Monday, March 18, 2013

The Artful Dodger

I was 13 years old when I got to see the long running Broadway hit Oliver!.  Oliver! was the theatrical rendition of Charles Dickens novel, Oliver Twist.   It was the one and only Broadway play I've ever seen.   Suffice it to say, it has had a lasting impression.  Maybe it was because it was about homeless boys my age and I was empathetic.

The storyline is about a poor street waif named Oliver who sought comfort, food and refuge with a gang of children pick pockets led by none other than the Artful Dodger.  Although Oliver was the central character I was always intrigued with the Artful Dodger who was a master of living off the streets. 

In Cotacachi, like many other  Ecuadorian villages there are four legged street waifs.  They don't have homes so they must become adept at the 'art' of pick pocketing to stay alive.  They must learn the 'art' of dodging buses, trucks, and tienda owner's brooms.  They must learn the 'art' of knowing which humans to trust.  The street dogs of Cotacachi are street smart.  In fact, they are just plain smart.  

You will see in my earlier posts about the two dogs that captured our hearts, Doggie and Daisy.  They belong to the indigenous family that has recently moved from Yanapamba.  When we arrived at Yanapamba we took those dogs under our wing.  They were grossly underfed.  Daisy was pregnant with her second litter.  We fed them both rather than watch them starve.  They became our dear friends.  Pretty soon others in Yanapamba joined in with feeding them.  They literally bloomed and they became a part of our collective family of residents.  We asked Rodrigo if we could adopt Daisy.  He said yes.   We kept them both as 'shared dogs' for six months.   The day of Rodrigo's and family departure,  he told us he was bringing Daisy with them.  We had arranged for Daisy's spaying, fed her back to health, imported a wireless fence and invested our hearts in her.  But she was after all Rodrigo's dog to give to us or not.

Two days later we were walking to church and we met our dear friend Darrel on the street with his own adopted canine street waif.  Nearby was this expressive, alert, and undernourished 4 month old pup.  Darrel said,  "This is a most remarkable dog.  He stays outside our house and lets us know if anything is not right.  He would make a wonderful watch dog and companion for anyone who would take him off the street."  Part shepherd, part Cotacachi hybrid, this dog came to us with a plea.  His days of 'dodging' were about to be over.

Rachel and I were still reeling from the heartbreak of having our dear Daisy and Doggie removed from our life only days before.  Although this young male pup was obviously a great find, we just didn't know whether it was a knee jerk reaction.  Could any dog fill the void?

Then I got an email from another dear friend, Bill who lives directly below  Darrel.  "Jim that dog outside is waiting for you.  He is just amazing."

Anyone who has ever selected a puppy or an adult dog to bring into their home knows that it is a huge gamble.  If you win, you win big.  If you lose, well, not so much.  It isn't often that you get separate unsolicited glowing references about a dog. 

This was how it was supposed to be.   One door closes, another opens.

 I called Darrel.  "I'll pick up the dog tomorrow.  I'll bring a leash and walk him back to our place.  It will be his first training with me.  His name is Dodger.  I'll explain later."

The next day I came with collar and leash.  Outside the courtyard gate to Darrel and Bill's duplex unit stood Dodger, watching and seemingly waiting for me.  I sat down on the sidewalk and he came to me, laid down on my lap and gave me the affection afforded only to long lost pals.  I gently put the collar on his neck and we just stayed there until I knew he could sense my heart and my intent.

Pretty soon Darrel came outside with Carol.  They took one look at me with Dodger on my lap and said with a mocking grin,  "This will never work.".   I'm pretty sure that if Rachel and I didn't take Dodger, he would have become part of a two dog household.

What I didn't know is that Darrel and Carol had advertised Dodger on our local Cotacachi gringo email network. The next day Darrel called and said that someone wanted our street waif.  Too late!  He is ours.  Dodger is home.

Rachel was pretty much a cat person.

                                                    I think now that is starting to change.

After four years of being dog-less, I now feel a completeness in our home.