Tuesday, November 29, 2011


After we arrived in the Dominican Republic in April 1985, we promised Dakota and Tina they could each get a pet. Tina found a beautiful black kitten she named Carbon (accent on the last syllable in Spanish, meaning coal). Dakota wanted a puppy.

From Voluntary Nomads, Part Six: Dominican Republic Dramas, Chapter 23, here is:


Our vet told us about a breeder he knew whose pair of boxers had just produced a litter of ten. He gave me the address and phone number and I called to set up an appointment for Dakota to see the newborns and pick one.
Dakota chose the only brindle puppy. I could see the love in his eyes when he looked up at me as he stroked the tiny head. "I'm gonna call him Spike."
A few weeks later, Spike was weaned prematurely when his mother stopped lactating. We brought Spike home and bottle-fed him. At first the adorable little fellow needed extra care to overcome his poor beginning as the runt of his litter. Technically Spike belonged to Dakota, but most of his treatments required adult-level skills. Who better than Mom to fill in? While Dakota and Tina studied at school and Fred worked at the embassy, Spike and I consulted with Dr. Nova.
Between visits to the veterinary clinic, Spike and I stayed at home. I administered the medication for the calcium deficiency that made his legs too weak to hold him up, and I rubbed him with the ointments prescribed for his mangy skin rash. His artistically cropped ears needed daily bandage changes as well. I wiped up his little puddles and other housebreaking mishaps when Dakota wasn't around to perform that chore. Spike also depended on me to protect him from Carbón the cat, big enough to overpower the awkward little puppy.
By the time Spike was six months old, he had outgrown his puppy problems and developed into a healthy dog. At the end of every busy day, when I sank into my rattan rocker, Spike appeared, pushed against my hand to demand a vigorous butt scratch, then plopped down beside me. He rested his plush chin on top of my bare foot and gazed up at me as I stroked his head until he dozed.
One evening after we had assumed our usual positions, Spike jerked awake and jumped up. He sniffed the air in all directions and trotted to the dining room. I followed to see what had aroused him. A gray-brown blur scurried along the wall and froze in the corner. No doubt in my mind, the intruder was a rat, possibly a refugee from the vacant-lot-cum-garbage-dump across the street. I intercepted Spike, swooped him into my arms and scrambled up onto the top of the dining room table.
Spike barked. I screamed. Fred, Dakota, and Tina ran in.
"Let the dog go!" Fred's shout echoed in the high-ceilinged room.
"No, no, the rat might bite." I clutched squirming Spike closer to my chest.
The rat took off, scrabbled for footing on the slick terrazzo floor, and headed straight for Dakota's room. Tina jumped up on the table beside me and buried her face in Spike's shoulder. Fred and Dakota shot us withering looks, strode to the bedroom, and slammed the door.
Muffled thumps, grunts, bangs and thuds sounded across the hall. Spike whined and quivered in my arms as the bedroom door swung open. In one hand Fred brandished Dakota's tennis racket. In the other he clamped the tail of a limp, blood-streaked rat. Beside him, Dakota cocked his baseball bat and mimed a home-run swing. I wished I could apologize to Spike for spoiling his fun, but if Fred and Dakota couldn't understand my motives, how could the dog?
After our hunters disposed of their quarry and embellished their tale a few more times, we calmed down. Spike curled up with his head on my foot as if to say, "No hard feelings, Mom." ###

For more stories about the perils of having pets overseas, get Voluntary Nomads in paperback at Amazon.com or at Barnes and Noble online store or in your favorite e-Book format at Smashwords.com

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