Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sleeping Dogs, Sleeping Child

Sleeping dogs at Phibun Mike's

Sleeping dog, sleeping child

With his other dog, aged two years, nine months

Ping, aged five asleep with Mama

Our house out in the far rice fields of North Eastern Thailand is always filled with the happy noises of children and dogs. It’s open house around here and people of all ages wander in freely and, while the dogs know they’re supposed to stay outside, inevitably they sneak in guiltily and pretend that they’re not really there.

As a result it’s usually riotous at home with the chatter of shrill voices and yapping, and sometimes when they fall asleep in the mid-day heat we creep around, grateful for a few moments’ peace. Let sleeping dogs lie and children too.

Thai children seem to find their easy sociability very early in life and they play happily together for hours on end, though they can be little devils, charged with energy and mischief. Like kids everywhere they want to be the winner, grabbing the other’s toy, pushy, acquisitive, demanding.

There may be no such thing as original sin but by god they learn fast.

I love the dogs too but ours have often been a cause of heartbreak. We’ve lost four dogs so far and counting and while Cat casually wants to collect some more, I’m reluctant to make the commitment.

I wrote earlier of the awful day when Pepsi’s beautiful white puppy Leo was mowed down by a truck on the main road but I shall never bring myself to write about what happened to Pepsi.

Pepsi, our loveliest and most gentle dog, Pepsi, my firmest friend who always understood me when the chips were down, who’s there in so many of the pictures in MY THAI GIRL AND I… Pepsi succumbed and died just after I’d left the village to go and visit to England. If we’d looked after her better we might have saved her but we didn’t. And now horrible things are happening to another dog all over again.

I told you recently about how Cat collected a new puppy from the wat in Sangkha to give to her sister, Yut, but she saw where the best food was to be had and came running back to us. Soon Milo had adopted us and it was impossible to make her stay at Yut’s house as it’s only just round the corner.

Milo’s a bit of a terror, jumping up to catch the clothes on the washing line, chasing the ducks, scattering the used disposable nappies she’s dragged in from next door and generally making a nuisance of herself. Cat’s none too keen on her as Thai dogs shouldn’t be so apparent, but I love her for her sweetness and warmth and for her high spirits and cheek. It’s not every dog that climbs into the pushchair at night and goes to sleep there like a baby.

Milo is definitely a naughty dog and in the West our usual response with a naughty dog is to train it to behave better. Round here you don’t bother. You sell it for a hundred baht to the man who comes by on his motorbike and trailer and then you get another one. Yes, life is always precarious for animals in farming communities.

Not far from us on the main road an old man has just died after a long illness and our lives have been dominated by the five day funeral festival that the family put on for him. At about three in the morning the funeral music starts up and it’s hard to sleep. The music must be incredibly loud given that we’re at least five hundred yards away and it chills the soul, a dreadful music that murders sleep. It has a sickly, sad synthesis of plinketty piano and waily, warbly flute sounds and for Cat it’s powerfully evocative of death. I find it disturbing as I’ve already heard it at three family funerals and for me too it’s charged with grim associations.

At about six in the morning the music takes a break just as our day begins and we fall blearily out of bed. Five nights of this has been more than enough and I’m now feeling pretty ragged as I stare into my laptop computer.

It was during the funeral festival that Milo disappeared. An inevitable part of funerals around here is that there are three shattering bangs every few hours that tell the surrounding villages someone has died and which scare away the bad spirits. They scare me too and of course they terrify the dogs. I wondered therefore whether Milo had run a mile to get away from them.

I called for Milo outside but to no avail and as she didn’t return for her food I feared we mightn’t see her again. Then early in the morning just after the music had stopped, I heard a yelping outside. Milo was trying to crawl in under the gate.

She was in a terrible state, thin, traumatized and shivering, tottering on feeble legs like a new born lamb and dragging her rear quarters, a bloody wound down her flank. The heartbreak was happening all over again.

Cat has since been told that someone saw Milo hit by a car and I now wasn’t sure if she’d survive. Huddled in a corner she was refusing to eat and looked desperately sad and pathetic, gazing at me soulfully, hardly able to raise the smallest wag. It seemed to me then that she might have internal injuries and possibly neurological damage as well and could be headed for the happy hunting ground. I don’t want to say too much, though I’m now getting a bit more hopeful.

Dogs have an innocence in their devotion to mankind and their dependency on us that makes them so very special. I love them for that, just as I love the serene image of a sleeping child. ‘The world’s so wild, I’ll cover you sleeping child.’

So very vulnerable and with all survival instincts switched off, they can be like angels and tell eternal truths. The Bible says that ‘out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes forth great wisdom’. Children are from God, are perfect and blessed, until the world too quickly spoils them and their innocence is lost.

A sleeping child has become an angel again so please, please I tell some visitors who burst into the house talking loudly in Thai… please don’t wake him up! Really he’s only human.

When he wakes up, he’ll howl the place down. He’ll grow hooves and a forked tail!

So please, just let him lie.

Since first writing this, Milo seems to be making a full recovery and is now was bouncy as ever.

Copyright Andrew Hicks The Thai Girl Blog


mike said...

I'm sorry to announce that Cocoa, the little black dog in the top picture, has awked his last pansa. He completed this cycle of his samsara this morning, the first day of awk pansa, and we wish him well is his next life.

Thai Girl said...

Really so sorry to hear that, Mike. Dogs do have a tough time of it here and so now you're down to four.

He was such a sweet little dog that maybe he'll be lucky enough to be reborn as a farang.