anyway.  You accept all the love and affection and you hope you return to your animal that same kindness and unconditional love…but in reality you can’t.  Piranha lived only for our family.  To be with us and to love us, but we have lives and we don’t always make our dog our number one priority.  We tried hard.  When we missed the mark, Piranha didn’t care.  She loved us the same.    Rest In Peace sweet girl.  I am better for having known you.   Thank you for loving me and letting me be your human for 16 years. ❤️🌈🐾