I hate dogs. Does this make me a bad person? Probably? Does this mean I am going to hell? Maybe? After all, according to the Greeks, even hell is guarded by a three-headed dog. Hating dogs can’t be a good thing in that situation I’m guessing.
I mean, if you have a dog, that’s cool. I get it. I personally probably even have the capacity to learn to love a dog. However, I have no desire to even start down that path (unless Alicia Keys or Kate Upton needed a dog-walker of course). Dogs have that wet dog smell. They bark. They’re invasive (there’s nothing I enjoy more than having an animal jam its nose into my ass when I’m not looking or to come over and lick my hand as if it was some kind of canine lollipop). But ultimately, my disdain for dogs is a cultural thing. Allow me to explain…
The moment that I landed in Trinidad, my father picked me up and we headed to his friend’s house for drinks and a bite to eat. I say my father’s friend, but Adrian is more like an uncle than any uncle I’ve ever had. We’re family. And his house is basically like a second home in Trinidad. So when we arrived at the front gate and were greeted by some kind of cross between a Doberman and a German Sheppard roaring and snarling at us through the fence, it all came back to me. In this country, dogs aren’t pets. They are beasts meant to guard anyone or anything. Despite the fact that I had met this dog before and was familiar to the house, the only thing keeping this creature from jumping at my face and eating my esophagus in one bite was a few feet of brick and steel. As a child growing up in Trinidad, I didn’t quite grow fond of that visual image and distanced myself from dogs accordingly.
Not all dogs in Trinidad are bred and fed to attack. Some are homeless, live on the street and attack just for the hell of it. It’s actually quite a bit of a problem. An aunt of mine talked to me about how her son lived just ten minutes across town, but because she didn’t drive, she never got to visit his place much. For her, walking and risk being bitten by a hungry or territorial dog was too much. Furthermore to the fact these street dogs are aggressive, they simply look terrible. All of them are skinny; most have been maimed by passing cars (or children) and have a missing leg; some are covered in tumors so large it’s stomach-turning just to look at them. It’s sad. But at this point, in this place, rescuing and rehabilitating these animals doesn’t make sense…and it will never happen. As unfortunate as it is to suggest, the alternative might be a more sympathetic fate for these souls.
Once again, I’m a horrible human being. I hate dogs…therefore according to North American culture, I am an animal hater. I find this correlation quite curious due to the fact that I’ve spent more time, money and effort for the sake of animals than most people I know. I’ve put myself in a cage in the middle of the near-freezing ocean to see Great White Sharks, I’ve been to Mozambique for the sole purpose of spotting Whale Sharks and Manta Rays, I’ve travelled to Rwanda to see a Mountain Gorilla and most recently I’ve journeyed to Guyana to track Jaguars and Giant Anteaters. But because I do not wish to own a dog as a pet, I thus must hate all animals. I suppose I ultimately do not understand the point of caring for an animal as if it was a small human and attending to its needs as if evolution would dictate that these creatures have forever relied on our assistance. Ultimately, a dog is a dog and its life is its own. And sometimes it ends…
My cousins have always lived in a big house at the end of the village with a big back yard. It’s the place we’ve always gotten together. It used to be the parents that hosted, but now my cousins, in their thirties and forties arrange the festivities. On my second day in the country I was invited over for the occasion of my oldest cousin’s daughter’s birthday. There were games and cake for the kids and rum and whiskey for the adults. A bunch of the birthday girl’s friends were present, but the pleasant thing of note was that all of the cousin’s and their children were invited and included seamlessly. Adults chatted, the children played cricket or on the rope swing and the little puppy that the family had adopted was bounding between everyone nipping at the scraps that fell from the table or were tossed in its direction. So encouraging was it that family could get together with nothing but each other and get along so organically.
This was the same a couple of days later when we gathered for a duck lime (where duck was cooked and curried and we hung around eating and drinking the entire day). Everything was going well and everybody was having a good time when one of my cousin’s husbands came to join the party. He began driving up the steep dirt hill that leads to the yard where everyone parks. Just then the little puppy darted in front of the truck unseen to my cousin’s husband. The front passenger tire rolled over the puppy and as the dog convulsed and whimpered, the husband luckily continued to drive over the puppy again with the back tire. I say luckily because this second crush ended the dog’s suffering. This was obviously a tragic sight and a morbid interruption to the party. Another one of the husbands quickly ran over to the dog and attempted to remove it from sight before the children saw. But it was too late. Each one of the eight children, ranging in age from one to fourteen made sure they came over to see the puppy. Eight children…and not one tear. In fact, one of the boys, around nine years in age knew exactly what to do and immediately ran inside to fetch a shoebox. For the next half an hour or so the children, instead of mourning, actually went through the exercise of holding a bit of a funeral as they watched their uncles dig a hole in the backyard. Once this was done, nothing was mentioned of the dog again that night. Nothing other than the one update the boy who had went to get the shoebox gave me, in case I missed the whole thing. He said, “The dog dead. We put it in the sand.”
I suppose life here means a little different than it does in North America. Here, dogs are replaceable, but time spent with family is like gold. Gatherings are not saved for special occasions; they are the default state. They do not ask here, “Why don’t we get together?” They say, “When you get here, bring some food.” Thus it was not even a question that on my last day of my trip, the entire family met up at the island’s most popular beach – Maracas. The entire family. Excuses and alternate priorities were afterthoughts. The interaction between the adults, the kids, parents and children, uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, etc. was so fluid that the entire group could have been mistaken for an ashram type single-family unit. More so was the fact that I was incorporated into this dynamic as if I was there every day. I was simply the youngest cousin to my cousins, and the youngest uncle to their children. Yes, I was “Uncle Beau” for three weeks…and not to boast, but I was the favourite uncle for those three weeks. Like some kind of new toy, I was beckoned to part-take in every cricket game, every story-time, and every sand castle that occurred in my near presence. While the music, food and Carnival draw me back, these are people that truly keep me tied to this place. These people, places like Maracas, and days when it all comes together. Saying goodbye is tough, but after days like this, I can find peace with one of my favourite quotes: “The sun is for everyone; the beach is for those who deserve it.” Today I felt like I deserved it.