Thursday, May 23, 2024
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HomeEducation / CultureMuch adog about something

Much adog about something

By Anthony Deyal

Sunday afternoon and four masked people, two men and two women, entered our home. They were armed – with gifts and reasonable appetites. Earlier, my wife, children and I were running “amop”, trying with dogged determination to clean up the house. Then my son Zubin fired up the small barbecue grill with Guyanese coals and it got astonishingly hot really quickly.

Out of respect for my wife Indranie, and some fear of reprisals, I made no comment about Guyanese women and the speed at which they reached a boiling point that was hotter than their tempers, except that as barbecue coals from her country the name should be Burnham. But then again, we have all eschewed pork in our family and were cooking chicken.

Indranie’s humming-bird feeders were right next to us and the birds completely unafraid buzzed by my head. “They are braver than me,” I said to Zubin. “Me, if I was a bird and see two men barbecuing chicken, I not just gone, but I done gone already.”

Later, my friend Johnny went in the yard looking for mangoes but it was too dark to even see your shoes and when the questions started about how we alone could have mangoes at this time of the year when the fruit is out of season, Ken told us about his two dogs who climbed or jumped as high as they could to “thief” his mangoes. He was “mining” a particular Buxton Spice and hoped to “pick” it before the birds but when he went to get it the dogs had already given new meaning to the phrase a “dog’s dinner” or even “a dog’s life.” “Doggone it,” I thought I would say to him when Indranie was not around, “Buxton in Guyana might have more spice than Tiger Bay. Why don’t you go there?”

Then I chimed in with the story of our dog, Crix, who refused a chicken bone thrown to him by Indranie’s brother, Raymond, but would eat veggies as well as ripe neem seeds from the yard. Raymond, knowing her love for animals since childhood, remarked, “Your dogs just like you. Only you could have a vegetarian dog!”

This caused me to wonder about the dogs’ incoming US president, Joe Biden, will take to the White House with the rest of his family. He has adopted Major, a German Shepherd. In 2008 he took in a puppy called Champ after he and president Barack Obama won office. Obama had two Portuguese water dogs (a gift from Ted Kennedy) and, going back in time, there were many other presidents, starting with Warren Harding (with his dog “Laddie Boy), who were dog lovers. Herbert Hover had a Belgian Malinois (or “Police Dog”) while Franklin D. Roosevelt had a Scottish Terrier named “Fala”.

When it was rumoured that Roosevelt had spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to rescue his dog which the family had accidentally left in the Aleutian Islands, the president insisted, “You can criticize me, my wife and my family, but you can’t criticize my little dog. He’s Scotch and all these allegations about spending all this money have just made his little soul furious.” The speech reportedly helped Roosevelt to win a second term.

The Bush family did not beat around the bush when it came to dogs. George W. got a gift of a Scottish terrier from his wife Laura. The dog’s father was, funnily enough, named Clinton. The older Bush had “First Dog Millie” and when she had six puppies, Bush quipped to the media, “You may have read that the pups are sleeping on The Washington Post and The New York Times. The first time in history that those papers have been used to prevent leaks.”

The dog was so loved by all that in 1990 the First Lady published “Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush” and, ironically, it topped the bestseller list of the New York Times.

Obama and Biden are not alone among global leaders and celebrities, past and present, to own, love and cherish dogs. Winston Churchill had his poodle “Rufus” who ate in the dining room with the rest of the family. A cloth was laid for him on the Persian carpet beside Churchill and no one else ate until the butler had served Rufus his dinner. One evening, the full family was watching the film “Oliver Twist”. Rufus was on his master’s lap, as usual, when the character, Bill Sikes was about to drown his dog to put the police off his tracks.

Churchill covered Rufus’s eyes with his hand and said, “Don’t look now, dear, I’ll tell you about it afterwards.” Patrick Campbell, the original Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s play, Pygmalion, and famous for her wit, once attempted to smuggle her pet Pekingese through customs by tucking him inside the upper part of her cape. “Everything was going splendidly,” she later revealed, “until my bosom barked.”

Among today’s leaders, South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, has adopted a four-year-old black mongrel to join his other dog, Maru. French president, Emmanuel Macron, has a black Labrador-Griffin named Nemo who became famous because of a video of him urinating on a fireplace in the Élysée Palace. Vladimir Putin is another dog lover and was accused of allowing his black Labrador, “Connie”, to wander into a room during a 2007 meeting with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, although he knew that she has a profound fear of dogs.

Reading how many powerful dog lovers there are and were, makes me wonder why, despite all this love and care for dogs even by powerful political leaders, we allow them to be punished, penalised and suffer tremendous pain on every holiday we have in Trinidad and some other Caribbean countries. Despite the law, people are allowed to buy loud and frightening fireworks that, like most politicians, are more noise and smoke than substance but are still capable of inflicting tremendous pain and causing serious damage, even to eardrums.

I will never forget our dog “Rugs” who was so terrified when the Independence fireworks went off in Siparia in 1962 that we did not see him again for three months. He was found hiding in the forest and never recovered from his fear. Our present two Antiguan “Pompeks” (mixtures of Pomeranian and Pekingese), Mitzi, and her daughter, Sheba, damaged themselves trying to get as far away as possible from the noise which, anywhere in Trinidad especially at Christmas and New Year, is impossible.

I am not as much a dog or animal lover as my wife, children, friends and neighbours, and even Ken who did not really begrudge the loss of his Buxton Spice, especially as Indranie gave him one from our tree. However, like them, I believe in the rights of all of us on earth to live together in peace and relative tranquillity. Every dog must have his or her day and night.

*Tony Deyal was last seen saying that while all previous US Presidents had pets – dogs, cats and even horses – he is not surprised that Donald Trump has none.

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