There are many dogs in Trinidad, mostly stray, plenty guarding homes and lives but few pets. Dog ownership here is very different than in North America and Europe. A dog is not necessarily a companion and what you may do for your pooch is generally less important than what it may do for you. The majority of dogs sleep outside, a dog in the home is to many as strange as putting a tree in your living room ( something that many people in The States actually do.) So the fact that I sleep with my dog is, if not frowned upon, certainly looked upon with a degree of bewilderment. Dogs here tend towards the Rotweiller variety rather than the sweet and fluffy breed.
Many keep their dogs chained and only release them to prowl about at night. They are fed, have a home and are considered the privileged ones compared to the mangey strays. These strays do have an acute sense of street smarts, however. You see many, underfed but over birthed females, teats brushing the ground as they stand, look both ways and then carefully cross the road.
My friend Anthony has two dogs, named Santa and Satan. I have always given him a very hard time about his dogs, asking him if his attentions towards them ever went beyond naming them. I know he feeds them but let’s be frank, these dogs do not sleep on his bed let alone set a paw in the house. Recently I was over at his home and got to observe Satan and Santa up close.
Anthony is a British teacher of English literature married to a beautiful Trini called Amanda. He is also a screen writer, avid tennis player, father to twin girls and tells a good tale. He has a sharp mind, a witty slant on life and big muscles of which he is very proud. This is not a man who would shy away from any challenge be it a renegade house mouse or a fetid dead dog.
The story he had to tell was no shaggy dog tale. Anthony’s neighbour had a motley crew of dogs, so many, in fact, that it is doubtful he knew how many he actually had. A few weeks back, Anthony, drawn by a strange smell, climbed over his fence to explore the origin of said smell. There before him lay a dead dog. When he went to ask the neighbour if it was his he was offered much head shaking, shoulder shrugging and denials. So Anthony took it upon himself to dig a hole and bury the dog. He figured the owners must have just tossed it over the wall. Then the day of our visit Anthony woke up to a horrifying smell. As he described it, it was the very smell of death and it came crawling though the house until it inhabited every room. He realised he must investigate. This time, the dead dog must have been tossed weeks before because, as it was described to me, the animal was “leaking”. Knowing full well that a shovel and a hole would not work this time and aware that the rightful owners had barely acknowledged this poor dog alive, Anthony came up with a bright idea. He would set it alight. Burn it. Hold an impromptu cremation.
Not many people would have considered this option, fewer have gasoline at their disposal. But Anthony is not like other men. He poured gasoline all over the poor beast, threw down a match and POW! Anthony was surrounded by flames. Mesmerized he stood for a moment, that slow moment when the only conscious thought is “wow” , before he came to his senses and stepped back. By the time we arrived, the smell was gone, the dog had been dealt with and thanks to some comprehensive singeing, Anthony no longer had hair on his legs.
Few respect their dogs alive, let alone dead, but Anthony, who may pretend to be callous towards his own dogs, has revealed himself to care more than he believes. I know for certain that if Satan or Santa were to die he would not be tossing either of them over any fence. While they might not be house dogs, he has looked into their eyes and seen something there.
Only in Trinidad.