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The Dogs of Mish

The dogs of Mish live on the fringes of the community, or if lucky, on a porch or under a deck.

They know their place, and it is generally not inside a house.

Sometimes we passed a puppy walking along the road at his master's heel without a leash, obviously a loved pet, but the pampered life of many pets in the south, is very different to that of the dogs of the north.

They exist like a separate tribe among the humans and are ever present. At lunch time, when Joyce and I arrived with sandwiches, spaghetti, or macaroni cheese, they circled hopefully, willing the food out of the children's hands, and if dangling at all, it would be gone. It was impossible to harden our hearts though, towards these poor beasts, so many of them sadly neglected.

There was Princess, who had evidently recently had puppies, and King who was a male version of Princess, both of them the colour of pale sand with pointy ears and curly tails. There was a big black dog, with intelligent eyes and a slash down his side that seemed to be some kind of wound or skin problem. He seemed to be the Alpha dog, but his pitiful appearance won my sympathy vote.
Photo by Susan Stewart

In spite of their hunger, they were sometimes surprisingly careful with the food they "acquired." I saw Princess trot away stealthily and vanish into the trees with a grilled cheese sandwich, instead of gobbling it on the spot. I wondered if she was taking it to her puppies, but more likely she was taking it where it would not be swiped away from her. And Tori saw a dog take some small crackers and bury them in the ground.

At the school we had visits from the two dogs that belonged to Marita, the school custodian, and lived beneath her porch. One was a tiny tan puppy, and the other was a brown and white St. Bernard, named Butch. He was shaggy and big, and drooly and he reminded me of the powerful dogs in the story of the Tinderbox, one of the fairy tales of my childhood. Tori fell in love with all of them.

We had been home just a few days when I saw a post on Facebook written by Kendra, Marita's daughter, about her two nephews, Ishmael and Salvator. She wrote that they had been fishing all day long until in the evening when they finally caught one fish. They came running up the hill with the fish, jolly and happy; until Butch ("their beastly dog," said Kendra,) came from behind and stole the fish. They chased him down but couldn't catch him. And they had been so happy...

But what is a dog to do when a fish is dangled so tantalizingly before his nose?

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