There is this noise … waking me. Is it the wind? Too loud. A tractor stuck in low gear? Too late at night. It is howling. Several male dogs growling and howling… in unison… at 2 am. Why? Because I am a sucker.
There is this puppy.
Might belong to the folks around the corner… might not. Puerto Rico is like that. Sometimes she tags along with our dogs during our morning beach run. She follows them into the water, a little bit deeper each day. Soon she is racing ahead and splashes in first. Sometimes she follows us back to the gate and I give her water and kibble. She is always tentative. Any sudden movement makes her startle and run.
One morning I spot her trotting down the road - with a floppy feathered chicken clenched in her teeth, poached from the farm down the way. I can hear the manic clucking of the other hens. Then again on another morning, then another.
I start putting out plates of kibble, one in the morning, one at night. Now she shows up regularly, never making it up to the farm. Now she whines at the gate and I open it for her to nap in the shade with the other dogs.
Now my husband J. arrives home after being away for business.
“That is someone else’s dog” he says.
“No one has come looking for it” I say.
He chats up the neighbors. "El perrito negro está en mi casa y yo le estoy dando comida. ¿Usted cree que el dueño se molestó?"
No one claims ownership. In fact, she is canine-non-gratis with the farmer, who claims she has stolen 15 chickens, in just this month alone. The men “en la calle” decide it is best if we keep her, for the well-being of the local poultry population.
“You have another dog”, J. declares.
We take her to the vet for vaccinations and to be neutered.
“Can’t do that right now” reports Dr. Pino. “She’s gone into heat. Make an appointment for ten or so days from now”.
OK, ten days. No big deal.
On the second day, there are stray dogs in the backfield, having tunneled in under the chain link. I shake a broom at them. On the third day a random local dog is sniffing around outside of my studio. I throw a bucket of water in his direction and admonish the other dogs for not being better guards. The next three nights are an ordeal and I am useless during the day for lack of sleep.
“Four more days to go”, I think through gritted teeth.
As I set out their morning dog bowls of fresh water and food, Nina, as we’re calling her, moves over toward me sideways - shy and still unsure of her place in the scheme of things. Her goofy ears and happy, waggity tail make me smile.
“What a sweet doggie” I tell her, and mean it.
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