One of the painful experiences that a dog lover can suffer in this country is the sight of ill treated, starving, mange-ridden, crippled creatures that litter the highways, byways, roads, streets and alleys of the countryside, towns and villages. The abuse of these sad creatures is a shameful reflection of the attitude shown by many to the value and sanctity of life in general. As a child in the Methodist Church I learned that ‘all things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all’ – everything that St Lucian everyday reality makes a mockery of. Dogs are God’s creatures too.
This Anglican hymn also seems to promote ecological awareness, and apparently encourages us to respect flora and fauna: ‘Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings, He made their glowing colours, He made their tiny wings.
‘Unfortunately, many St. Lucians seem oblivious to the beauty that surrounds them, and fail in equal measure to care for the environment.
The third verse is a little problematic, as it would seem not only to support and encourage an outmoded, unjust class system, but actually credits God for creating it: ‘The rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly, and ordered their estate.
’ Hmm … on the other hand, the rich do seem to be getting richer while the poor seem to be getting poorer.
Emily was our first dog in St Lucia; unlike all the others, our son actually paid for her. She got into an illicit relationship, probably willingly, with the McNamaras’ German Shepherd and produced Tommy, Tara and Tootsie. All the other dogs, 14 in all, we picked up by the roadside, usually just in time to save then from a certain death, took them to Keith Scotland who worked his magic, and brought them home, where they lived in well-fed peace and harmony until they died, usually some 15 years later.
Going for the early morning walk in the pre-dawn coolness, or taking the last walk in the late afternoon just as the sun is setting, with fourteen dogs scampering, sniffing, or mooching along by your side is about as close to paradise it gets on this earth for a true dog lover.
Our son named Emily after our lawyer’s secretary; I think he must have been sweet on her at the time. Unfortunately, Emily was not all that thrilled to have a dog named after her, something that would have been considered an honour in our native Sweden, but somehow just doesn’t go down well with Lucian women. I mean, it’s not as though we’d ever name a Permanent Secretary Fido or our Prime Minister Rover, no matter how far or often he roamed.
Tara, who grew up to become quite an imposing dog had an adorable habit of grabbing every visitor by the wrist and escorting them into the house. Fortunately, most people were terrified when she grabbed hold of them and froze, too scared to try to snatch their wrist from between her jaws, so we never did discover what would have happened had a visitor tried to escape.
`We had two amusing incidents in the early days before we put up our double fencing and two sets of gates, not to protect the property, but to protect the dogs from outside aggression and to stop them from roaming. A group of tourists from Le Sport – it might still have been Cariblue in those days – wandered up our drive – the hotel had recommended the view from on top of our hill. Well, suddenly our dogs disappeared as a pack in a flash! I hastily popped on the minimal amount of clothing required – we spent a lot of time in ‘the altogether’ in those bygone days of flattish stomachs – and set off after the dogs. And there they were, the whole pack sitting quietly in a circle, surrounding the tourists like champion sheepdogs that had just cornered their flock. I invited them to come up to the house and take in the view; it really is spectacular: Martinique, the Atlantic, La Sourciere, Mount Gimie, even the Pitons, Morne Fortune and Rodney Bay.
The other incident was when a rather belligerent bus driver brought some people up to the house and refused to understand that he was trespassing. The windows of the bus were open. The poor tourists in the back of the bus were quite embarrassed by the driver’s stubborn refusal to back off. The dogs crowded around quite fascinated by the monologue of abuse that the driver was delivering – and no one seemed inclined to get out of the bus until Tara and her sister Tootsie took matters into their own paws and jumped through the windows into the bus. Within seconds they had the bus to themselves – passengers and driver fled in panic. After that, it was just a matter of politely asking our ‘girls’ to vacate the bus and allow everyone to re-embark and quit our property.
I still spend the last hour of daylight with the dogs each day. The kids – that’s what I call them – never tire of hearing me relate tales of their exploits when they were young. The troubles of the day disappear; serenity and peace reign. Now what price that?