Requiescat in Sartagine

The time had come, we agreed, to give Rem the dog a bath. He had roamed freely in our large back yard (or wilderness) for months, and rolled in a few too many patches of mud. He had been white and brown, and now he was several blended shades of murky grey. This morning being the first sunny one in days, and good for drying wet dogs, my friend Lucero and I warmed some water, and began the assault on his fur.

All considered, he didn’t take it too badly. Perhaps he was exhausted after barking at a cornered squirrel for most of the previous evening, or maybe he’s a masochist and only pretended to resent it to maintain his canine credentials with the other dogs.

Sure, he tried to make a bolt for it three of four times, but between my efforts and the leash that anchored him to a window grille, he didn’t get anywhere. Even when Lucero was working on the thick mass of grit and plant material in the fur around his neck, he largely tolerated the insult in silence. Finally, Lucero rested her tired arms, I let him off the leash, and we jumped away from the inevitable wet-dog-shaking-itself shower-bath. Then I gave him a late breakfast, which he accepted with grace (by then, he was starving, a condition he insists is constant), following which he took advantage of the morning sunshine to dry off. And, we concluded, he probably felt better for getting rid of all the crap in his under-fur.

Rem cropped.jpg

A washed Rem dries out in the sun.

A short while later, Lucero had to visit friends in the village, and left in our neighbour’s car with a cheery wave. But Rem, ever swift and resourceful, slipped out the door as the neighbour held it open. At night, he roams around if he escapes. In the daytime, he chases the neighbours’ chickens.

Maybe his bringing us a freshly killed hen in his jaws was his way of saying “Thanks for cleaning me up.” That’s Lucero’s take, anyway. Ever the cynic, I wondered if it was his way of saying “F*^% you and your petty rules, unworthy owners of a noble hound and fierce hunter like me.” Also, he might have felt piqued over last evening’s escaped squirrel. Either way, there he was, trotting home with a dead black chicken in his jaws, and the neighbour and two of her kids in determined pursuit.

This was chicken-hit number three for Rem. His reputation as a chicken-killer is now established. The woman was easier to deal with than we expected, however, and asked only for a modest payment. This was a creature grown for meat, after all, not a pet. We doubled the amount, as a goodwill gesture. I half-heartedly spanked the dog (I dislike hitting animals, even naughty ones) and made penitent faces at the neighbour, and Lucero left.

A few minutes later, she called me. If the neighbours hadn’t retrieved the dead bird, could I bring it over to Don Aurelio’s? Then he and his family could have chicken for dinner.

feather.jpg

All  that remains – a black chicken feather.

Well, they hadn’t, and I could, so I did, and they will. We sat around Aurelio’s kitchen, while his wife Cecilia plied us with their home-grown coffee and tamales, which are a kind of bean-filled sandwich made from masa (maize dough). And we swapped dog stories, of which everyone in this village of five hundred dogs has many, and reflected on the short life of chickens.

I so easily forget how interwoven with life and death an agricultural community can be. A fact that, I don’t doubt, the delinquent dog who started this incident appreciates better than I do. I just wish he’d realise that when your recreational hunting activities annoy too many people, you become a target yourself. And in case he doesn’t, or won’t, we’re putting an extra gate on the property.

But Cecilia’s a wonderful cook, and I’m now thinking of excuses to stop by at dinner-time. If Rem did bring the chicken to Lucero and myself as a gift in gratitude, it behoves me to check out what she did with it, right?

  • The heading is Latin for “Rest in (a) Frying Pan.”

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