I fell in love on the spot....and I wanted him.
I immediately begged my husband to buy him for me and was so happy at the thought of having a companion...something to liven up my day and make me laugh. The way he scampered back around the corner had me grinning from ear to ear already. I was determined not to leave without this little puppy that already had engraved himself on my heart.
Husband told me that Muslims are not real big on dogs..many of them considered dogs forbidden to own...so having one in the house might be a problem for him (all though he himself didn't mind dogs). Not to mention the fact that we didn't have a yard to speak of...just the roof. I heard all that but it went right in one ear and out the other...I wanted that puppy despite the cons.
We went inside and he found his friend and asked about the puppy. His friend told him that the puppy had been specially bred and ordered by another Bahraini and had arrived a few days ago but that the Bahraini had changed his mind and refused to come get him. In other words, the pet store owner was stuck with him because nobody wanted to pay the high price of having a specially bred dog. The puppy was a mix between a German Sheppard and golden retriever (I have no idea why that particular mix was required but I didn't care just then) and was left to run in and out of the store as he pleased as it was geared more for fish, birds, and other caged or tank animals.
It was during this exchange that I came to first learn about Arab generosity and largess. For anyone that doesn't know...Arabs are hands down the most generous people when it comes to giving up something they own to someone else. When I say give up I mean, give YOU simply because they wish you to have it...they want you to be happy with something you might have admired...and it's very hard to refuse something once an Arab offers it to you because they will basically pack it up and put in your hands, car...whatever. They don't take no for an answer...or you have to really refuse to take it and be insistent.
This gift giving isn't seen the same way as how I understand many Americans view it. For instance, one time I was with my husband admiring some full blooded Arabian horses that a friend of his owned...one of them was just exceptionally beautiful. Took my breath away how he flexed his neck and cantered around neighing and snorting. His mane was blowing in the breeze and he looked so damn proud of himself. Amazing!!! I whistled at the horse and he immediately came to the railing and gave me his head to pet. Without thinking I said out loud...more to myself really...that I would die to have a horse like this (we had horses when I was young so wasn't a novice around them and can ride) and almost before the sentence was out of my mouth his friend shouted at one of his employees to bring around the horse trailer and load up the horse for me. NO LIE PEOPLE!!! He was smiling from ear to ear and giving orders for this beautiful horse, obviously a prize of his, to be given to ME. My husband had to do some serious refusing to get his friend to change his mind. Not even telling him that we lived in a very tiny house with NO place to keep a horse stopped him..."I will keep him here and you come see him...but he's yours to do with as you please"...was his answer.
Flattered as I was I knew I couldn't accept such a gift. We barely escaped with the friendship still intact he was so upset at my refusal to accept the horse. When it comes to Arabs...that is not the exception...that is the norm. For most of them, what they own is just a loan from God...it doesn't really belong to them and so giving it away isn't viewed the same way as, I'm sure, many Americans would view it...and it truly does upset them when you refuse the gift...not because you are refusing it really but because they feel they now "own" something that really should belong to someone else now (the one that admired it or whatever). It really is hard to explain unless you understand the Arab thought process on this sort of thing. (not all Arabs are like this but it really is a an amazing trait shared by many)
However, on this particular day I had no idea about Arab generosity and was wondering just how much this puppy was going to cost...that is if my husband agreed to buy him. The friend had ordered the puppy and agreed to sell him to the other Bahraini for BD550 (around $1200) as he had to pay to bring him into Bahrain, vet care, papers etc. My heart plummeted because I knew we didn't have that kind of money...least of all for a dog.
Just when I figured all was lost...I saw money changing hands (NOT BD55o either) and the puppy was collected and put into my arms. I was too happy for words and didn't quite understand how he came to be mine so quickly...but I wasn't sticking around for minds to be changed...I practically ran to the car and waited for my husband to come out.
When he did he told me his friend had given the puppy to me as he seen how much I wanted him (WOW) and the BD25 he gave his friend was for the paperwork he would need for vet care and the food he had bought.
I didn't really care about all that...all I cared about was the squirming body, wagging tail, and wet little tongue kissing my face. I actually felt happy for the first time in the 2 weeks I had been in this country. I had a puppy. It was a good day.
We got home and I entered the house remembering what he had said about Muslims and dogs...wondering what they would say. I was determined to keep him upstairs ALL the time if I had too...just taking him out with us when I could. I was pretty damn tense about it but it turns out they were pretty cool about the new member of the family. His mother took the longest to warm up to him...she would never really like him to come into the majlis or anywhere she prayed...so on the rare occasions that he did go downstairs...he just ran back and forth between the doors of the rooms...sticking his head in and grinning at everyone...tongue hanging out and tail wagging.
I named him King and little did I know just then that scrappy little puppy would grow up to be a beautiful copper colored, broad chested, just as regal as his name sounded, with a chest full of long blond hair and an actual mane of hair on his head and down most of his back. Hair that was longer than the rest of his body and which would actually stick up when he was tense or on alert...just like a lion's mane. He was awesome and I loved him a lot.
King did so much for me that first year in Bahrain. I laughed whenever I took him out and this little tiny puppy actually made grown men leap out of the way, falling over themselves to get away from him. His yippy little barks chasing them as they literally fled my little lion. I was amazed that people were so afraid of him...this little puppy that couldn't hurt them if he tried....but it was true what my husband had said about dogs...most Muslims hate them...won't have anything to do with them...and are just plain scared of them because of that.
Remember the story about me and the meat market...well try imagining that same scenario but with me coming in with a puppy in my arms. I went with his sister again and I figured that since cats were in abundance, not to mention the multitude of flies that didn't seem to phase anyone...that a puppy in my arms was no big deal.
I was wrong. It was if I had brought in a rat with the plague or something. Looks of horror were everywhere and people scattered like bowling pins...I seriously wanted to laugh at the complete insanity of it but figured it wasn't the best time for laughter...so retreated back to the car and waited. Never took him there again.
As he grew, his full beauty started to show itself and he was awesome to look at. A real show dog if I had been inclined...or if Bahrain had such things back then. (with the huge influx of foreigners like Brits etc...dogs are more popular in Bahrain now..and they do have shows etc for them) The family became more comfortable with him, the nieces came upstairs to play with him a lot (helping to break some barriers between us) and we took him out with us whenever we could. (he loved chasing the seagulls at the beach or pawing at the crabs).
If there was one drawback to King it was his inability to get along with Indians...or Hindis as Bahrainis called them. I have no idea why he found them intolerable...or even how he knew a Hindi from a Bahraini or any other nationality...but it never fails that if one came to the door and knocked...he turned from a docile loving dog into a ferocious lion...hair all up..mane at attention. He was a sight at times like this...and it took a lot to calm him down...and he never reacted that way to any other people. I never understood it. He also never acted that way outside the house...he was curious about people...and of course they would still flee in horror when he playfully approached them...but he was never vicious with anyone outside our home...only when they came to the house..and only Hindis.
I was very lonely that first year in Bahrain...no friends really..just people he introduced me too but nothing after that. I had little contact with my family then...and spent a great deal of time alone upstairs as already his mother and sister were set on making me as miserable as possible...so King really saved me in many ways. He gave me a reason to get up in the mornings when nothing else really seemed worth it. He made me laugh when laughing was the last thing I felt like doing. He sat beside me on the bed and just having him there was enough to push the loneliness away for awhile.
When my first baby was born...and grew...he allowed her all sorts of indignities with him. She pulled his hair..climbed over him etc and he never so much as raised an eyebrow to her. He was so patient with her and he was still pretty much a puppy at this point..barely a year old...he was a wonderful dog...a wonderful pet...and pretty much my only real companion back then...then one day he was gone.
His father was a rare presence in the house for all the years he was alive back then. He came from work...smoked his pipe and watched the news while eating his dinner...then went to the beach where he sat with friends or tinkered with his boat. I had very little to do with his father in general but he was never mean to me...and on a few occasions even reprimanded his wife and daughter to treat me better as I had left my whole family and country and this family was the only one I had now etc...and he tolerated King for the most part..though spent little time around him.
One night King was barking at something...he usually didn't bark that much and I had no idea why he was barking so much this night. He just wouldn't quit...then suddenly it was all quiet and I assumed he had given up and calmed down so I didn't bother going to check on him (he was outside on the roof) The next morning when I went to bring him in for breakfast he wasn't there. I looked downstairs and he wasn't there either. I asked the nieces where King was...did my husband take him out or something?
They didn't seem to want to answer me and it was awhile before the youngest told me that her grandfather (my FIL) had opened the door in the night and kicked him out because of his barking.
I was shocked. That was MY dog. He had no right to throw MY dog out of the house. I ran upstairs and threw on some clothes with the intention of going out to look for him. It would be the first time I ventured out alone and had no idea where I was going to look etc but I knew I was going...regardless of the consequences. When I stomped downstairs the neices tried to convince me to stay...they were horrified at the idea of me going out alone...but could see I was determined...so one of them came with me.
We walked all over the neighborhood for 2 hours looking for him...we asked boys if they had seen him and were given a mix of information which lead to nothing. It was very hot and I was burning from the sun...but kept searching. My heart was squeezing closed at the idea that I wouldn't be able to find him...that he was lost to me. I knew how the locals treated dogs...especially the boys. Throwing rocks at them or locking them inside make shift enclosures then setting it on fire. I had seen this with dogs and cats...and was horrified at the treatment animals received here...not to mention the police routinely shot dogs they found outside. Most of the time not even bothering to check if the dog was actually dead from the shot...so it wasn't unusual to see wounded dogs...or dogs lying in the street...shot but still alive. Nobody caring about them. I had to find him.
At some point my husband came screeching up in his car...jumped out and stormed over to me...he shouted at me for coming out in the street without him. I felt like a child caught by her parent...he embarrassed me so much in front of all the people looking on. His niece was nearly in tears and we were ordered back to the car. I pleaded with him to let me look for King but he was so mad at me leaving the house that he wouldn't listen to anything I said.
We arrived back at the house and with much door slamming and shouting I was told never to leave the house again without either him or his sister. I was made to feel like a prisoner that had tried to escape. I was mortified and hurried to my room so I wouldn't cry in front of them...and to cry over my lost dog. My companion and friend.
The thing that hurt almost as much as losing my much loved dog...was the fact that my husband said nothing at all to his father about his actions. King was my dog...losing him left a huge hole in my heart. While I wrote this post tears were streaming down my face at the remembered pain I felt then...and apparently still feel...over the loss I suffered. And this loss was only one of many that this family inflicted on me in so many ways. So many times things were taken from me...my identity...my name...my future...my family....my freedom...without so much as a single thought as to how it would make ME feel. I was the last one consulted when another piece of me was ripped off...I was the only one who felt the loss of me...of what belonged to me...of what meant anything to me.
Much of my pain that stems from living in Bahrain comes from the fact that for nearly 20 years...my happiness...my contentment...my hopes and dreams...my very existence...was held in the hands of 3 people (husband, mother in law and sister in law) who cared little if nothing about me, the person. I was a possession to my husband...and an object for abuse from those two women..for what reason I don't know. Losing my dog was not seen as a big deal to anyone but me...because what mattered to me...what hurt me...was inconsequential to them....and that never changed.
I never saw King again...but I've never forgotten him....and my relationship with his father....and with my husband...was never the same after that.