This is our first summer without a dog.
Fifteen years of disgraces in the night
(tattered screen doors, overtuned garbage pails,
unexpected puddles on the guestroom bed,
and other misbehaviors) have ended at last.
She had a way of posing in the landscape,
arranging herself against a screen of trees,
upon a lawn or on an outdoor deck
so as to bring out the hero in photographers
who could focus on the challenge of her darkness.
When on the move she carried less distinction:
a scottie, long in the barrel, short of leg,
she trotted country roads like city sidewalks,
so long as a glance behind her could confirm
the support of the authority that gave her hers.
Absent such authority, she panicked:
could be found, after a search, hysterically
galloping somewhere in the wrong direction
if we returned from shopping or the movies
through a region she had not known long enough to own.
On her home turf she brooked no trespassing,
at least by motorcycles, dogs, or horses,
though she’d roll over basely for human intruders.
The children who had grown up while she watched
were patient, watching her as age declined
from sleepiness to blindness, deafness and
incontinence. Before her last collapse
she lived her life entirely through the nose
and sense of touch. And as they watched her sleep
they saw their childhoods disappearing with her
and by so much ceased a little to be children.
I who had shared, in my two-legged way,
in what I could grasp of her doggy memories,
knew we had lived through all the same affections,
felt the same losses, searched through an empty house
for someone who would never be returning,
brooded on sights and voices that had vanished.
Perhaps she had a way of understanding
our loss that she could never share with me,
but now our past belongs to me alone,
now that she’s gone, and no one else remembers
the weekends that we spent in the house together
letting each other in and out of doors.
Copyright © 1989 by Peter Davison. All rights reserved. As published in The Poems of Peter Davison (Knopf, 1995).
|Originally published in The Atlantic Monthly, September 1989.|
For the rest of the photo essay from Foreign Policy, click here.
I was a few miles above South America, flying on American Airlines flight 2110 (which was late, due to the airline’s inability to have the aircraft in proper working order before we left—local manager Claude Rains was shocked and had all of the usual suspects rounded up and sent off), and pulled this letter to the editor from the Chilean newspaper, El Mercurio.
Even with my Homer Simpson-like abilities in Spanish (“May I have a beer, please” is translated as “MAY I HAVE A CERVEZA, PLEASE”), I could tell that this article was about dealing with stray dogs with the abhorrent practice of poisoning by strychnine.
Strychnine is a potent neurological poison. Death from strychnine poisoning painful , prolonged (several hours), dramatic, and difficult to watch (don’t click if you are squeamish). The following description is from Wikipedia:
Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body’s muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions, and get worse at the slightest stimulus. The convulsions progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions. The subject will die within 2–3 hours after exposure. At the point of death, the body “freezes” immediately, even in the middle of a convulsion, resulting in instantaneous rigor mortis.
Of late, Chile has been considered one of the success stories of Latin America. Generally–but often mistakedly– we associate improved social conditions with better treatment of those less who are less able to protect themselves. Cruelty and callousness are contagious, and hard to eradicate. Strychnine poisoning is not the way to control the very serious problem of stray dogs and the diseases associated with them: rabies and serious injury from bites.
Is Tick-Borne Disease Significant in Peru?
That’s what I’m here to find out. It certainly seems like it is present in the dogs. We had a lot of positive cases in the north.
The dogs were treated for ticks and fleas, and given oral anti-parasitics against intestinal worms. The clinic was organized by the Asoc. Humanitaria San Francisco De Asis, which incidentally, receives money from Brigitte Bardot.
Ms. Bardot, in spite of being convicted 5 times for “inciting hatred” in France (against immigrants, apparently ), has a long history of working for the welfare of animals. Life is complicated.
This is where I stayed in Colan.
Can I say third world anymore? (The rules change so often that I lose track)
This man drives a mototaxi (picture coming shortly), a three-wheeled motorcyle converted into a passenger-carrying vehicle. Fares are typically 2 soles ($0.68). There are hundreds plying the streets of Paita, the port town where this picture was taken.
The St. Francis of Assisi Humane Society of Colan set up a clinic. Dogs were given a dose of oral anti-parasitics and a spot-on treatment against fleas and ticks, and then agreed to have blood taken to check for heartworm, Lyme, and ehrlichiosis. Not surprisingly, their is no Lyme disease (that´s our disease), nor did I find any heartworm (mosquitoes don´t do well in the desert).
Are there other problems?
From my last trip. This is in and around Arequipa, the second largest city in Peru. There is a lot of Chagas’ Disease in the villages surrounding Arequipa.
There is both beauty and hard times in this area. Somehow the beginning of the Goldberg (Gould’s version) just seemed to go with it.