Wellsville Daily Reporter, Wellsville, New York
Deep-Diving Portuguese Water Dogs Diminishing by Pero de Garzarolli
One of the rarest canine races in the world, the Portuguese water dog, is facing extinction because its pure breed is being killed through lack of a proper living environment. Only 19 animals, out of thousands of pitch-black shaggy poodle-like dogs which used to roam free on Portuguese beaches, are now in existence in their native country. They all live on a farm near Lisbon, cared for by a mother of six who used to be a leading woman bullfighter. “It is a monumental task to preserve their purity and propagate the race but I am trying,” said Conchita Citron Castelo Branco, the self-proclaimed mother of the water dog. Mrs. Castelo Branco, now married to a wealthy Portuguese landowner, was known as Conchita “Consuelo” Citron, the famous Peruvian daredevil who fought bulls around the world’s arenas with the vigor and courage of a man. “I got around to knowing about water dogs through a Portuguese friend of mine,” she explained while feeding her tail-wagging family a special concoction of wheat and milk. “Dr. Vasco Bensaude told me years ago about these wonderful dogs and it was love at first sight.” The water dog looks more or less like a poodle. Always black and less than 60 centimeters tall it is however a unique species. Once a faithful friend of the Portuguese fisherman, the water dog used to perform almost incredible feats. Capable of diving underwater to a depth of two meters, it proved invaluable for the wide range of typical fishing chores. An excellent sea farer, it hunted fish trying to escape from the nets before they were lifted into the boats, and was exceptionally gifted in tracking down wandering fish herds. Until about 50 years ago its contribution to the hard earned living of the fishermen of the Algarve, the sunny southern coastal area of Portugal, was priceless. But with new fishing techniques and the need for even bigger catches, which meant long voyages into the deep sea. Its help as a humble marine worker declined and finally came to an abrupt stop. “Shortly before dying Dr. Bensaude, who had gathered together the last water dogs living wild in the Algarve, asked me to tender his children,” Mrs. Castelo-Branco said. “It turned out to be a job as difficult as fighting bulls.” The. animals were transferred to a farm, surrounded by a tall wire fence to keep other dogs out, and equipped with a spacious swimming pool. “The most important aspect of the struggle to keep the race going is to avoid a chance meeting with dogs of other breeds,” Mrs. Castelo-Branco added. “They must be looked after constantly and trained to preserve the old habits such as diving and swimming.” A few amateurs, mostly residing in the United States, still believe that to own a water dog is a sign of distinction. Wednesday, August 12, 1970 “Most of my water dogs, called Algacbiorum, ft name taken from the foot of the Algarve, their ancient homeland, are sold to America where three Portuguese water dog clubs flourish,” their owner Said. Priced around $700, they make excellent watchdogs.