For almost our entire time in Indonesia, we’ve had a dog. It started out for security reasons. When we first arrived in Tarakan, we were shown around our house then handed a puppy. “Here’s your dog,” we were told. A bit baffled – not having requested a dog – we took it and in time grew to love Sydney.
|Carter and Sydney, aka "Christmas Dinner"|
Sydney, unfortunately, was not very bright. The whole point of a dog was to provide security, but instead she barked at us and wagged her tail at strangers.
So we weren’t too sad when – through a misunderstanding – Sydney was eaten one Christmas. Which is a whole other story.
Our next dog, Sandy, was an improvement. She was a wonderful guard dog, and even alerted us to snakes and other critters in the yard. She was great with the kids, and gave us puppies when we forgot to give her birth control (one of the weirdest moments of my life – me, about seven months pregnant, at the apotik, buying birth control pills and trying to convince the gal behind the counter they were for the dog).
|Good ol' Sandy (photo by Tripp Flythe)|
Sandy grew a little snippy over the years so when we left Tarakan in 2011, no one really wanted her, so some friends of ours helped put her to sleep.
When we left Tarakan and moved to Papua, I swore off all mammals. I was done. I was done with the smell, the hair, the making of the dog food (rice mixed with sardines – yuck), the barking, etc.
Then an email went out that the local vet had a litter of beagle/golden retriever mix puppies available for purchase. The kids begged. I said we’d go look. I wonder how many people have ended up with a dog after just going “for a look”?
The most beagle-looking one in the bunch captured the kids’ hearts. The vote was 5-1. Guess who dissented? Charley was ours.
|It's a good thing he was so cute.|
I will admit, he was a very cute puppy. “I almost can’t handle the cuteness!” one of the kids exclaimed. But then there was the puppy-training, the whining, the messes. And the bigger he grew, the more the beagle in him came out. He was a master of escape. Our yard is fairly large with lots of fence to escape through. It became a two-year project to get our fence escape-proof. I about lost my mind in the process.
|"What, me escape?" -- Note barbed wire on bottom of fence.|
Because of his constant escapades out of our yard, everyone on Pos 7 knows him by name. The neighborhood kids love him. Sometimes we let kids come in the yard to play with him. Once we saw a little boy bury his face into Charley’s back while hugging him, saying, “Oh, you make me so happy!”
It’s not like there’s a shortage of dogs for these kids to love on. There are kampung mutts all over the place, but they’re always scurrying around with their tails tucked between their mangy legs, casting furtive glances, and yelping at all hours. They live a hardscrabble life. They don’t exactly invite play and affection.
I think that is Charley’s appeal. He’s happy-go-lucky – doesn’t have to scrap for food, doesn’t have to fight off would-be rivals. He can afford to be friendly and lovable. He’s never met a stranger. As a guard dog, he’s not worth much. He’s just a presence. He just loves people too much to be a threat. Maybe there’s a lesson there for us.
The kids have about a dozen nicknames for him, including Charles, Beaglicious, the Sleek One, Pharaoh, Charley Chumbles, Chumb, and their favorite, the Beag.
I admit, he’s grown on me over the years. We take regular walks around the neighborhood, or I should say we go out for regular sessions of Charley pulling me up and down Pos 7. He is always my buddy anytime I’m out in the yard. Every now and then, the kids catch me petting him and they say, “See! You do love him!”
As our time in Indonesia draws to a close, I’ve been contemplating all the goodbyes we’ll be saying. I would not have said this a few years ago, but I’m saying it now: I am going to have a hard time saying goodbye to Charley.