Francis Meyrick

Our New Dog

Posted on May 31, 2013

Sinner, 13 years later, on the right. Recent arrival Madame ‘Lucy’ on the left.


Brenda and I were living in Guam back in the nineties’ when a new dog came unexpectedly into our lives. As it turned out, he was kind of “the price of peace”. The alternative… wasn’t good. War. Mama against… never mind.

He was born in a neighbor’s house. We would see him, his brother and his sister, wobbling around in that new-born puppy way. Blinking their eyes, following Mum wherever she went, and tumbling around in a confused melee. Everything was interesting, everything was new, and just about everything had to be sniffed, tasted, barked at, or, if all else failed, liberally peed on.
His mother had a lot of Labrador in her, but she was small, poorly fed, and unfriendly. Doubtless she had suffered a hard life. The many animals at that house survived from scraps and left overs. There were several cats, and another bitch named Keeka. She was also very thin, desperately grateful for any hand-outs, and pathetically eager to be petted. Her tail had been chewed off at some stage. The owner, a moody 300 pound pot bellied pensioner, with a chronic taste for drink, used to regularly curse the animals, occasionally kicking them. We would hear him, staggering around shirtless, throwing the odd missile at some unseen target. Why he kept the animals, we never really understood. One day, his daughter took some pups from a previous litter to the pound. When her father returned, he had been furious, and ordered the animals to be retrieved. So they were brought back, only to die a slow and miserable death. Untreated, they suffered hugely from ticks, mange, hookworm and other parasites. Left to roam free, death by cars was common. If that fate was avoided, premature death by neglect was highly probable.

We had already inherited one dog. A loveable Australian Shepherd bitch named Saint by previous (Catholic) owners. Saint was gentle as a lamb. She had been casually left behind by the owners of the house we were now renting. I had wanted to re-name her, but I had been over ruled.
“That’s her name”, the Great Mistress said, “and you’ll confuse her if you call her something else.”
“But you can’t call a dog ‘Saint’ for goodness’ sake”, I had protested feebly.

We felt that one dog was enough, especially as our stay in Guam was thought to be probably temporary. But the grumpy old pensioner had a habit of locking all the animals up in a small cage. The cage measured about three feet by two and a half feet square. It was open to the (tropical) elements. We would frequently be astonished to see no less than three pups, three kittens, and an adult cat squashed inside, for hours or even days on end. They seemed to get very little food, and even less exercise. The cage was never cleaned. One day I sneaked over for a visit, and it was sad to see the kittens huddled together, filthy, in a state of shock, the cat looking traumatized, and the puppies uttering heart rending pleas for food, freedom, and attention.
I was told by friends that the Guamanians have not got the best reputation when it comes to the treatment of animals. And for sure, I could see similar scenes being played out all over the island. Driving home meant regularly dodging feral dogs and cats, that exist in large numbers. I was also told that the various agencies were so underfunded and overworked, that I was wasting my time even putting in a call. Meanwhile however, I was getting seriously worried about my better half, the Supreme Commander, Miss Brenda. She was uttering dark threats, was quite furious with the pensioner, and was also mumbling dangerously about ‘going over there and punching his lights out’. Ouch. One morning I caught her wrist just in time, as she was heading out the back door, chin wobbling, eyes red rimmed, clearly intent on making good on her threat. Promise. When I asked her where she was going (as if I didn’t know) she told me, through tears, that she was going to “smack him in the mush”. I saw an international diplomatic incident in the make here. “Scottish immigrant punches Native Retiree in the mouth…” Something had to be done. I managed to convince her that there was no way we could adopt three kittens, an adult cat, and three puppies. How about if we adopted one animal. I asked her if she wanted a puppy or a kitten.
“A puppy”.
She sounded like a little girl. Her worry was what we would do if and when we left the island. On the basis that we would cross that bridge when we came to it, I went and spoke to the old pensioner. Before I left on my mission of mercy, I made her promise that I would be the one to choose New Dog’s name.
She readily agreed.

“Hello! Nice puppies you have there! Could I buy one?”
I felt like an idiot.
His bloodshot eyes studied me.
“Are you nuts?”, was his curt reply.
I could see his point.
“You can have them all for free!”
He told me to help myself. He opened the cage door, and the scabby denizens of that smelly prison cowered in terror in the far corner. I held my hand out. One of the pups, fearfully, tremulously, cautiously, made a half hearted approach. I encouraged him with my voice. Scared, but brave, he licked my hand. It was good enough for me. If after all that abuse, he was still willing to trust, then he was my hero. I picked him up, and in that fashion, our New Dog came into our lives.

When I showed him to Brenda, she became tearful again. He was small, unutterably filthy, beginning to get serious mange, had ticks all over, especially between his toe nails, and stank quite strongly of excrement and puppy vomit. We decided first order would be to introduce him to Saint, then we would feed him, and then bath him. Saint happened to be eating when we slid open the glass door to the extension. She was a little surprised when this small furry stink bomb ambled nonchalantly up. New Dog didn’t take the slightest notice of her, not even when she growled. His head disappeared into Saint’s feed bowl, and did not re-appear for ten minutes. We made a big fuss of Saint, to make sure she would not be jealous. She took it surprisingly well, all told.

After His Lordship had dined -sumptuously, by his standards, on proper dog food, Brenda got involved. In short order, New Dog got bathed, powdered, de-ticked, and fussed over. He seemed quite bewildered. It was for sure the first bath of his life, and he was most unenthusiastic about it. He struggled and kicked, but he never tried to snap or bite. Mama was now totally into mother mode, and already very protective of New Dog.
“What do you want to call him?”, she asked.
“Sinner!”, I answered promptly.
Her eyes opened wide.
“You can’t call a dog ‘Sinner’!”, she protested.
I was ready for that.
“You can’t call a dog ‘Saint’ either”, I replied. “But we do have a ‘Saint’. So this will balance it up.”
She looked dubious, but I would not be budged. In the end, She relented. So now we had our New Dog with a New Name.

Within a week, Sinner was deadly ill, and I took him to the vet. The vet examined Sinner carefully, and then turned to me sadly. “Do you really want to save this dog?”. I sighed.
“Well, Mama has fallen in love with him. So…”
The vet launched into an advanced veterinary dissertation concerning all the worst parasites and infections a dog could possibly have, and it seemed Sinner had contracted all of them. The vet’s last comments were to the effect that they would have to keep him in for at least a week, it would be touch and go if he lived or not, and it would cost XXXX pirate buckets of gold doubloons. I remember sighing wearily, and signing on the dotted line.

A week later, I went to collect Sinner. I had been required to phone a few times during his stay, and he was said to be seriously ill. But after seven days or so I was told he was very weak, but able to go home. The orders were to keep him warm, as he did not have much physical stamina left. Brenda stayed sitting in the back of the car. She hates to see animals suffering, and a veterinary clinic is not always the cheeriest place. I got Sinner handed to me, and his little face lit up. He was pathetically weak, and could barely lift his head. I opened the back door, and slid him gingerly onto the back seat. The moment he saw Brenda, there was a feeble yelp of recognition. It was a pitiful little puppy that desperately scrabbled across to Brenda. He put his head on her knee, accepted the warm hand stroking him, and sighed. For such a small, emaciated, tired little guy, he managed a remarkably audible and feeling sigh. It was more than a sigh. It was something that welled up from deep within. A statement perhaps, From the soul. If I was to paraphrase that little sound, I would describe it thus:

Oh! Oh! Brenda…! Oh, I’m so glad to see you. I’m so glad. Oh, it’s going to be alright now. Oh!

And then he fell asleep.

* * * * *

His strength returned steadily, and he was funny to watch. He now sported a doggie jacket, specially bought. It was meant to keep him warm, as per the vet’s instructions. For some reason, it was a flaming scarlet red. It was kind of funky seeing this tatty brown puppy, in the scarlet red costume, exploring our new house. We had moved away from our old rental, beside the garden where he had been born. And the small, old, smelly cage in which he had spent his early puppyhood. Sinner was a keen explorer, albeit still weak and easily tired. Then, one day, tragedy. Sinner was missing. Brenda was beside herself. We searched everywhere, inside, outside, the garden, the road, the cliff our house stood on, and all to no avail. Brenda was now frantic. Then I had an idea. We got in the car, and drove to the old house. Down our lane. Down the main road, busy with traffic, with no sidewalks. And down the next street. We pulled up beside our former neighbor’s house, and… sure enough. There was our tiny Marathon Walker, front paws propped up against the cage, greeting his sisters and brothers, tail wagging dementedly. Brenda and I just looked at each other. It was touching, and pitiful, all at the same time. After all the suffering and the neglect, the beatings with the pensioner’s stick, the poor little guy missed his brothers and sisters… How much could animals teach us humans about simple affection, not to mention “loyalty” if only we opened our… minds?

There came the day I finally got my long planned revenge for being over ruled by the Supreme Commander, on the subject of Saint’s name change. I had wanted to change it, but Mama had over ruled me.

We had already inherited one dog. A loveable Australian Shepherd bitch named Saint by previous (Catholic) owners. Saint was gentle as a lamb. She had been casually left behind by the owners of the house we were now renting. I had wanted to re-name her, but I had been over ruled.
“That’s her name”, the Great Mistress said, “and you’ll confuse her if you call her something else.”
“But you can’t call a dog ‘Saint’ for goodness’ sake”, I had protested feebly.

Sinner was now strong enough that he could play wild doggie chase ’em games with Saint in the back garden. Surrounded by deeply Catholic neighbors. Inevitably, on a sunny Sunday, when half the island’s devout Catholics were all enjoying Sunday barbecue within easy earshot, Brenda was forced to call our reprobate doggies back to the house for din-dins. You guessed it:


She walked back in to the kitchen, and threw me an accusing look. “I feel like an idiot!”, she complained. I tried not to giggle. To this day, I have this mischievous mental image of the devout Guamanian Catholics all looking at each other, tapping foreheads, and making sympathetic comments.

“That new foreign lady… I think she’s totally off her head….”

* * * * * *

The day came that it was time to leave Guam. I had spent five years and way enough flight hours hanging precariously above the Pacific Ocean. I had taken a job with an Arizona Sheriff’s Office, and we were preparing to move. I had to ask. “What about the dogs…? Just so you know it’s gonna cost a fortune flying them to Arizona…”

My waste of breath. She who defends all dumb creatures (even the one she married), sat down abruptly, folded her arms, and with a “I shall NOT be moved” pose, proceeded to sum up the entire discussion in nine firm words.

“If the dogs don’t go, then I don’t go…”

Duh. The meeting is now open. Errr… Correction. The meeting is now CLOSED. END of discussion.

Saint and Sinner were going to fly xxxx thousand miles to Arizona. They didn’t know it yet, but they were in for a.. an experience. And of course, little did I know,

So was I…

Francis Meyrick

Last edited by Francis Meyrick on April 17, 2016, 9:50 am

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