The Expatriate Dog; Bilingual International Canines

Lima, Peru 1972

The first expatriate dogs I knew were my future in-laws's German Shepherd, Aristotle, and ankle-biter Lhasa Apso, and Shih Tzu named Gin and Soda. Alas Tonic and Whiskey had died before I arrived. German shepherds like Aristotle and other big teethed dogs were ubiquitous in Latin America as guard or watch dogs.

Despite the many dogs in Peru, dog food wasn't commercially available in the 1970s; after all, what fool would put down good money to feed a dog when table scraps were available?

Out would come my mother-in-law's giant, oversized tin pot to make dog food. Taking up two burners on her stove, into the pot would go many kilos of loosely chopped camotes, or sweet potatoes, topped off with bits from prepping food, used fats, bones and any leftovers on our plates. After hours simmering, the mush would be slopped into various plastic containers and refrigerated.

The dogs literally ate it up.

 

Algernon's Curacao Retirement

I picked up my first dog, Algernon, at the pound in Houston in 1971. He could have used a passport given living half his life abroad in Canada (twice), Paraguay and Curacao. When his heart disease became a serious problem in 1983, fortuitously for him we moved from the ice and snow of Connecticut to the warmth and balmy weather of the Caribbean.

Algernon and Me

Algernon and Me

He was my first child. I baked homemade dog cookies for him. Photos show me holding his 17-pound body in my arms, like the baby I'd lost a year or so before.

But it wasn't until we moved to Vancouver, BC in 1975 that I learned he was a Jack Russell terrier (well, mostly). In those days few had heard of the breed given it was years before the breed went viral on the TV show, Fraser.

When Algernon died in Curacao, my husband Gary buried him at sea. Given the family myth that Gary had married me for my dog, what now? As our two children played, we cried over our loss and adopted a hand-me-down King Charles spaniel from a British family who didn't take him back to the UK.

 

Snoopy, a.k.a. Houndini

Snoopy was the wrong name for our Houdini-like escape artist dog; Houndini suited him better. Moving from Curacao to Guayaquil, Ecuador in the summer of 1986, we bundled him into Algernon's wooden travel crate.

"But what about dog food in Ecuador," I asked my husband remembering the boiling pot in Peru. My husband assured me that Snoopy would have quality dog food, "...even if I have to make it!" Which he did given he was to manage a plant that made animal feed among other things.

Snoopy lived with us in Ecuador, until he was dognapped. With his gorgeous curly mane, we hoped whoever had broken our hearts would treat him well. At least we had his offspring, who had been born in our bedroom closet. One night while I was cooking dinner, I saw the puppies nibbling on--OMG--the rat poison that a rat had pulled out from under the stove. Before I could get to them, they'd all eaten some of the deadly mix.

It was a moment to have a veterinarian not only nearby, but also on staff at the plant where their dog food was made. With the right mediations, all three puppies were saved and after finding homes for two, we kept the third, naming her an appropriate Sherlockian name of Maggie Oakshot.

Maggie Oakshot

Maggie Oakshot

 

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Dr. John H. Watson of Curacao

Charlotte and I had met in Curacao, sharing our love for all things Sherlockian. On a Sherlock Holmes tour in Europe she bought a package of homemade stewed bones to bring home to Curacao. "You can't do that," I advised her. "You can't bring meat products like those even through customs to catch your flight. The beagle dogs will bust you."

No problem, she said, dragging me to the UK post office to mail the stew bones to her home in Curacao.

A few weeks later in Willemstad, Curacao, she got a notification that a package was ready to be picked up by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. John H. Watson. Gathering her Sherlockian named dogs, she went to the main post office making a pit stop en route to get them ice cream.

At the post office a guard ordered,"You can't bring those in here, Mevrouw." At which point Charlotte pulled out the notification stating that Dr. John H. Watson and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had to present themselves to pick up a package. "Yes I can."

 

Maggie Oakshot

Maggie Oakshot immigrated to the USA in 1989, living in Connecticut. On moving with us to Mexico City, Mexico in 1995, she naturally traveled in the same wooden crate we'd carried about since 1979. When the wooden box was gently set down before us at the airport, the box collapsed like a magician's trick box. Maggie stood there petrified until I called her name. Before we retired the crate to the trash, we noted that over the years we'd marked in Magic Marker in English and Spanish the identity of our dogs, ranging from  "Mi nombre es Algernon", crossed out to say "Mi nombre es Snoopy" and lastly crossed out to read, "Mi nombre es Maggie."

 

Beloved Expatriate Dogs

From Charlotte in Curacao, who would take her dogs out to get ice cream to my friend Mariel in Mexico, expatriate dogs I knew were well treated. Childless, Mariel poured her love into the cocker spaniel dog sitting with her as she peeled grapes one-at-a-time. As Mariel's maid watched, she said without irony, "Señora, when I die, I want to come back as your dog."

 

Orphan Puppies in Mexico City

I'd heard about the 8 puppies whose mother had died when they were five days old since my friend was fostering the 8 orphans. She'd wake every two hours to feed the wee things with an eye dropper and began to bring one puppy to gatherings in the hope to find new homes for them.

Having flashbacks to Peru, I thought a dog with big teeth in the garden at night might keep the bad guys out. So that was why we adopted the 5 week old motherless pup who couldn't make it up and down stairs in our house. I named her Whoopi, after a favorite actress.

Whoopi

Whoopi

Again it was the classic British royal heir (Maggie) and a spare (Whoopi). Within a couple of years Maggie soon died and once again we were off to move back to the USA with Whoopi, who my husband proudly boasted was a Mayan (or Mexican) Shepherd.

Given her German Shepherd size we bought a new travel crate and had to rearrange our travel plans due to changes in airline policies relative to shipping pets. So for her we flew into Chicago, rented a car to take her (and us) the rest of the way to our new home in St. Louis, Missouri.

Anything to help our beloved pet to her new home.

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    Candace Drimmer

    TIMELINE June 1972 to June 1973---Candace moves to Lima (Peru)----- June 1973 to May 1974---Candace and The Husband live in Glendale AZ----- May 1974 to August 1974---Living in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)----- September 1974 to May 1975---Living in Aberdeen SD----- May 1975 to July 1979---Living in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)----- July 1979 to June 1980---Living in Asuncion (Paraguay)----- June 1980 to September 1980---Living in NYC----- September 1980 to November 1982---Living in Connecticut----- November 1982 to January 1983---Living in Ponce, Puerto Rico (USA)----- February 1983 to July 1986---Living in Willemstad, Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)----- July 1986 to July 1989---Living in Guayaquil (Ecuador)----- July 1989 to July 1995---Living in Connecticut (yes, again)----- July 1995 to August 2001---Living in Mexico City (Mexico)----- August 2001---Return to Gringolandia (a.k.a. United States of America)----- I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew I met a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love and moved to Peru in the 1970s. WHAT an adventure it's been!! NOTE: I gave up Facebook, so apologies that I cannot answer any comments since it is only set up via FB.

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