Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Third Culture Animals (and a small rant)

I am indeed a recovering Third Culture Kid!  Some evil miasma of a virus/bacteria/what-the-heck has had me considerably under the weather.  Thanks to a modern miracle of pharmacology, I am back amongst the living.

Feeling bright-eyed and bushy-tailed again!

Where were we?  Oh, yes, ANIMALS!  I suppose I have been a little rattled by the recent events in the Middle East and northern Africa, so that writing about my pets seemed a little ridiculous.  I have to say, while I try to remain apolitical on all forms of social media, those events left me feeling pretty darn frightened and more than a little dismayed and disappointed in our present administration.  To have no security at our embassies and/or consulates on the anniversary of 9-11 seems, well, almost outrageous.  And the fact that it took nearly 24 hours for our president to come forth and actually say anything?  I thought Hillary Clinton was 10x more presidential than "he" was.  Okay, rant over.

Animals ... yes.  So our puppies made it to Manila with no apparent scars.  They spent a month or so at a kennel until our household goods arrived.  They had the run of our house, and while our maids seemed to like their little furry charges, not so much our gardener Reuben.  (If you are shocked that we had "staff" please remember that this was commonplace in Manila.  They practically came with the house).  Whenever Reuben showed up, Sheba would attack his pants legs with the ferocity of a land piranha, teeth bared and a growl that came from somewhere deep in her soul.

At night our back yard would come alive with these strange frogs (that I know I have mentioned before).  Sheba didn't know that the frogs were poisonous to small animals, but somehow she was immune.  We knew she had been frog diving when she would come in the house with her beard chock full of foamy phlegm, or whatever the heck it was.  The dog had a stomach of steel.  Although one time she got hold of a church bazaar cake that had been sitting out in the sun most of the day, and she wasn't too pleased with the results.

Don't they look tasty?
On home leave one year, mom decided to give the Schnauzer Breeding Effort another try.  We found a little girl schnauzer puppy and she flew alone to Manila from New Orleans.  We named her Evangeline, after the Longfellow heroine who spent her whole life looking for her love, Gabriel.  Our Evangeline traveled to the Philippines to find her lover, Gus.  Sadly, again, Gus never seemed to master the idea of fatherhood, so our plans were abandoned yet again.  So now we had THREE dogs.

My dad and me, with puppies, Christmas 1978,  Singapore
When we found out we were moving to Singapore, the movers showed up and we decamped to the Mandarin Hotel down the block.  After a long hot day of packing, having gone back to the hotel to rest, we got a phone call from Pacita, our maid, who was bereft.  Gus was nowhere to be found.  We thought he had escaped through a door left open by one of the movers.  We jumped in our car and turned onto Buendia Avenue, only to be immediately caught in a logjam of traffic.  I actually leaped out of the car and ran down the street to Forbes Park, arriving out of breath and terrified at our house.  We looked and looked and called and called.  I thought I heard a little bark but dismissed it as imagination or wishful thinking. But wait!  There it was again.  I ran to the back of the house, and found poor Gus trapped between the door to my bedroom and a ceiling-high stack of boxes.

The quarantine station at Jurong, Singapore
Singapore, being a former British Colony, had a strict 30-day quarantine requirement.  (When you take a dog to England, there is a six month quarantine!)  The establishment where they were to spend their incarceration was outside the city, in Jurong, about a 30 minute drive.  We drove out just about every other day.  It was a pleasant place, lots of trees and flowers, with large concrete runs and a little shelter where they had a wooden platform to sleep on.  Every day a tiny Chinese woman with an enormous straw hat would clean the runs, and water & feed her charges.  There was a beautiful Boxer right next to our guys named Judge.  A perfect name for him.  He was very distinguished looking.

In 1979 mom and dad returned to the states for good.  The dogs made it home in one piece.  Gus ended up having an undescended testicle that became cancerous (which may have explained his lack of, for want of a better word, lust for life).  He lived until he was 11 years old, when he died suddenly as the result of a tumor was found near his lung.  As Gus came to us at such a grief-stricken time in our lives, I thought losing him would be another crushing blow for my mom.  As it turned out, I was the one sobbing my eyes out on the way home with his body after he died.  Dad buried him in the back yard, along with a couple of my sister's cats.

Sheba lived until she was 14, long past any quality of life.  She used to walk around in circles, deaf as a post, and half-blind.  One time mom and dad went away for an extended trip, and dad dug a hole in their "pet cemetery" just in case she died while they were gone.  Evangeline was given away to a family in Baton Rouge some time in the 80's.  We later learned that their house had burned to the ground, and we were never able to bring ourselves to ask them what happened to Vangie.  Mom and Dad had 2 more dogs after that, a wire haired terrier named Gulliver and a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier named Toby.  None of them was as well-traveled as the three Schnauzers.  I loved the breed so much that I got a black Schnauzer named Boudreaux in 2003.  He is almost 10 and still acts like a puppy, but his sleeping time seems to be getting longer than his playing time.  He loves playing with his Beanie Babies (I just knew those things would come in handy some day!)

Boudreaux the Wonder Dog
So there you have it.  Sometimes having a pet is the only constant that TCKs have, but there are times when we have to say good-bye.  Our lives are filled with loss, both human and animal, but as the old adage goes, it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.

No comments: