Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Ongoing Saga of Dogs

There are many subplots to my life here: Supras, students cheating on homework, dreaming of food, etc. A frequent one is the ongoing saga of dogs, generally filled with tragedy and sadness.


To recap:
1. Witnessing organized dog fight in gas station parking lot.
2. My host father shooting a rabid dog outside our gate.
3. People I know and like kicking puppies for fun.
4. A puppy I rescued from drowning in a ditch I later found mortally crippled, allegedly by some evil boys who rejoiced in throwing it high in the air to crash into the pavement. I saw it dead in the road a few days later.
5. Feeding bits of bread to the small dogs who’ve lost legs when hit by cars. The sight of their exposed bones and fleshy wounds is truly awful.
6. My cocker spaniel Jesse littering our yard with stillborns.
7. Jesse later giving birth to four puppies in winter, three of which died of cold before I finally convinced my host family to put the last remaining one in a store room so she wouldn’t freeze to death as well. This puppy, Soko (Georgian for mushroom) survived and became our second dog.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, well... the saga continues. My cocker spaniel Jesse has been missing for over a week. She was looking haggard and lethargic for the previous two months and probably wandered off to some distant field to die. I’ve searched the neighborhood but can’t find her. RIP brave Jesse. I’ll never forget how I used to sneak you chicken bones under the table at outdoor supras. And I’ll miss the way you followed my about and put your head on my knee while I read in the yard. I don’t know what I’ll do for entertainment now that I can’t count on you going into heat and getting to hurl rocks at all your potential suitors who would sneak in the gate to mate with you. The absence of the flea-bites I endured when I used to pet you will be my only conciliation.

On top of that, my puppy Soko suddenly went missing two days ago. On the way home from school yesterday, while scanning the sides of the road for Jesse’s corpse, I spotted Soko in a neighbor’s vineyard. She was sitting in a puddle of vomit and bleeding from the ass. She couldn’t move, so I carried her home and laid her by the front door. When I came out of the house to check on her she’d somehow made it to the upstairs porch and was curled up outside my door. I tried to give her water, but she sat unmoving. I petted her for a while, until the rain began to pour and then wrapped her in an old T-shirt and carried her to the doghouse. She sat there all evening, staring blankly out into the rain, refusing food and water. Meanwhile we ate dinner and toasted to Georgian peace and to family and children. I proposed a toast to dogs, but everyone seemed to think I was joking and it was rejected.


That night I texted my friend Jeff who’d joined in a few of my pathetic attempts to save puppies. He replied, “When will we, meager humans that we are, cease thinking that we can play the part of God?”

That’s probably good advice because this morning when I went to check on Soko I found her dead in the doghouse where I’d left her. I knew her fate when I came down the stairs and saw my host mother peeking out the window to watch my reaction as I walked to the doghouse. Poor Soko, it seems, was never meant to be. She was not the brightest dog by any stretch of the imagination, but she was loyal and earnest and mine. Sure she didn’t grasp the concept of chasing a tennis ball, preferring instead to gnaw on my shoe laces, but I really liked the little guy. Her death will save me hours of washing my pants, because brave Soko never understood she wasn’t allowed to jump on me with muddy paws. It doesn’t matter how many times you hit her in the head with a magazine, she just never understood. And I guess the outhouse will by tidier now that Soko’s not around to pull out all the used toilet paper from the bucket and distribute it throughout the courtyard.

If this was America I could have taken Soko to the vet, or at the least, I could have brought her inside to comfort her in her final hours. She wouldn’t have died all alone in the cold of her doghouse. But this is not America and little Soko died all alone in her doghouse. It seems I’m still a touch sentimental when it comes to dogs.

A few hours after I found her dead, Soko’s body remained in the doghouse, stiff as a board. Her eyes were open and looking out sadly at the world. The rain was really coming down and my host father insisted we wait for it to let up before showing me where to bury her.

When I returned home it was already dark and still pouring. I convinced my host father to ignore the weather and show me where to bury her. Reluctantly he agreed and I placed Soko in the corn sack my host father gave me and we wandered through the muddy fields to reach a spot by an irrigation ditch. I broke his shovel within a minute and my host father insisted on digging the rest of the very shallow grave himself. The hole filled with water as he worked so when I placed Soko in her grave we had to put rocks on her to force her to the bottom. We covered her with mud and then trudged off through the rain.

Because it was dark, I didn’t realize my host father had covered the corn sack with motor oil so other dogs wouldn’t smell her and dig her up. I was carrying the sack over my shoulder and thus my jacket ended up covered in oil. I spent the next hour scrubbing it off with gasoline and even after washing it thoroughly with detergent it still smells flammable. So even in death Soko is still ruining my clothes.

Once home there was another small supra and at this one I snuck in my toast to dogs, piggybacked onto a toast for one of the neighbors present. Everyone thought that was really funny. During the supra they taught me a Georgian expression. When something or someone dies you say, “They went to salt,” which is their funny way of saying they won’t be coming back. I guess the equivalent would be “pushing up daisies.” I don’t know why this cheered me up.

So this whole dog business is just getting depressing. I’d become a cat person if I thought it would be better, but cats fare even worse here. People generally like dogs, although most refuse to touch them, but there seems to be across the board loathing for cats. I’ve seen kittens punched by kids for fun. Once I rescued a kitten from a menacing hoard of shouting boys and the pit bull that was trying to kill it. I brought her home and sat in front of the TV petting her while my training host family stared at me like I was crazy. She wandered around our yard for a few days until she was eventually disappeared by my training host family.

“Where’s the cat?” I asked them. “Oh... uhm... we don’t know,” they all replied while averting my gaze and then hurrying off to busy themselves in another part of the house, away from my judgmental glare.

Maybe I should get a bird. Or maybe it’s best just to swear off animals all together until I’m back home. That’s the probably the best course of action.



Georgia is a country of song and dance, ancient traditions, thousands of acres of vineyard, and incredible mountains... It's a spectacular country, but it’s an awful place to buy underwear.

But Georgia is where I find myself amidst a terrible and worsening underwear shortage. Quite stupidly I left a bag of dirty laundry at the hostel I stay at when I’m in Tbilisi. It probably looked like a bag of garbage and inside were most of my boxer shorts. When I returned the following week to claim the bag, it was gone, probably thrown out by the cleaning lady. I will not even entertain the notion that someone willingly stole my dirty underwear. That is just sick.

This has turned out to be quite tragic, particularly as the weather has turned cold and rainy and it takes days for my laundry to dry. As I type this, my four remaining pairs of damp boxers hang on the clothesline. I have two pairs of tighty-whiteys to see me through until they dry. The worsening weather does not bode well for a man in my predicament.

The underwear at my local bazaar all come in inane patterns and with drawstrings. They look like cutoff hippie pants that gray ponytailed men wear at rallies to legalize marijuana while they play with their twirling sticks and try to fend off another acid flashback. Then there are some wierd thongs for men that made their way here from Europe. I’m not a man of fashion, but I am a man of comfort and this underwear simply won’t do. Of all the minor disasters I’ve endured in Georgia this one... well I guess it’s not that bad, but I really would like some boxer shorts.

Thirty-one years old is kind of late in life to ask your mom to buy you some underwear. But is there any age when it’s okay to ask a total stranger to send you some, because that’s where I’m going with all of this. Perhaps some random reader will take pity on this noble volunteer. Wouldn’t that be a fun tax-deductible donation to explain to an auditor? “It says here you spent $30 on an underwear donation?”

According to the little map feature on the blog I have readers in Israel, Australia, Japan, literally all over the world. Not many readers, but still.

Seriously, will someone please send me some underwear? I hate to be a bother, but the sight of those four sad pairs of boxers dripping water as they hang on the clothesline is depressing. On one pair the elastic stitching has even come unraveled. Please send me some boxer shorts (waist size 32-34). Please. I’m begging you.

Ryan Nickum, PCV
C/O Peace Corps Georgia
PO Box 66
Tbilisi 0194
Republic of Georgia