Friday, April 8, 2011

A Boy and His (Neighbor's) Dog

The wag of a tail. A lick on my hand. This is how I was greeted upon arrival to Nepal.

Technically, I suppose I was first greeted by a Nepali immigration officer and then my wife at the Tribhuvan International Airport. Neither one licked my hand, for the record. That happened later when the car, groaning under the weight of my luggage, pulled up for the first time to what would be my new home in Kathmandu. And there he was as I opened the car door, as if eager to say, "Hello. Welcome to the neighborhood and this great country. May I nuzzle on your thigh and bother you to scratch behind my ears?"

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I was a bit hesitant at first, but Claudine assured me that this was a neighbor dog and therefore a bit less threatening or at least less feral than one of Kathmandu's ubiquitous street dogs. I relaxed, gave him a pet, and a friendship was born. I assume he agreed because he followed me into our garden gate and tried to make his way into the house. We chuckled and ushered him out. Not on the first date, sly guy. Let's get to know each other first.

In the intervening weeks, our friendship grew. He began to respond to our calls on the street. We named him Thimpu, which he seemed to like, although I, too, would respond to anything while being showered with such love and attention. We met his owners, our next-door neighbors, and asked them in our best Nepali what they call the dog. esko naam ke ho? Response, in broken English: "We call him...Michael." Claudine and I have long had a laugh imagining totally normal human names for animals and pets: a bird named Jessica, a guinea pig named Margaret. Claudine named her childhood cat after her favorite lifeguard Courtney, so there is some precedent for this. And now, a dog named Michael. We doubled over laughing. We'll stick with Thimpu, if you don't mind.

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I don't think he does.

Recently, while Claudine and I were in the middle of a Nepali lesson at home, Thimpu unexpectedly entered the house. He was of course nonchalant about it, as if he just belonged there. I can't say I minded when he curled up at my feet. He must have picked up on our permissive vibe because he has become more insistent about coming into our garden gate. With increasing frequency we oblige him.

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He loves to roll around in the grass, a rare treat in this dusty, grass-starved city. At his home there is no grass yard, so we've noticed he's partial to lounging on the home's roof four stories up (Ke$ha says "Hot. and. Dangerous."). When in our yard he often tries to return indoors, even though he's been told repeatedly it's forbidden.

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Maybe the language barrier is an issue. We find ourselves practicing our Nepali on him, and I suppose there is always room for improvement. raamro kukur.

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That's "good dog" in Nepali. I think.

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