From Street Dog to the Manor Born
By Carol Bujeau
For The Bali Times
JAKARTA ~ Those enormous, limpid brown eyes looking sorrowfully into his clinched the deal.
Strolling on a side street of Amman, Jordan, with our black Labrador Chow-Chow cross, Duke, my husband John had spotted a shivering little bundle of matted-white and speckled-brown fur. She had come out of nowhere, glancing at him fearfully but strangely defiant given her tiny, malnourished size. She even deigned to bark at the five-times-her-size Duke until he roared back, sending her scurrying under a parked car.
Uninvited, she started trailing John on her wobbly legs, and only stopped, cringing, when Duke growled a “stay-away” warning. The Dukester, as we liked to call him, was adopted 11 years earlier in New York City, and wasn’t generous-spirited when it came to other dogs getting close to his beloved master. But the abandoned Bedouin sheepdog border collie cross continued to follow them, to our van. To Duke’s utter disgust, John invited her in, and was astonished when she jumped in and sat cowering near him.
Arriving at the house, John ran upstairs to tell me that a stray puppy was temporarily lodged in the garden. “It’s only for a few days, until we find her a home. We’ll keep her outside so Duke doesn’t get jealous.” Overhearing her father, our seven-year old daughter, Kayla, ran out to meet the new arrival. The little canine waif lay quaking near the door. “Mom, she’s SO cute, but when I hold her I can feel all of her ribs sticking out.”
I found some rice and diced chicken and placed a tantalizing dish before her, but nary a bite would she take. Picking her up, light-as-a-feather, I held her in my arms and tried to feed her by hand. She kept her mouth resolutely clamped shut. We had not yet earned her trust.
That evening, unable to get to sleep because of the pitiful yips and yowls emanating from the garden, John went downstairs and let the caterwauler into the downstairs family room. “She can stay in that room, but that room only,” he announced to me firmly.
An hour later we could no longer tolerate the cries spiraling up to us in our bedroom. John went downstairs again. Those eyes staring up sorrowfully wore down the last of his defenses and he came back upstairs cradling the “outside” puppy and settled her on the couch. I tried feeding her again, and this time she accepted everything on offer, but with great delicacy and fastidiousness. She may have been a street dog, but her dining manners were impeccable.
Several days later, John visited the local shelter and spoke to Margaret, the animal world’s Mother Teresa in Jordan. “I found a young street dog that I thought you could put up for adoption. I’ll pay for her food and lodging until someone brings her home,” he said.
Margaret burst out laughing. “She’s going to have to join the queue. We’ve already got eight puppies here and more dogs than we know what to do with.”
John returned home, to find our newly energized canine orphan running crazily around the garden, and nipping at Duke’s ankles. The mighty Dukester was almost crazed with frustration, unable to catch the streaking white and brown mass running circles around him. Kayla and I were contorted with laughter. Our dignified, proud and grizzled New York dog had been reduced to helpless howling.
It took very little persuasion to convince John that the street dog had clearly adopted us and we had a responsibility to provide her with a home. It wasn’t an easy decision. We are a diplomatic family that moves every few years, often to countries far away. Long plane journeys are stressful for animals, but we figured that trauma would be outweighed by the benefits of life with a loving family.
Kayla named her, Lily, “because she’s so pretty and so is the name.”
Several months later I returned home one evening after being away for a week and called out to John and Kayla. Total silence. Puzzled, I walked upstairs to our bedroom to find Duke lying on our couch, looking highly insulted and long-suffering. John was on our bed poring over some reports from the office with Lily, the “outside” dog, beside him with her head on my pillow. She looked so comfortable on my side of the matrimonial bed that I was momentarily surprised that she wasn’t wearing one of my negligees and holding a rose between her teeth. As I walked toward the bed, Lily raised one lip over her teeth, signaling “He’s all mine, and so is this bed.” I lifted my arm and pointed her off MY bed. She slinked off, staring at me balefully, and went to lie near Duke, who studiously ignored the interloper.
Two years later we arrived in Jakarta, Indonesia. Aida, a wonderful Palestinian friend from our Amman days, came to spend the Christmas holidays with us. Seeing Lily, she gasped with disbelief. The tiny, starving, matted and abused street dog of her memory had blossomed into a sleek, elegant, silky furred and affectionate lady. Her looks were greatly enhanced by a good diet, but also from the loving attention lavished on her by a member of our household staff, who baths her weekly and even provides a spa treatment – blow drying her fur, and cracking her knuckles, to our great amusement. Lily was very much to the manor born.
Aida relayed to us that so many of our Jordanian friends had been horrified when we had brought this “balady” (street dog) into our home. They were convinced that all street dogs were vicious and that she would rip our throats out during the night.
Aida laughed and said, “You know, there’s an Arabic saying that the dog of a sheikh is a sheikh. Well, obviously, the dog of an ambassador is an ambassador.”
Carol Bujeau is the wife of the Canadian ambassador to Indonesia, John Holmes. Elizabeth Henzell is on vacation.Filed under: Instinct