Saturday, January 27, 2007


This is Jesse, my host family’s dog. We used to have two, but the little one’s skin condition cleared it up allowing its hair to grow back and some cousin or something decided they wanted it and now it’s gone. Sometimes I think the language barrier keeps certain details from me and sometimes I think it’s just that simple.

Anyway, now Jesse is our only dog and she’s plenty to keep track of. Jesse’s hobbies include wiping her muddy paws on my leg, barking at everyone who walks in the gate, begging for food and humping every dog within 25 square miles. Brave Jesse is the village skank and I have to sleep with cotton balls in my ears to drown out the sounds that her and her male-company make outside my window.

I spend a good amount of my waking hours stepping outside to hurl small rocks at the numerous mutts attempting to impregnate poor Jessie. I’m almost embarrassed with how good my aim is. Our yard is full pained yelps from horny dogs that I’ve tagged with a rock to the flank as they scurry for the fence.

But even away from home Jessie’s scandalous lifestyle is a burden. Recently she slipped out the gate while I was walking to school, racing down the road to catch up with me. I had no time to take her back so she followed me on the 20-minute walk. Soon the male dogs in the area picked up her scent and came after her. I spent the last few kilometers hurling rocks at them to save Jesse’s already compromised public reputation. I can’t vouch for her purity once I was inside the school, but I know from experience that if the students see dogs mating in the schoolyard (and there’s a lot of it) they chase them with rocks and sticks.

Throwing rocks at dogs here is a common occurrence and the locals have impressive aim. They also throw them at cows when they sneak in the garden to eat the vegetables. Everyone has their own method, but I prefer a medium sized rock with round edges. I set them out beside every door and keep a few in my pocket. My method is to use a skip shot. The advantage of this method is you’re less likely to overshoot the target and it reduces the velocity of the trajectory. I fake the throw once to get them turned and then I pelt them. This reduces the chance of a face shot. Some of my friends have grown a little concerned about this new hobby.

Jesse, despite her sinful ways, has her upsides. She’s able to live on a diet almost entirely made up of old bread crusts. I try to supplement this with occasional stale bits of cheese and the fat from the meat I’m served. She is also loyal and can balance on her hind legs while she begs to be fed.

The dog is actually my host brother’s, but he lives in Greece now and nobody else really likes the thing. He made his mother promise to care for it while he’s gone. She confessed to me the other day that if Shako didn’t love the dog so much she would have taken it to Zestaponi a long time ago.

In Georgia, when you want to rid yourself of a dog you just dump it in the nearest city.

So I am now the dog’s best friend and I spend a good amount of time petting it and untangling burrs and twigs from her hair. Neighbors come and go staring at me with morbid curiosity as I pull Jesse’s ticks off with a crappy pair of green tweezers.

All summer I thought mosquitoes were attacking my ankles and calves at night, only to learn it was actually Jesse’s fleas. During the summer, to reduce Jesse’s flea problem (and odor) my host father and I would take Jesse to the river. The dog’s afraid of the water so Omari grabs it by the scruff of the neck and hurls it off the riverbank (10 feet above the river), launching it into the current. This delights him to no end and he manages to get a minimum 360-degree rotation before the dog hits the water. It’s quite impressive and the dog has come to kind of like it.

The first time I saw him do it I was swimming when suddenly the dog flew over my head and splashed down beside me. Hi Jessie.

Georgians have a generally different attitude towards dogs then Americans. The upside is that you’ll never see one in a sweater and little Gortex booties being walked around on a leash like in the states (see photo below). Also, nobody here takes their animals to pet psychics or psychiatrists, as I know some of my friends have back in the states.

However, like everything else western, this is changing, as Georgians continue adopting the worst aspects of our culture. Recently I saw a black poodle in my village with bleached bangs.

Rabies is a very real problem in Georgia and dog bites are common (I’ve received some sort of vaccination). I know a few people who have been attacked by dogs while walking at night and I know one person who saw an old woman attacked by two dogs in the middle of a city park in the afternoon. Dogs cause a lot of problems here and Georgians are baffled with the way we Americans are so fond of them.

My American friends and I compounded this perception while we were living in my training village. Our friend Van’s host family had a little dog named Chico. He was stinky and dirty but very friendly and we all took a strong liking to him.

I don’t know why, but one day we decided to hold a supra in the dog’s honor. We made fajitas and virgin mojitos and made toasts to brave Chico’s heroism, creating various fictional deeds. There was a lot of talk amongst the village about the Americans holding a supra for a dog.


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