Brown Dog

>> Friday, November 07, 2008

One of the most noticable differences between Nicaragua and the US are that there are street dogs everywhere.  Most are very skinny and malnourished, and the female dogs almost certainly have a litter of puppies hidden somewhere nearby.  Dogs here play a very different role than they do in the US--while our pets are members of our families, here pets are, at best, animals fed scraps in exchange for guarding a home or hunting mice.  People don't hesitate to kick, run over, or throw rocks at dogs, and so most dogs are, quite understandably, very timid or overly aggressive.

Last Tuesday I was in the teacher's lounge looking at my calendar to count down the days to the end of school (about 5 days left!).  A street dog came into the lounge and jumped up on my lap, trying stealthily to lick me on my face.  Most of the other teachers were shocked and perhaps even disgusted when I started to pet her.  I had some free time before my next class, so I went to the market to buy her some food, which she quickly gobbled up.  She stayed nearby, either laying on the floor or making attempts to hop up in my lap.  When I went off to class, she stayed in the teacher's lounge snacking on her food, and she was off exploring somewhere when I finished my classes.

That night I told Paul about the sweet dog I had met, and on Wednesday brought back the remaining dog food.  The dog came back to school that afternoon, and hopped like an excited gazelle as I started getting her food back out.  After she had eaten her lunch, I went off to class and she followed me into the classroom, where she layed down in the corner as I taught.  When I left at the end of the day, the dog followed along, sometimes staying behind to sniff or explore, and sometimes running ahead and waiting for me to catch up.  I didn't intend to take her home, but must admit I stopped to make sure she crossed the big streets safely.

So, we now have an additional four-legged friend at our home.  She's not very old (she hasn't had any puppies yet, and still acts like a puppy), but has already had a tough life.  She has several cuts on her face that are healing, and a big scar on her back that we suspect came from a machete. We didn't really have a plan for what to do with her, but the first day we had her we realized we can't send her back to the streets: we took Dora and Brown Dog (as we call her, for lack of a better name) to the baseball stadium nearby to play and run.  As we were walking back, Brown Dog (who behaves wonderfully off-leash) bent to urinate in a grassy patch near a park.  There was a sanitation worker scooping up leaves nearby, and he promptly threw a rock at her.  We were a few steps behind, and yelled at the man to stop; his only response was that he thought she was a street dog.  A few hours later, Paul was outside with Dora and Brown Dog, and a neighbor purposefully swerved to run into her with his bicycle.  When Paul yelled at him to stop, the boy's response was, "That's how Nicaragua is."  I don't think we've ever hated being here more than we did after seeing how hateful people can be to a poor puppy for no reason at all.
We got Brown Dog a collar and spread the word among the neighborhood kids that we're taking care of her, so we haven't had any other incidents since the first day.  She and Dora get along really well, though sometimes Brown Dog plays a little roughly for Dora's liking.  Though she's had a tough life as a street dog, you'd never guess by her behavior.  In her heart of hearts, Brown Dog really wants to be a lap dog, though her awkward, long legs make it a little difficult.  She follows us from room to room and always wants to be in the middle of the action.  After a few days of Dora showing her what she's supposed to do, Brown Dog now loves playing fetch or tug-of-war with Dora.  She knows how to shake and is getting pretty good at sitting, and walks much more obediently on a leash than Dora does.

Our hope is to give Brown Dog to a Volunteer that's looking for a sweet, cuddly dog that is also a very loyal guard dog; she is always alert to strange people or sounds, and Dora usually runs behind trying to pretend she knows what's going on.  Brown dog sleeps out in our garage/patio, and I've never felt safer.  If any Volunteers reading this are willing to give Brown Dog a permanent home (and a better name!) please let us know.  Until then, you can find us all snuggled together watching T.V.


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