Rem

“That’s funny,” people say. “Why on earth did you name your dog Rapid Eye Movement?”

I didn’t. I didn’t even name him, for one thing, but Rem’s name isn’t an acronym. My neighbour, V, is an architect, and a fan of the Dutch architectural philosopher Rem Koolhaas (below). So that’s how the name originated.

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No, not Rem the dog.

Rem was found on the street, and ended up here because … well, street dogs do that. He has a line of four or five previously homeless predecessors. He’s an amiable guy, apart from a tendency to bite visitors (he tried to bite me at first) and another tendency to escape and chase after the neighbours’ chickens. He shows me remarkable affection when it’s feeding time, though, and … sometimes a little attention at other times.

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Yes, Rem the dog.

The strange thing is, he’s a claustrophobe. If I say “Rem, come in,” he takes off like I’d said “Bath-time!” ┬áHe occasionally comes into the house that I rent for a few moments, but he won’t stay. At night, even when it goes down to nine degrees C, he wants to stay out and sleep in the grass, or maybe on the rubber mat that goes over the cement cover of our water cistern. I tried leaving the kitchen door open, but he showed no interest.

There are two houses on this property. One, where V now lives, I built for myself six years ago. My friend Lucero and her mom built the larger one, most of which I now rent. There is a dividing fence, but Rem has access to both parts of the property, as well as to a hillside backyard.

So, he can happily go up on V’s roof to watch cows and horses in the field outside. Or, he’ll sit on the dividing wall, waiting for me or V to come home, occasionally knocking over potted plants when he jumps down to greet one of us.

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No, I will not pose for a photo, thank you.

And if possible, he’ll find a garbage bag and rip it open, even if there’s no food in there. One time, I left my shoes outside for two minutes, and of course, one of them immediately became a chew-toy. Polite manners, I’m sure he’d explain, aren’t “street.” How he ended up homeless no-one knows, but he demands his independence even if he does like regular meals.

So, apart from deigning to come into the kitchen at mealtimes, outside is where he stays. What he’ll do when the downpours start in rainy season, I don’t know. And once or twice a year we get hailstorms, which won’t be fun for him. V has a porch that offers some protection, and the upper floor on this side has a partly covered area, but he’ll probably get his fur soaked.

My considered view of this dog is that we need to change his name, especially since he doesn’t seem to recognise it anyway. Conan, perhaps, since he’s a barbarian dog? Or maybe Lucky, since the neighbours who have the chickens haven’t killed him yet.

But I feel that a creature who’s so averse to any experience of built interiors shouldn’t be named after an architect. Most dogs want to insinuate themselves into the indoors, but this guy says a resolute “nope” to entering human structures. I admire his stand on principles, but I think he’s being unreasonably impractical.

Mind you, Mr. Koolhaas is a bit like that himself: he made his reputation breaking taboos, and having the stamina to follow through on that. So perhaps this dog isn’t that misnamed after all.