Someone once asked me what was the most romantic, poignant, heartbreaking thing that happened in all my travels. I told them the truth – once upon a time, I fell in love with a dog in Tbilisi. I was sitting on a bench and she walked up to me, large and shaggy, looking a bit like an Airedale terrier mix with the sweetest eyes. I had no food on me, and she didn't seem to be looking for food. She sat on the ground and leaned her entire body weight against my leg, as if we were old friends. She followed me around all day, nuzzling my hands every chance she got, begging for cuddles, wagging her tail against the back of my knees. She even followed me inside the restaurant and laid down under the table. I tried to apologize to the owner, but he waved me off, “Don’t worry, friend!” It seemed like he knew this dog. I shared my lunch with her and later my dinner and left her sleeping on the doorstep of my hotel in the late evening. I woke up in the morning and there she was, staring at me with the sweetest eyes from the hotel stoop.
I had no idea what to do. I was supposed to leave for my next destination that afternoon. Do I cancel my trip? Do I take her to the vet and arrange for a way to take her home, to the U.S.? I can't just abandon this dog, who clearly loves me, on the street, can I? We were walking to breakfast, me and the dog, while I was mulling over my thoughts. An old Georgian woman sitting on a bench greeted me and the dog warmly, "Oh, I see you met our Ella! You are her tourist of the day, huh?" I asked her what she meant, and she laughed, "She knows who is a tourist and who is local! She knows tourists are nice and will feed her all day! She always finds a tourist for a day! She is a smart girl!" The dog wagged her tail excitedly.