Perhaps this post from Lisa McKay in Laos (who is technically now in Australia, awaiting the birth of her first less-hairy, human baby) should be THE ONE THAT WAS ALMOST THE ONE... It is a hilarious discussion between husband and wife on the merits of acquiring a Samoyed in the tropics of Laos. Their debate reminds me a bit of this post gone viral by the Bloggess on what happens when lines are drawn in the marital sand. Luckily, Lisa and Mike handle this in a way that doesn't involve a giant wire rooster, and ends instead with their local mutt named Zulu. You can read about him here in It’s a boy.
Lisa first wrote to me when we lost Jonah last January, professing her love for Newfs and the impracticality of owning one in Laos. I confessed that for eighteen months, I kept my original Newf Dakota in the Cayman Islands, shaved to the skin and sunscreened. I am enjoying her blog postings and expat musings, looking forward to hearing about her newest adventure: motherhood. Enjoy her guest spot below and be sure to check out links to more dog tales...
Friendly companions from Siberia
It’s been three months since we moved to Laos, one month since we moved into our house, and one week since our neighbor’s computer was stolen. His front door is less than ten steps away and when he left his door unlocked and went out in the middle of the day last week someone strolled up, let themselves in, picked up his laptop and took off. I was likely sitting right next door when this happened.
Mike and I were less than thrilled when we learned about this. We really like our house here in Luang Prabang. All the toilets and air conditioners and taps are working now (as are some of the hot water heaters) and it’s beautiful, really. Downstairs is just one large, tiled, space. In the middle of the room are two gothic pillars – I call it the ballroom. From one end of the ballroom a curved wooden staircase sweeps up to the second floor. It’s all very Gone With The Wind.
Even the windows – draped with gold tasseled curtains – are beautiful. But it’s a bit of a shame that we didn’t fully realize until after we’d moved in that one of the reasons they are beautiful is because they are not obscured by burglar bars. Or that the locks on these clear panes of glass are, shall we say… flimsy. Or that there’s no easy way to secure them from the inside because all the windows in the house (all nineteen of them) open from both ends.
So in light of recent events, we’ve decided that we really do need to get a dog, and this weekend we started trying to figure out how to do that.
Most people in Laos, it seems, get their nice big dogs from Thailand or China, but on Sunday we got a tip. There is one place in town that sells dogs, a friend told us. If we went right at the petrol station and down past the first roundabout we’d see a small shop selling bonsai trees. That was the place.
So on Sunday we went looking for bonsai trees, hoping they’d lead us to puppies. And sure enough, they did. In the back room of the bonsai store, in a wire cage, was a beautiful ball of white fluff that licked my fingers and batted my wrist with her paws and tried her best to climb out of the cage and into my arms.
“Awwww,” I said. “Awwwww.”
“What is that?” Mike asked.
“It looks like a husky,” I said.
The bonsai-dog seller couldn’t speak any English but he bought out a book and pointed proudly to a picture of a very large, very furry, white dog. This adorable little bundle was a Samoyed. And she cost three hundred US dollars.
“What is a Samoyed doing here?” Mike asked.
“She’s so cute,” I said.
“Yes,” Mike said. “She’s a very cute puppy that’s going to grow into a big hot muddy ball of tangled fur. What is a Samoyed, anyway?”
“I think they’re sled dogs,” I said.
“Obviously,” Mike said, nudging me out of the store. “Because it makes total sense to import a sled dog to Laos.”
I think Mike thought that was the end of that conversation. Silly Mike.
When we got home later that day I looked up Samoyeds.
“The Samoyed comes initially from Siberia,” I said, looking across the kitchen table and Mike at smiling guilelessly. “She’s a long way away from home… just like us.”
“Siberia,” Mike said. “What else does it say?”
I foolishly continued reading the Wikipedia entry out loud without editing anything out. “Samoyed’s have a dense double layer coat. The undercoat consists of soft and short fur that keeps the dog warm. The undercoat is typically shed heavily once or twice a year. This does not mean the Samoyed will only shed during that time however; fine hairs (versus the clumps of top coat shed during seasonal shedding) will be shed all year round, and have a tendency to stick to cloth and float in the air.”
Mike gestured to the ballroom behind us. “Are you seeing it?” he asked. “I want you to picture the whole room full of white hair floating in the air.”
“That is what we have a maid for,” I said. “We were just saying we didn’t have enough for her to do.”
Mike looked at me with narrowed eyes.
“This is not a good idea,” he said.
“Nomadic reindeer herders bred the fluffy white dogs to help with herding and to pull sleds. She’s a working dog,” I said, starting to build my case. “She can work for us.”
“What we need is a guard dog,” Mike said.
“Well…” I said, scanning down the wikipedia entry, “it doesn’t actually seem that she’d excel in that domain.”
“What does it say?” Mike said.
“Samoyeds’ friendly disposition makes them poor guard dogs; an aggressive Samoyed is rare. But,” I rushed to keep reading as Mike started laughing. “Samoyeds are excellent companions, especially for small children, and they remain playful into old age. When Samoyeds become bored they…”
I stopped reading.
“Go on,” Mike said, still laughing.
“They may begin to dig. And herd things.” I finished lamely.
“But they are excellent, friendly, companions,” I reminded him, trying to regain some ground.
“And you live in such an affection vacuum that you’re in desperate need of friendly companions,” Mike said.
“She and I would understand each other,” I said. “We both thrive in cool climates. She could sit beside me under the air conditioner at the kitchen table. She could lie on my feet and keep me company.”
“Right,” Mike said. “Because that’s exactly what you’d want – a giant furball lying on your already overheated feet in the tropics.”
“Well,” I amended, “she could lie beside my feet. And occasionally she could reach out and lick my good foot. Gently.”
“Of course she would,” Mike said. “Of course. Only your good foot. And only gently. And I can see it now – this shedding ball of fluff who wants to dig and herd and who hates the heat and that we’ve said we’ll train to stay downstairs. You’ll go upstairs to work in the study and feel sorry for the hot little Samoyed downstairs and you’ll leave the air conditioner on for her.”
“No I wouldn’t!” I said, shocked. Then I thought about how hot it can get downstairs and I amended. “Well, maybe, on very hot days. For she would be a friendly companion.”
“No,” Mike said.
Late last night, right before we went to sleep, I rolled over to Mike and cuddled up to him lovingly.
“Friendly companion,” I whispered in his ear.
“Guard dog,” Mike said. “She’d herd an intruder right to our computers and lick him along the way for good measure. Besides, who buys a three hundred dollar dog in this town?”
Then he laughed. “I know exactly who buys them. Men who are incapable of standing up to their wives, that’s who.”
“Friendly. Companion.” I said in my most alluring voice.
“Go to sleep,” Mike said.
In the end, we did not end up getting that darling little Samoyed, but we did end up acquiring an adorable mutt we named Zulu. If you would like to know more about our adventures with Zulu here in Laos you can follow these links for more of this story: