A charming bon vivant that wins hearts wherever he wanders. Estefanía Alvarez tells us what life is like with their sparky pet.
He’s named after Elvis Presley—Juan and I are fans. We’d had a dog called Popeye and considered calling him Brutus, but it didn’t quite fit. But our Spanish Water Dog Ollie is named after Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive.
It didn’t seem right to keep an active dog in an apartment, so we spent a lot of time with him outdoors, in parks, in dog runs, on the street. It was hard on our schedules, but we’re glad we did it. He’s a gentleman with everyone.
It’s a clever breed; they keep you on your toes. Sure, Elvis will follow you everywhere, but he’s not likely to go running with you. He needs to be motivated, to know why he’s doing something. Unlike a Labrador, for example, who simply wants to be with you. Elvis wants to cooperate, but he needs to know what comes next, what the catch is. The breed is special like that; they don’t follow you blindly. You’ve got to know dogs, otherwise they try to pull the wool over your eyes.
We can’t keep him out of the kitchen. When we moved to our current house, he picked up the bad habit of stealing food. Bits of food missing here and there. One day, he even stole a birthday cake my sister-in-law had brought over! I think the change of house threw him off. So, we made the kitchen off limits to the dogs. Ollie respects this, but Elvis will sneak in at the first chance.
He’s never been sick, but when he was a puppy, he refused all dry pet food and had constant diarrhea. We’d switch brands, and things would improve for a while. But then it would start over again. He kept getting skinnier. This went on for his first year until we switched to raw food. Once we changed the diet, the problem went away.
I don’t eat meat, but this doesn’t extend to our dogs. I tried replacing meat with beans, but they got bloated and gassy. Dogs need meat; they have the teeth for it—but not me. Our own fridge can’t hold all their food too; they’ve got their own fridge now.
You can’t find many Airedales in this part of Spain. We’ve taught Elvis the basics, like sit, down, come, and how to fetch a ball. Maybe we should have taken up Agility or something like that. To take advantage of his talents and popularise the breed. But it’s too late, probably; our Elvis is a real homebody.
‘Comedian’ is the word I’d use to describe him. He’s full of pep, always poking his nose into things, and so inquisitive about whatever and whoever he encounters.
We lost him once. We went to spend Christmas with my brother in Sierra de Cazorla. The whole family rented a big house, and it was cold and snowing when we arrived. What with all the confusion, it took a moment to realise that Elvis wasn’t around. We started calling him and searching everywhere and finally we found him in the backyard pool, of all places! The water hadn’t frozen, and he’d slipped in. I doubt it was intentional; Elvis doesn’t like water. My guess is he got excited by all the wildlife smells; leaves covered the ground, and he probably followed his nose right into the pool. I laugh now when I recall his expression when we found him. It was a poem! So scared and clueless.
He’s an adventurer, fearless in a natural environment. He’s even confronted a wild boar in the mountain. The breed is a working dog, like for the police in Scotland; here in Spain they help hunt for wild boar.
We’re so happy with Elvis. He may have started out as a skinny black puppy, but he’s turned into our handsome, fun-loving boy