A Winter’s Tale: Mandeville, Louisiana

red berriesI walk with my dog nearly every day. We often head for a sparsely occupied business park that neighbors wooded areas. The weather has been unusually warm, so we see lots of color, some in-season and some out-of season. Yesterday, I was able to enjoy nature as my dog ran about among the empty fields and under-used buildings. There really is no dramatic tale for me to write, as nature itself provided the material. Feel free to interpret or insert your own dialogue. I concluded with another’s thoughts on the beauty around us.

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Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? St. Augustine. 

This post is linked to Sundays in My City, whose host is Unknown Mami.

The Dog in St. Tammany Parish (Sundays In My City)

The Dog has been a big part of my life since I moved back to the US from Honduras nearly a year ago. He’s longer needed as a guard dog, but I have tried to give him a somewhat meaningful life as a companion animal. Since the US is more calm in many respects than Honduras, we actually take long walks in our parish (county in other parts of the nation).

He has a calmer persona than the machissimo attitude he portrayed in Latin America. If he were running for office, I think his new attitude would go further in the polls long-term than the loud stuff he used as his signature style in the past. Another thing to note, I don’t think he would approve of laws in the South that prohibit hunting with dogs for most of the season. He takes it personally when he can’t pursue to the end a deer, squirrel, or gator run or even the occasional lunge at the annoying gringa in the neighborhood.

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The Dog at Fountainebleau State Park
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The Dog at Bogue Chitto State Park
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The Dog at Hunting Lodge
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The Dog behind English Tea Room
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Shop in Covington, Louisiana. No dog in picture because he’s not interested in weapons. The Dog can’t get a hunting or fishing license, either.

The pSIMCost is linked to Sundays In My City, which is sponsored by Unknown Mami.

 

The Noise-Maker

The Dog
The Dog

Ask anyone who has visited my home whether in the US or in Honduras about their first impression of their visit, and invariably, their first response is concerning The Dog. He’s a classic black and tan German shepherd, uncommonly large but not fat, weighing 100 pounds or over.

Not to brag, but he’s quite a stand-out. Just a few days ago, I stopped for gas with the dog in the backseat. As I parked, two ladies walking from inside the store approached, began to speak excitedly, noting what a beautiful dog he is.  A man in a pick-up paused momentarily, flashing a smile filled with gold teeth, nodding his agreement to the assessment that the ladies pronounced over my canine.

Earlier that same day, I stopped for breakfast, driving through a take-out window at a local fast-food joint. The woman at the window exclaimed at The Dog reclining on the backseat, and she held up the serving line by calling other employees to view the marvel in my car. I sometimes tire of the accolades he receives because it’s largely due to genetics and good kibble.

He’s more than big and showy.

The Dog is uncommonly loud.

When he guarded my residence in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he barked with such a tenor that a brass fellow on a shelf inside the house regularly lost his horn due to the bark of this massive dog. Grown men, even men with guns who guarded the neighborhood, reluctantly approached my home with multiple reassurances that The Dog was out of harm’s way. When I moved to Louisiana, a woman who lived on the next street complained that his early morning reveille bounced sound waves off her house.

Once, since moving to the US, he opened the door (he can open levered doors) to the laundry room where he was being held, and he ambled into the kitchen to say hello to my sister. My nearly sixty-year-old sister leaped four feet onto a high stool in one quick move, then climbed onto the countertop, showing her prowess in yoga as well respect for The Dog. She does have osteoporosis, so I am concerned about future leaps.

Do I love The Dog? Of course, I do. Is he the best dog on the street?  No, he is not. His temperament is tricky. Although he’s never bitten anyone, he’s had scarce opportunity to do so since his bark (as well as the occasional lunge) first attracts then repels people or animals. He has to be restrained for the sake of peace when in public.

Donald Trump speaks at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor MD on February 27, 2015. (Photo by Jeff Malet)
The Donald (Photo by Jeff Malet)

Thus said, I wouldn’t vote for The Donald.  His temperament is tricky.

Fountainebleau State Park (Sundays In My City)

Last Sunday, the day dawned misty, cool, and foggy. I went for a walk with my dog in Fountainebleau State Park, on the outskirts of Mandeville, Louisiana. We almost were completely alone in the shroud of fog and mist on the edge of Lake Pontchartrain.  In the mist, we discovered several groupings of does, most near the sugar mill ruins of the great plantation that once sat on these lands.

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10847402_10200470597404934_8826223533925336649_oI saw more deer nearer the lake, but I only had a camera phone, not a camera with a scope lens. Besides I had a large German shepherd on a leash, so I decided against walking closer for more shots. These two will have to suffice.

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This tree’s wonderment cannot be captured by any lens, I am convinced. At least I cannot capture its essence. It’s beauty in its tortured, hurricane driven stance is impossible to see without pausing in wonder.

Maybe the Anglican hymn popularized in the All Things Bright And Beautiful series of James Herriot books captures the spirit of this majestic place better than most words.

All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all

He gave us eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell, how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.

SIMC

Sundays in My City is sponsored by Unknown Mami. 

The Americans

AmericansWhen I lived in Honduras, I tried to ignore the phrase Americans when well-meaning visitors from the United States referred to themselves. In reality, Hondurans, indeed, all of us born in the 2 continents of the New World are Americans. Yet, the word, Americans, is used by people worldwide to refer to people of the United States of America. I moved back to my passport country in mid-2014 after nearly a decade of living in Central America. My assimilation is almost complete.

I am an American. Need proof?

I don’t walk to buy groceries, buy a meal, or visit friends. Ever. I live less than a mile from a dollar store and an excellent cafe. I have friends about a 1/2 mile away. The highways I need to use to access these locales have no shoulders, and the speed limit is 45 mph. Even driving on this highway can be dangerous, so walking is out of the question.

In Honduras, the small store that was yards away from my home had almost everything one needed, from buying time on my cell phone to most household and first aid supplies. We had an excellent lunch cafe in the plaza three blocks away from my house. My best friend often walked the 10 minutes walk to visit or borrow something. 

I pay high insurance premiums on everything, including my house, car, and myself. I can’t drive without insurance, I can’t get a mortgage without it, and I am fined if I don’t buy health insurance. In Honduras, I lived without any of these, as the cost of replacement, injury, etc was minimal.

My dog takes anxiety medication. My vet prescribed Xanax for my fur beast yesterday. She offered Prozac, too, but I don’t think BuBu is covered under Blue Cross/Blue Shield. I think he would have preferred to relieve stress by chasing and eating the neighbor’s cat, but we don’t do those things in America. When I posted on Facebook about the dog’s current malady, I had 55 comments. People prayed for my pup. If I had been sick myself, I doubt if I would have garnered more than half dozen “likes.”

In Honduras, my dog caught and ate a few toes off of the neighbor’s parrot. We were not faulted, as the parrot thought foolishly he would hop over and take dips in my pool. I strongly suspect he bit the head off of a curious cat, too. Animals were treated as pets or working animals, not as family members. 

Time to log off and finish paperwork so that a highly paid CPA can submit my taxes. The IRS, though, is not limited to taking my money in the US. They take their share wherever I chose to live, as long as I am a US citizen.

Bubu’s Incredible Voyage

When I moved to the US from Honduras in mid-2014, I had to decide where my dog, Bubu, was going to live. It was going to be costly and impractical to get him to the US. I resolved to find a home for my large German shepherd in Honduras.

Then, someone contacted me via a Facebook group for expatriates. She had a friend who was driving to Texas from Honduras. Would I be interested in lending my dog to Kevin?

Kevin had lived in Honduras, working with the indigenous Miskito population. Now, he was back in Texas, but he made frequent trips to Honduras. He was going back alone.

It was a dangerous voyage. On the way south on his latest trip, he had encounters with bandits in Guatemala and Mexico. Kevin thought a German shepherd would make an ideal companion for a solo driver.

So, off went Bubu. Our trips were not at the same time. I was flying at the end of July. Kevin Bubu's first journeyleft Honduras nearly 30 days earlier.

I learned Bubu had been useful to Kevin in Central America. They hadn’t faced bandits, but he had nearly broke a window in Kevin’s truck trying to take out Guatemalan border agents. In the struggle, Bubu had broken through his leash and leather halter.

Guatemalan authorities didn’t check the dog’s papers or Kevin’s, for that matter. The same thing happened in Mexico. My dog reacts strongly to guns and uniforms.

When Kevin reached home, he went inside to greet his family, and the dog jumped out, too. When Kevin came out a few minutes later, Bubu was seated in the truck grinning.  Kevin’s children love him. They want one of his puppies if I decide to breed him.

second journey of BubuBuBu stayed in Denton, Texas for a month. I picked up Bubu in Senatobia, Mississippi. Bubu had escorted Kevin’s wife to visit family. Senatobia is in spitting distance of Memphis, Tennessee. It was another long journey for Bubu from north Mississippi to south Louisiana.

third journey If you should visit, be warned. I own a German shepherd.

The charts on the side of this post show my pet’s journey. According to Google, Bubu spent about 54 hours in transit,16125_4762075707282_3255134093102763171_n not counting time spent in border crossings or rest stops. He loves riding in vehicles.