23 November 2009


I figure it's about time we introduce Bruno to the blog. I think Brett's written before about the sad situation of numerous stray, and sometimes even aggressive, dogs here. He may have also mentioned the local custom of throwing rocks at dogs who bark too loudly or follow you down the street or growl and nip at your ankles. The two of us don't partake of that custom, but we do occasionally pick up rocks and hold them up threateningly to chase off particularly aggressive or territorial dogs that seem dangerous or just won't let us pass them on the street. (All of the dogs around here know very clearly what a rock held up in the air means, and they whimper and run off before actually releasing it becomes necessary.)

"Bruno", formerly known as "Bingo"

It's sad for me, as a dog-lover, to have such an antagonistic relationship with the ones who live here on the island. I think about how it isn't really their fault that they're so hostile. After all, they lead rough lives, are forced to scavenge for food and fresh water, and put up with a range of mistreatment from neglect to downright cruelty. Over the past few years, members of the SFS community have handled "the stray dog issue" in very different ways, and it's caused quite a lot of controversy. Some staffers used to secretly sneak food and blankets out to the strays that lingered behind the back porch. This, however, resulted in the dogs growing loyal and protective of the SFS community. They'd follow us into town and bark at anyone who came close to us. The locals who got barked at, in turn, were furious with us for letting "our" dogs threaten them and disturb their peace. They've even accused us of training the dogs to be racist, and to bark only at black people. Apparently once, before Brett and I arrived here, a local guy brought a big, vicious dog to the center so that it would fight with one of the dogs that had done the barking, and another time a man ran over one of "our" dogs with his truck out of spite.

Other staffers have taken quite a different approach, wanting no association at all with the loud, dirty, allegedly racist beggars, and have instead become renowned for their merciless rock launching skills. While the locals are generally in favor of this practice, it's more than a little upsetting for the animal lovers and pacifists among the staff and students at the SFS center. So... we currently have a sort of compromise in place. We have adopted one dog, Bruno, who sits outside the center day in and day out, looking forward to any sign of affection that is headed his way. All other dogs, however, are not to be fed, petted, or allowed on SFS property at all. This arrangement seems to appease the staff and students who love animals and miss their pets from home, and feel terrible about throwing the occasional rock at a particularly nasty dog in town, as well as those who don't like dogs at all, or who just don't want the entire dog-human dynamic of the island messed with.

Mmm.. kitchen scraps

Bruno gets fed certain kitchen scraps like bread or chicken bones (which would apparently be choking hazards for the typical Rover or Fido living in the States, but are no match for the hearty digestive system of a South Caicos mutt) on a fairly regular basis. He's not allowed inside the center, which he understands and abides by, but he also doesn't follow us into town very often, mostly because he's too old and skinny and hungry most of the time to be bothered. He also doesn't bark at people who come visit us for the most part, although we did have to calm him down a bit at our community dinner last week when hosted almost 100 folks from town all at once. Saturday afternoon, however, Bruno was in heaven because some of the students decided to give him a bath. I'm sure it pulled when they tried to comb his matted dreads, which were caked with a decade's worth of sand and grime, but he LOVES attention however he can get it!

Wash, rinse...

... and repeat.

What a good (clean) boy!

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