Daniel Thwaites | Doggone delightful
We are quite ambivalent about dawgs. In street lingo, among the highest praise one thug will extend to another is that "Him is mi dawg!", meaning that they are 'cumbolo', of the same breed and gang, friends and compatriots, with a bond as strong as a 'tump' from Natalie Neita - strong indeed.
On the other hand, the dawg is also the very lowest creature, and to call someone a dawg is the heights of contempt. Thus, "Yuh is dutty dawg" is reserved for the lowest of the low. And a Jamaican is dripping with anger and resentment, and the perpetrator had better hire armed protection, when the following words fall from their lips: "Dem treat wi like dawg!"
The ambivalence is everywhere to be seen in the treatment of dogs and dawgs. There are the pampered poodles and pomeranians that are growing in popularity and can be found in every sort of neighbourhood. These are kept inside and generously fed and watered. They are manicured and pedicured, bathed and brushed, combed and cosseted.
And then there are the likkle brown dawgs that are left outside to generally fend for themselves. These get the scraps, if there are any, and never get bathed or cared for very much. They are the field slaves of the dawg world, and not much emotional energy is spent if one is hit by a car, goes missing, or is the subject of cruelty by a passing maniac. I've heard that some drivers deliberately aim to hit and kill these animals if they see them on the roads, as a morbid kind of pest control.
RACE AND CLASS DIMENSIONS
So as in everything on our island, we have to keep attuned to the race and class dimensions of these disparate treatments. And they are stark!
Still, I know many owners who have lovingly cared for their low-caste, mixed-breed canines, and provided that the mongrel isn't a good-fi-nutten, it returns the love with unending yapping and much tail wagging.
Did you know that the dog is mankind's first domestication? For years there was fierce debate about who the evolutionary ancestors of the dogs were, but modern science has settled the matter. They descend from wolves, which probably hovered around the campfires of primitive man. A strong bond was forged around that fire, where now the dog has evolved to think of himself as part of the human pack.
So where is all this going? In the midst of all the sour news coming out of St James, I was delighted to read a report from the indomitable Janet Silvera about the home-grown charity called Animal Haven of Love. It is the brainchild of Tammy Browne, who I hereby nominate for some national award. Over to you, Bredda Andrew.
Let's set the context. In the wake of building grief and outrage that St James parish sports a murder rate that would shock warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Government has finally declared a state of public emergency. It was the right thing to do, and I hope the country reaps improved results. I should also add that Security Minister Bobby Montague gave what I thought was an unusually candid and mature report to Parliament this week on the operations in St James. That was when he also apologised for calling on his obeah uncle and emphasised that he isn't a devil worshipper. Whew! That's good to know.
Anyhow, this may be a case where someone is growing in the job. As well it could be that there are some jobs that are so strenuous and taxing that a man must grow into it one way or another.
But back to the dawgs. The headline ran: 'Rejected mongrels find new life abroad - Animal lover secures homes overseas for dogs abandoned locally', and it touches a topic that is very dear to me. You see, the fate of the 'Jamaican brown dawg', which I have always advocated is a separate and distinct breed, is something that has occupied my mind.
But unlike those of us who only worry about the fate of the breed and the appalling treatment it often gets from locals, Tammy Browne has joined good thoughts with noble action, and I am thoroughly impressed. Not to mention that I feel empowered, on behalf of the Jamaica-browns everywhere, to express sincere thanks.
"A little bit of love is all they need, so the first thing we did was to rename them 'Royal Caribbean Terriers' and gave them their own Facebook page. The response has been tremendously awesome," Browne tells The Gleaner.
That term - "the Royal Caribbean Terrier" - will give me joy for years to come. Gracias!
Let's pause and realise what's going on here. These Royal Caribbean Terriers (RCTs) are getting their visas - better, their green cards - and flying out to live in posh luxury in the USA, Canada, and England. Oh, the sweet irony. More than 200 have gone already. Thirty have gone this year, and six went last Tuesday. I think of it as another instance where Jamaicans are taking off for their own benefit, but also to improve matters overseas. And we are renowned for our prowess in the caring, health and comfort industries. The RCTs are continuing in a long line of excellence.
Do I have to add the following? Please support and give help to this great cause. I'm sure the charity would appreciate a check. But you can also assist by even just by being kind to the brown dawg - sorry, the Royal Caribbean Terrier - in yuh yard, or the one you might pass on the street.
- Daniel Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.