Saturday, August 4, 2007

Dead Dog Walking

It was Kaopensa, a really big time Buddhist holy day, the beginning of Buddhist lent, so maybe it was not a good time for me to completely lose my temper and make a sincere effort to murder my benefactor’s dog. Actually I’m not sure you can murder a dog, but this would have been manslaughter anyway because I was provoked. I’m sure you can’t manslaughter a dog, that would just be silly.

This is one of those dogs that constantly attempts to dominate his owner, my benefactor. She is a Buddhist and seems to take it pretty well, live and let live. “Be careful,” she told me, “he is wild.” The dog has a system: he dashes into the house when someone is careless with the gate. His owner’s response to this is to go and get some old chicken parts or something and entice him back out the gate for a snack. I’m pretty sure that this is the principal reason he comes into the house in the first place. She hates him in the house, however, because he makes an ungodly mess; his very name translates to English as “Dirty-Messy.” I thought the whole thing was low comedy until Dirty-Messy made it personal.

One time he did his thing and I stepped in to help get rid of him. I am a dog person, a reasonable man, and you may believe that I prefer to settle all differences of opinion peacefully. I was very gentle. I spoke to him in a friendly manner, gently blocked his way and leaned over to push him in the direction of “out.” He exploded in a fury of white fur and teeth, twisting in the air and snapping his jaws and making an awful racket. He could easily have bitten me, but he did not, and that was his big mistake. I took it as a sign of weakness. I gave him a cursory kick in the ribs and he walked out the door.

Smiling all the while, I brooded something dark and deadly over his display of his teeth to me, as though I were some lesser dog that he could impress with that kind of canine bullsh*t. Been around Buddhists too long, I thought, thinks he’s going to live forever. I am a Christian, though, and we are bloody people, as our history well represents. I resolved that the next time he tried that move I would teach him the power and the majesty of a full grown, 170 pound, angry hominid male.

My chance came soon enough. One rainy day, our little buddy Dirty-Messy sneaked into the house by a neglected back door and oye, vey ist mir did he make a mess. I had the house to myself on this occasion. I ignored him, preferring to arm myself properly before a confrontation. He struck an imperious pose at the top of the stairs, looking quite pleased with himself. With the heaviest motorcycle helmet in the house in my right hand, and a stout bamboo pole in my left, I calmly ascended the stairs. His lack of concern was infuriating.

I gave him the helmet, full in the teeth, and introduced a vocabulary and tone of voice that he had not encountered before. He adopted a fighting pose and pulled his lips back as far as they would go, snarling and displaying his teeth very impressively. I put the pole against his chest and brought the helmet down sharply on his head. He turned to slink away and I gave him another good descending blow to the hips. Still snarling, he hid under a piece of furniture. I poked him with the pole a few times, threatening, among other things, to find and kill his entire family. About an hour later he came sheepishly out from his hiding place and left the house.

One or two lesser episodes and I thought he’d gotten the message: show Fred your teeth and meet the other Fred, the unkind Fred, the Fred who will hurt you, the Fred that even Fred is afraid of. It was great. He didn’t try anything for a few weeks, I gave him bones, I scratched his neck, we were friends.

Well on Kaopensa he came in again, and with three Thai friends around I tried to usher him out in a friendly manner and he stood his ground, bared his teeth and growled menacingly. I just lost it. I growled myself, said bad words, seized a handy helmet and smashed him in the head with it. It was one of those five dollar Thai helmets and it demonstrated its uselessness by breaking. He retreated to a hard to reach spot and I ran to fetch a pole, all I could see was red, I couldn’t wait to bust out one of his eyes. When he heard me coming, banging the pole on the tiles, he ran out the gate and kept going.

My friends were quite shocked. I mumbled something about I can’t let him show me his teeth or something and picked up some things that I had knocked over.

Later I apologized to my benefactor and it turned out that she was just as glad that someone was trying to beat some sense into Dirty-Messy. She told me she was afraid of him. I told her that if he was my dog he’d find himself in doggy-heaven as fast as I could buy the poison and some chop meat.

Everything has levels, deeper meanings not immediately apparent, and Dirty-Messy is no exception. He is simply the affront that I will not tolerate. In Thailand, everyone must maintain a veneer of cheerfulness; everyone must keep negative emotions hidden and always pretend that everything is hunky-dory. This means that everyday, everyone must swallow the full range of annoyances that life presents, annoyances present in Thailand as much as anywhere else. Everything from a casual, wow, you use so much water! (This upon my making a cup of instant at the hot water thermos, just a small cup but I suppose she’d prefer I just took one inch of water.) To someone dragging my locked motorcycle four feet so they could park in the motorcycle spaces. That one had steam coming out of my ears, I was ready to key the side of the car, but if I let on that this stuff disturbs me I do myself a great disservice.

This dog is an affront to my dignity that I can safely acknowledge and act on. When this dog mocks me and threatens me, in my house, it is socially acceptable for me to react in the same spirit that he has introduced into the interaction.

This dog, this unfortunate dog, because I will f*ck him up one of these days, is the embodiment of all of the little indignities that I must smile through and ignore. He is the annoyance where I am permitted to draw the line, he is the last straw, he’s all I can stands ‘cause I can’t stands no more, and when he sets me off he collects the bounty of my frustration. If he keeps threatening me with his teeth they’ll be calling him “Winky,” or “Hoppy,’ before Christmas, and that’s if he’s around to collect his presents at all.

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