Loving a dog | Beth Merindah

Loving A Dog

By Beth Merindah

For the What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Award


Sarah loved dogs. She didn’t say “I love dogs”, but I knew that she loved them because she wanted to save every street dog she saw. I met Sarah when she was working in Jamaica. She was auditing the use of grant money given to The Jamaican Turtle Habitat Rehabilitation Project. Sarah was concerned by the amount of stores selling turtle shell jewellery. She said that to me. Afterwards I carefully hid my turtle shell bangle in a jewellery box carved from Lignum Vitae. I felt ashamed to love the bangle so much.
Sarah’s dad was flying to Jamaica and staying for four days. Then him and Sarah were flying back to Texas, U.S.A, with a puppy that Sarah had found in a rubbish bin. She said the puppy would live with her, her parents and their eight other dogs. “Take me with you” I said to her. I wanted my voice to sound light and gay; but when the words came out they sounded sad and shaky. I smiled; she smiled back politely.
Last year Sarah had found a dog in Pakistan. She flew it back to Texas, U.S.A also. Sarah had been in Pakistan auditing a grant given to the Prosthetic Limbs for Pakistan Project. I imagined the dog sitting in it’s aeroplane seat with one of those toilet seat shaped pillows around it’s neck and the air hostess bringing him an orange juice with ice in it.
I had an aunt who had been on an aeroplane. She had flown to the Bahamas to take a teaching job; but had to fly home early because she became pregnant to a married man. She gave that baby away to her second cousin.
My aunt told me that on an aeroplane you could ask for as much orange juice as you wanted. And the airline hostess would bring it to you. With a smile on her face. And there would be ice in the cup. The airline hostesses for Caribbean Airlines were flown to Miami for their training. They learnt to smile like Hollywood movie stars and to pronounce their words with hard American ‘R’s’ and to make the sound “th” by sticking their tongue between their teeth and hissing.
I wanted to know how they kept the ice on the aeroplane. When we wanted ice we went to Mister Lovelace’s Cold Store and bought a block the size of a watermelon. We’d chip shards off with a knife if we wanted to cool our juice. On the aeroplane the ice came in cubes. I was jealous that Sarah’s dog would get to drink orange juice with ice cubes.
On the day that Sarah’s dad arrived in Jamaica the puppy ran out of the yard and onto the road, where it was hit by ‘Soupy’ who was driving his route taxi to Black River. He drove that route ten times a day. Soupy knew every bump of the pothole eaten road. When Sarah’s puppy ran out Soupy had his rear vision mirror skilfully aimed to view down Miss Laurin’s blouse. He was watching her E-cup bosom bounce when the puppy’s head was knocked open. It was the fifth dog he had hit that year. He had also hit one goat and knocked the postman off his bicycle.
When Sarah and her father drove into town that afternoon, they saw the puppy dead in a pothole, covered in blood and mud. Sarah cried all day. She told me her father cried too. I couldn’t imagine this. I saw my dad cry once when my baby sister died. She choked on a chicken bone and turned blue at our kitchen table. I couldn’t imagine my father crying over a dog.

On the same night that the dog died a party was keeping for Missus May’s sixtieth birthday. The whole town was going. Sarah went. Her father did not. I was glad, because I didn’t want to see him crying. When Missus May asked her “Where’s your father tonight?” She curtly replied “He is too upset about Pepper to come”. Pepper was the name Sarah had given the dog (after the Scotch Bonnet Pepper). Their Pakistani dog was called Roti (after the flat bread).
We all knew it was Missus May who had opened the gate and let Pepper on the road. Mister Lovelace had seen her do it. You see, it wasn’t Sarah who had to feed the puppy, it was Missus May and she was “sick and tired of it”. She said that to me. Missus May was born in Haiti. She had seen people “die on the street like dogs”. She said this to Sarah. I turned away so Sarah wouldn’t see me laughing. Imagine! – loving a dog – what a queer American thing to do.