Sniper, a dog story (part two)
If you know about Border Collies, they are not even recommended as pets. My friend Charlie, the veterinarian, advises people who want to buy a border collie to also « buy three sheep ». That’s because border collies are super energetic and, without enough to do, these working dogs can raise a whole lot of hell. Lucky for us, and not knowing any of this at the time, Sniper was already two years old and not totally crazed but plenty strong and energetic. I walked him three times a day, every day, a long one in the morning and two shorter ones so he could mark his territory and feel some freedom.
I found that I couldn’t dominate him the way you can with a Labrador or other dogs like that who are so eager to please and so submissive actually. He almost bit me a couple of times, not a bite really but enough to show me that I had better be careful, that this was more a relationship of equals and not the master/slave thing. Once I got over the shock to my ego I accepted it and learned. He taught me that what we do together is something we share. It is quite amazing and I love how that has evolved. It was less easy for me than it was for him.
I found that his tail had been broken in a fight and hadn’t healed very well but healed it did with a crook in it now. I learned that he is a tough, dominant dog who will attack any male dog whenever possible and win. He has bones like a Swedish peasant and can pull me miles, which at my age is not a bad thing. Having him in the harness, you could plow a field. We found he had some medical problems, liver problems, and that required a couple of trips to the veterinary hospital and medication and x-rays. We learned how to feed him better as to not stress his liver and he is super healthy as a result. My wife cooks for the dogs twice a day, bathes them, and treats them like the children and family they actually are for us. I don’t see a lot of difference between their antics and affection and those of a couple of five-year olds but that is a whole different discussion.
After six months and with « peace in the valley » domestically, one afternoon a Papua man I had never seen came to the gate and wanted « to take Sniper out to play ». That was not something I wanted to do and I told him I was not comfortable with that. He was drunk, a young Papua guy with shaggy hair, strong, getting mad. He started yelling and pushing on the gate, shaking the gate back and forth and then the gate broke, a crucial weld having given way. I retreated to the house pushing my wife back and locked the door while she called the security station and also her mother who lives not far away. I grabbed an iron piece of exercise equipment and waited to see what would happen next as he pounded on the door. He stepped back and took the broken piece of metal from the gate and slung it against the door and then retreated to the street. The security man finally showed up, not too happy since they are scared of Papua people and are not used to having to actually act like security. Mostly they usher in cars at the gate, waving and taking it easy most of the time.
Then the real police arrived, someone « Mom » had called, something you pay for here but at least they have some training. From my view this was serious and I wanted the man arrested and prosecuted. As I told Vincent later, « If this had happened in America he would probably be dead » and I don’t think that is an exaggeration. But Yudi, the police’s name, convinced us to handle it « as a family » and so, despite my anger, my wife negotiated with them, some hands were shaken over at the Papua house, and we went back to our life. But now we had misgivings, with trepidation, fear for the future. They still maintained that Sniper was their dog. We showed the x-rays and medical bills and told about how happy he was. They didn’t care about that but agreed that we could continue to keep him, for now.
On my daily walks, I started carrying a heavy walking stick my sister had given me years ago. I had to look over my shoulder, something we normally don’t have to do here. I came home one afternoon and there were two of them there, different people, wanting Sniper. Again and again I refused, shaming them, cursing them as drunks and people who couldn’t care less about the dog because if they did they would be happy for him. I don’t have much patience for this kind of thing, and it became clear that my wife would have to handle it going forward.
In another few weeks, we came home after dark and there were five or six of them at the gate, the whites of their eyes glinting in the streetlights. I started in again and our driver at the time also started to get into it. They stood their ground unimpressed. It felt sort of like dealing with people from a different planet who have totally different life experience and values not shared by the majority. And that is what it was.
My wife, Jovita, a brave person with a strong character and real negotiating ability, took over. My sister in law was there and my mother in law showed up, and Yudi, the policeman we had hired, also showed up.
The Papua people were moving soon to another house, thank God, or going back to Papua. And they wanted to take Sniper with them. Whatever Vincent had told us carried no weight and he was not around in any case. Finally, I said to Jovita, « This can’t go on. He is not our dog. We have to give him up », and everybody agreed. So, with some tears, my wife and sister-in-law brought Sniper to his Papua « family ». We tried to process what happened, the fact that we had no formal papers showing ownership that we should have gotten in the beginning. We were just « hoping for the best » which is definitely not good business.
Two days went by and then my wife called me at school and said « Sniper is not eating and they have decided to give him back to us ». « Wow », I said, « Great. They decided to do the right thing ». And I began to adjust my attitude toward them in a favorable way. The next call I got a few hours later was different. My wife said, « They want $200 or they are going to butcher him and sell the meat ». Westerners are not used to people eating « man’s best friend » but they do that in Papua.
The next day my sister-in-law, « Sis », and my wife went to the Papuans and negotiated the price down to $100 and got signed papers giving ownership and saying that any further contact with them would result in police action. Sniper came home to us ; he is now lying on the floor in Marine-crawl position watching me write this.
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