This is our new puppy, Oso (Spanish for “bear” – a tribute to his Cuban heritage):
We got a steal of a deal on him because he was an older puppy and not AKC registered. Normally a puppy of this breed, the Havanese, can run between $600 and $2,000. We paid $150. And, no, I didn’t do all the things you are supposed to do when you buy a puppy. I didn’t check out his parents or his home or his papers. I actually picked him up in a Kum N Go parking lot -Â much like a drug deal, really. But he’s a wonderful little guy. We needed him. And this week our vet checked him out thoroughly and declared him a “perfect dog.”
Funny thing is, when I mentioned we were getting a new puppy, my Egyptian colleague asked about our other dog, not knowing he had died shortly after a car hit him in front of our house. He went on to explain his interest in the Western attitude toward pets compared to the Eastern attitude to which he is more accustomed. I could only assume he meant our sometimes over-the-top affection for pets that makes us dress them in little clothes and buy memorial stones when they pass.
Yes, that is what he meant. Growing up, he had both a dog and a cat, but he only kept them because he shared his own food with them. Buying dog food or cat food is unheard of in Egypt. In his homeland it is also a common occurrence for the police to walk the streets and shoot stray dogs just to be rid of the nuisance. My friend shook his head and smiled, “It’s terrible, really, I don’t know why we are this way.”
Then he told me a story he meant to be funny, but it broke my heart instead. Last year when our pastor visited Egypt with my colleague, they stopped on the street to visit with a cart driver and his horse. This job, much like a rickshaw driver in China or Thailand, is a job for the poorest of the poor. It is no way to make a living. Our pastor took an apple given to him by his Egyptian hosts and began to feed it to the skinny horse. What he didn’t know was that the Egyptians called this apple an “American apple” because it is imported and very expensive. As our pastor let the horse take a bite, the driver anxiously turned to my friend and asked him to ask our pastor if he would please save some of the apple for him instead. No matter that the horse had already bitten into the flesh, the driver longed for a taste of that kind of extravagance.
“So, having a pet is a privilege of the rich, isn’t it?” I asked my friend.
He smiled at me sheepishly, as he does when I try to dissect something he would rather leave as a simple anecdote, “Yes. It is.”