Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 30th 2014 Contents B9
Thursday, January 30, 2014 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
Our beloved dog died last week in
England. She was 12 and had the
size and grace of a small pony.
In human years she was a hundred. In dog
years her life slipped by in a decade of enor-
mous change that vanished in the blink of
A dog s life, happy because of the mem-
ories, sad because of its shortness, makes
one acutely aware of the passing of time and
all of its crimes.
Shortly after 9/11 my mother returned
from a conference weekend in Derbyshire
with the Association of Radical Midwives
(that s a real organisation) with a tiny cross
Boxer pup. I scooped her up, named her and
predicted hugeness from the size of her pre-
Saddened by the assault on New Yorkers,
this bundle of joy cheered me up no end. As
she grew, quickly, destroying plants, shoes,
books (literally anything) I would walk her
in all weather, rain or shine. Hit by a car at
six months she almost died. But she got up
bravely, coughed up blood and staggered to
The post 9/11 world took longer to recover.
One wonders if it has. The world changed,
suddenly it felt smaller like people pressed
up against glass, peering and being peered
at. The West was suddenly as unsafe as
Afghanistan. For the first time people knew
anybody could do anything at anytime. The
fear eroded the easy ways of the past when
small things didn t matter and could go
unchecked. Liberty was halted, replaced by
cameras, body checks, officiousness.
In that regard, I find T&T liberating pre-
cisely because it remains liberal unlike the
paranoia of the West.
After the invasion of Iraq, Poppy left England for
France and spent glorious years on an old farmhouse
with fields to run in. What joy to be a dog, unmoved
by world events and societal shifts. Only caring about
love, affection, walks, breakfast and dinner. Where
ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise, she seemed to
say with her doe-eyes.
The 2000s, roared by like the roaring 20s and the
roaring 70s. I left a job at Parliament, completed my
degree, joined The Guardian in London and when I
stopped to check it was 2010.
Life moves even faster in T&T, making the dawdle
of England feel like a Constable painting, never changing
and happy to stay that way.
When the global economic crisis set in, Poppy and
mother returned to England to live with me. There s
nothing quite like returning home each evening and
opening the door to a dog wagging its tail.
Here, dogs don t go inside, they greet you in the
yard. They bark at strangers. In Cascade they howl at
night. Like the infant Poppy whenever my mother left
To the English, dogs are like people, one of the family.
We are told we are unique in the way we love our pets.
Elsewhere the separation between humans and animals
remains intact. Plato s Great Chain of Being, with
humans at the pinnacle above nature, is an idea upheld
in countries with religion, like T&T. Where there is
God, He is highest and there is a descending hierarchy,
angels, mortals, swine and so forth. In Muslim countries,
dogs are despised, seen as dirty. Their intelligence
In T&T, dogs have mixed blessings. They are some-
times loved, especially pothounds who people seem
to have an enduring affection for. A young friend of
mine, still at high school, brings strays home to his
grandmother s house, regardless of their fleas. They
now have three yapping in the yard.
But dogs are also utilised in T&T. For security, status,
hunting and fighting. They are rarely walked, even
though bush and beach would be heavenly.
I protested that a friend s dog stayed in his yard in
Laventille day and night, so tightly sprung and energetic
she can jump to head height from a crouching position.
I offered to walk her, run off some energy but he
laughed and said she d never come back if she was let
off the lead.
Maybe he was right. Dogs require training, something
there is little time for with the Trini pace and impatience
with "sticking." Perhaps dogs here are born naturally
obedient, or maybe they get licks.
One thing that disturbs me--more than the scrawny
dogs with ribcages showing--is dead dogs on the high-
way. I d never seen a runover dog until the Churchill-
Roosevelt Highway. In England, people swerve if a dog,
deer or rabbit runs into the road, sometimes causing
human fatalities. Here, somebody said, "If they see a
dog they might go looking for it to bounce him up."
My mother told me after Poppy died, peacefully at
home at the hand of the vet, "I wish you could have
seen her face when she was dead. It was the most
sublime loving face I have ever seen, full of peace and
love just like she always was."
Her death took a while to sink in. Thinking about
it this week, I was filled with sorrow picturing my
mum waking and thinking she must feed Poppy only
to remember she wasn t there. "The house is quiet
and strange," she said.
I fear whole human lives go by in a blur. In that
context, a dog s life is just a month out of a year. But
one of the good months. June or December.
She lived a good life. She wasn t aware of the first
black US president or the near collapse of the EU but
she knew she was happy. And she left her mark on
our world by being what we all should strive to be.
Gentle and kind, to people and to animals.
A dog's life
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