Sniff, sniff….whine. Whimper.
Haitian dogs. I didn’t even notice them when I first arrived. They’re the color of street dirt. Diminutive, scruffy; a 7th grade English teacher’s iconic example of the word mangy.
All day, they’re easy to miss. You can mistake them for chunks of street that move occasionally. But at night, things change. The creature’s inner-dog hits center stage.
Weirdly, the dogs don’t start barking until approximately 10:30 pm. Until then, the falling night settles gently, still and quiet; filled with color and culture and maybe even possibility. Around that time I start thinking ahead to tomorrow’s impending 6:30 wake-up, and so prepare to slip peacefully into my Kelty sleeping bag liner.
Before I settle in, I brush my teeth carefully with bottled water. Even more carefully I hover over the “toilet” and perform an intricate dance I fondly refer to as urifecation. I then crawl into my hut and proceed to wipe myself down with WetOnes, donated unknowingly by my 3-year old son to remove the constant grimy feeling of DEET all over my body.
Refreshed, I settle into my little sleeping hide-away, exhausted from a day of genuinely hard, hot work. With a final ZZZZZIITT, I close my bug hut, and congratulate myself. I think I helped people today. I did good work. I deserve some relaxation, right? Clinic from 8 ’till headlamps with only a break for lunch entitles a guy to some well-earned rest–
No problem. He probably saw a cat, or rat, or rooster or goat or sheep or donkey or cow in the street. Now he’ll shu–
BARK! BARK! BARK!B ARK!BA RK….inhale…BAR K!B ARK! BA RKB ARKB ARKBA RK!
After a few hours of this, strange things happened to my mind. I started examining the dark and variegated contours of the bark itself. I sorted out the staccato syllables, found the edges, sounded them out…repeated them backwards, tried them on upside-down. I imagined the sound coming out of the mouth of a cat, my mother, President Obama, the butt-end of an oversized hippo.
The barking seemed to be led by a leader-dog. A kingpin. The Don of our village – Thomaseau. And by 2am I was certain the thing lived in my tent. Squashed into my 1-man nylon dome, somewhere between my navel and ankles; seemingly quite happy to communicate with the island at large in an endless stream of dog-talk.
I think my mind truly warped after hours of this auditory battering-ram, especially because it would stop just long enough to make me think it was over…and then begin again. My rather deep love of dogs dissolved into highly sophisticated methods of unapologetic canninicide. Here’s a few:
Ativan hot dogs.
A giant STOMP from my foot that seemed to grow to a size 38 in my mind.
A kind pat followed by a yank of the muzzle in a 200 degree arc.
Gratefully, I learned that the dog – even the Grand Poobah of Thomaseau – usually cuts it off around 0300. By then of course, he’s hoarse and worn out, but at least he has some sense of propriety.
Nearly delirious, I instantly slip into sleep.
Until I realize that the dog has awakened the roosters.
An hour later they wake up the goats. If you can’t sleep with barking dogs, forget sleeping through opinionated goats (think the Gorgon Sisters dismembering rabbits).
Around 5:30 or so, a group of some type of religion appears on the street corner right outside our sleeping area. Megaphone in hand, they preach directly at us, often with accompanying gaudy singing. Their message, most likely, had to do with my current pitiful spiritual state. Clearly they do not understand that they were preaching to the converted.
No question, I am damned.
Somewhere in the course of my day, I think I mentioned the word ‘entitled’. If I didn’t say it, I believed it. I worked hard, I was now entitled to something. Sleep, maybe. Or money. Or success. Or happiness. That’s the American way, right? Work hard (or steal intelligently), and get happiness.
Not in Haiti. You aren’t even entitled to sleep. Nothing is earned there…only gotten – if you’re lucky. I didn’t get that kind of luck until Thursday…assisted by more-than-responsible doses of Haitian rum. People say the dogs barked and preachers megaphoned that night, too, but this time I slept right through all of it. Just like a Haitian.