Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wild thing

Yoda was a witness to many changes in our family's life. She arrived when we were still living on the farm, March 1998. A magga little pup picked up from a drain in Barataria. With her back legs in water, she scraped at the walls of the drain, but her front paws couldn't take her out. Her saviour wanted to return her to the school, and reproach the teacher who had pitched her into the drain. Don't children know better than to take a mangy scrap into a place where the grown ups will always go, "Ewww, filthy animal!" But miss... but miss...

Yoda - soulful brown eyes, but a slightly demented look; and ears that stood up on alert when she was listening
She never grew into her paws which were so big on a tiny dog that we thought she might be pitbull.  Full grown, she was all Trini: so mixed you couldn't discern any but the suggestions of pedigree. Rottweiler eyebrows. German shepherd tail. A pointy face that could be some kind of terrier. And mobile ears that were out of this world. They stood up on an alert, and moved like her namesake's. So she became Yoda, with an air of being older and wiser than anyone might think.

Her first and enduring lesson was never to trust anyone shorter than three and a half feet. Her second lesson was not to trust anyone over three and a half feet. So she might let you in, but she would not let you out without a nip - ankle, heel, thigh, belly, anywhere she might reach at the last moment. She was feisty, the fiercest most loyal of our dogs. Only those who were in her immediate family could treat her. I treated her mange, her possible parvo, a fish hook that she caught in her cheek, a dislocated hip. She only ever went to the vet to be spayed.

Yoda had three litters. The father was a black Labrador-Rottweiler mix. Yoda's puppies were beautiful. In the first she had eight; in the second ten; and in the third, 13. She was a good mother. And with a little help, all her puppies survived to go to grateful owners who loved their Labrador colours: pure black, tan, or creamy yellow.

When we moved to Diego Martin, Yoda was four going on forty. Two litters were born in the ginger lilies there: her preferred nesting places. We would find the puppies by following our ears, fat squirming bundles to be gathered in a basket and locked in with Yoda for the two or three days it would take for her to settle in the nursery.

When we returned to Santa Cruz, her last litter was days old, and the most fragile. How does a smaller than average dog with ten teats feed 13. By rotation mainly. So you can imagine how hungry and how eager these were to be weaned. These all went on to other homes and their own adventures. One of these pups fell off a dresser, went into a coma for two days, shook itself as if waking up from a long sleep and as far as I know, still lives.

The son's friends were always cautious around Yoda. They liked to hear me call her for her evening meal, this high-pitched call which became one elongated syllable that would carry for miles (or so we thought when we lost her): "yodeeyodeeeeyodeeeeyodeeyodeeee yodeeyodeeyodeeeyodeeyodeeee!"

One day, a few years ago, we lost Yoda for four almost five days. We couldn't believe that she would let anyone steal her. We hunted and searched. In the middle of a rainstorm, she came out of the forest to the back gate. She was hungry. She was thirsty. She never went out the gate again. We think she must have been wandering around in the forest for days before she found her way back home. That's when we figured she might be having trouble seeing or smelling or sensing.

For all her life, she remained independent but loyal. She was never a dog to beg, for food, for petting, for space. She was patient, content to be noticed sometimes. She lost the nerve to take a nip out of a child; and spent hours asleep like an old lady. She knew no self pity. And I will always think of Yoda in the words of DH Lawrence:
"I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself."

Wise and wary, wild thing

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