Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Worst Dog Owner in the World

Owning a dog always seems like such a great idea.  Especially for those of us who are isolated out in the middle of no where, aliens in a community that can barely understand us.  It's the whole idea of having someone around to love and be loved by.  All this was running through my head about 4 months ago when a friend mentioned that her neighbor's dog had just had puppies.  I jumped at the chance to claim one of them, thinking that if I was going to get a dog, now would be the time to do it.

When I was younger, my family had two dogs.  I remember it being a mostly positive experience.  Neither of them really ever learned how to heel, they barked a lot, and our house got robbed while we were out walking them once, but in general I remember learning to be more responsible and when I think back on it, I enjoyed the experience.

Enter Cobie.  This cute, big-eared dog that was graciously brought to me by my friend.  The first day, it was kind of fun having her nip at my heels and climb all over me.  I built her a dog house out of bamboo and tried to get her adjusted to living on my porch.

Obviously, I didn't put enough thought into what owning a dog means.  Dogs need to be fed, they need attention... As my sister so correctly stated, having a dog is like having a baby.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I am not what you might call "cuddly" and I don't necessarily have the warmest personality...  This whole thing was destined to fail.

Needless to say I was not prepared to handle all the whining and constant need to for attention.  She had effectively trapped me in my own house during the evenings.  I was afraid to go outside, and that I would wake her up and it would start the process all over again.  I couldn't leave without her following me everywhere, so going to town to buy food was going to be a challenge...

If I was planning on taking her back to the US, or if it was my first year of service, I think I would have kept her.  The reality of it all is, I have nine more months of service, and one month of that is vacation days that I have saved up for this year.  I have committed to running this half-marathon in Rio, so I need to start training. Plus I just have general work in my demo-plots and garden, meetings to run, and the possibility of a pig in the near future (NOT a pet!  I'm going to kill it and eat it!).

So! Things I've learned from this experience:
1.  I'm definitely not a pet person.  When I was living in Ann Arbor, I seriously thought about getting a dog.  That's never going to happen now.
2.  I'm more focused on work.  This experience has clarified what I want to do for my final year in service, and has made it a reality that I don't have a lot of time left.
3.  I tend to be a bit selfish with my time.... but honestly a person who doesn't want to make time for pets shouldn't have pets, so I don't feel so bad about it.

To close out the story, I ended up giving the dog to a family in my community.  In one of the most awkward and abrupt conversations I've ever had, and just like that (8 days) I'm back to being dog-less.  Two girls from my book club showed up at my house while I was working in my demo plot and saw the dog.

"Is this your dog?  She's pretty." 
"Yeah, she's very energetic."
"I want her."
"Do you want her?  Because I want her."
"OK.  I guess that's possible.  What do you want to name her?"
"I don't know."
"When do you want her?  Tomorrow?"
"No, I have to go to the fields tomorrow."
And just like that, she picked her up and carried her away.  

So thus concludes the very short-lived pet-owning experience.  Never again, haha.  I've made myself a promise that I will never again own an animal that I do not intend to kill and roast over a fire at a party.


Melissa said...

Bryce, I seriously just went through your entire blog. Thanks for being so diligent in sharing your life in Paraguay. Im not in PC but I have a friend who is an Environmental Extension agent in Africa and another friend whose boyfriend is an Ag volunteer in the Dominican. I devour PC blogs and am completely fascinated by the work you do and the adventure you're undertaking. You're really slaying that third goal.

I'll be keeping up with your blog. God bless! You seem really awesome. :)

Ev said...

Hi, Bryce. I discovered your blog through the YouTube video you posted some time ago about the bad habits that PCVs pick up. It was hilarious to me, especially since I am currently a PCV in Armenia (COSing this August). It's fun to see challenges and similarities between PCV countries.

I haven't personally had a dog in country, but I know a couple other volunteers who have, and some have realized, like you, that they are not meant to own dogs. I'm glad you were able to find a good home for yours, and I wish you all the best as you continue your Peace Corps service. - Evelyn