Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The dog

Samoa, like many third world nations seems to have an abundance of dogs.  The dogs run free and seem to populate freely as well.  Although there is some variety in breeds, the majority appear as the ever familiar yellow mongrel.  The dogs often seem to be associated with a house, but they are seldom properly taken care of and will usually be covered with open wounds, large patches of missing hair to the point that some even appear to be sunburned.  Their general attitude in the morning as they stand in the road seems to range from, "Just hit me now." to, "I'll never spend another night like that", as they appear to be hung-over from the previous nights activities.
As the day progresses they seem to forget that attitude and begin to gang-up in the afternoons as they prepare for yet another night of howling, barking and roaming.  The poor little bitches could all use a good support bra as their glands hang down and flop from side to side as they walk.  I thought I could create a doggy bra business but just don't have the time.

The irony to the number of dogs that freely roam on the island is the fact that we have security people at the airport and the post office that wear K-9 patrol on their uniforms but they don't have a dog!

When we arrived at our home in Tutuila there was a young, male, yellow, dog sleeping on our front porch.  I yelled at him and he quickly ran off to the back side of the house.  Over the next few days I would see him sleeping at the back of the house or occasionally on the front porch when we drove in, but when he would see me he would put his tail down and run out of the fenced yard.  He was definitely not the alpha male.  It seemed that he liked the protection from other dogs that our yard afforded him since the gate was secured at night and the porch kept him dry during the rains.  He was small enough that he could wiggle under the gate so he could come and go at will but the larger, aggressive dogs could not.

I realized that he was becoming "our" dog and since I didn't want the neighbors to think that we didn't take care of our animals, and I didn't want a sickly animal hanging around our house, I began to feed him table scraps which then progressed to buying canned dog food (yes, there were comments about this by Sister Schaefermeyer).

After having yelled at the dog, it took a long time for him to realize that I wan't his enemy.  He would eat the food but wouldn't allow me to get near him.  I would bring the food dish up to him while he was sleeping and put it in front of him but he would awake and run.  One day, I physically caught him when he was running out the gate and held him and petted him and he then decided we could be friends.

 It specifically says in the white mission handbook that pets are not permitted.  I figured that he wasn't a pet, just a non-electrical garbage disposal. I didn't purchase him, or the several hens and baby chicks that seemed to also like the protection of our yard.

The dog quickly moved from the front porch to the back porch and was there to greet us every time we opened the back door.  He went on a few walks with me but would get attacked by some of the other dogs and would run home for protection.  He was young and again not much of a fighter. He loved to run around the yard with me and chase sticks and jump up to grab my hand in his mouth.  He quickly learned to fetch and as every good missionary dog should, he learned to shake hands.

Like most feral dogs, he had a real doggy smell so I decided to give him a bath.  This was not too successful as it had to be done outside, but some water and soap was applied before he got away from me.  I later took him for a ride to the ocean and carried him in to have a bath which helped some with his hygiene but it took a lot of persuasion to get him to get back in the van to come home.  I bought some flea spray to help control his itching but he would have none of that either.  I found that spraying where he layed took care of the flea problem.

He was a friend to all of the missionaries and allowed free entry to the yard, but he was becoming protective of the yard and would bark and occasionally chase after people walking down the street.  I tried to correct the behavior but he had learned from other dogs just how a proper Samoan dog should act.

As we were coming to the end of our time in Tutuilla, I was beginning to wonder what to do with the animal.  I decided to wait until Elder and Sister Jordan arrived to make a decision.  Unsurprisingly, they said they didn't want to care for the critter.  I then thought about finding a good home for him but quickly ruled that out as everyone had all the dogs available that they could possibly want.  So my thought was to stop feeding him and lock him out of our yard (he was now too big to crawl under the gate) where he would join the ranks of the unfed, diseased, vicious animals that roam the streets. but I thought that would be too cruel.  So the only other option I could think of was to find a vet and pay to have him put down. As sad as that seemed, it still seemed more humane than the alternative.

However, I did come up with yet one more option.  The Elders covering the Tongan Ward introduced me to a Tongan family that would love to have a nice, young, healthy, dog . . . . . . . . . . . . for dinner.  I decided that would be the best solution as it was certainly no different than us eating the prize winning cow we purchased at the state fair that was raised by the young woman for her FFA project.

Decision made.  On Saturday the Tongan Elders came over and we fed the dog the last can of dog food and I  carried him down the street to the home of the Tongan family that gratefully accepted my offering.

Problem solved - Dog gone and family fed.

Coming home that evening to the absence of an outside watering bowl and not having anyone to greet us at the door, was a little sad. I heard dogs barking later that night and had to step outside to make sure he hadn't escaped and returned home.  We flew back to Upolu on Sunday at noon.  If our flight had been later in the day, I think I would have suggested hot dogs for lunch in honor of "the dog".

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