Monday, May 19, 2014

Woosha Alwedim

I hate our dog.

I needed to write that to see how it felt. It actually doesn't feel good to hate another creature, even if that creature, a chihuahua-terrier mix whom Anemo named "Softy," makes me crazy. It's not the high-pitched barking, or the pee pads and feces on the floor, or the black hair on every blanket and pillow we own, or even the incessant need to keep doors closed and everything out of reach. It's the staring. I just don't know what to do with all that staring. I make myself a snack in the kitchen and she stares. I leave the house to do an errand and she's staring at the door when I return. I sit on the couch to do some work and she stares, trying to figure out how to climb up or whether she has the strength to make the leap. Once I had the idea to start a blog on dog training from the perspective of someone who doesn't like dogs. It seemed like an interesting niche at the time. I'm glad I let it pass.

I'm just not a dog person. But Anemo is. At least he is now. When he first arrived from Ethiopia, dogs terrified him. (More on why in a moment.)

Dogs can make me nervous too. I've been a little panicky each Friday walking through a scary gate up to my Amharic lesson with Lulit. This past Friday during my third lesson, I finally asked Lulit about her dog. I had assumed it was sleeping each time I arrived.
Lulit's clever ruse.
Turns out there is no dog. Lulit received the sign from a departing neighbor with the advice to use it to keep people from walking through her property. Lulit and I then spent most of the lesson talking in Amharic about dogs, with Lulit introducing relevant vocabulary along the way. For instance, I was particularly motivated to learn to say "I don't like dogs" (which serves as the title of this blog post).

I found out that Lulit, on the other hand, loves dogs, and that she had one named Lula in Addis Ababa as a child. Still, Lulit treats dogs with caution when she returns to visit her family in Addis. She said that not only is rabies a serious issue, but also the way people keep their dogs can promote vicious behavior. She explained dogs are often tied up all day and let loose only at night to protect the property. Lulit's sister was attacked by such a dog when she was young and still doesn't like to be around any canine species. Once, during a gathering of California adoptive families with Ethiopian children, Suzanne and I met a woman whose son was orphaned after his birth mother died from a rabid dog's bite. No wonder Anemo was so afraid of dogs when he first arrived.

As Lulit was telling me about how her brother in Addis owned five German shepherds, I noticed a word she used ("Bezu woosha"=Lots of dogs) sounded like the beginning of Lulit's last name, Bezuayehu. "Ahhh," she said, as if I'd unlocked a secret code. "Bezuayehu means 'I've seen a lot," she continued. "[My father] was born during the war with the Italians and that's why his mom called him Bezuayehu. ... In my parents' age—even now sometimes—names are picked based on what the parents are going through or what the child means to them in their life." Lulit's mother's name is Allemnesh, meaning 'You are the world,' because she was the only girl in the family. However, the mother's name does not get passed down. Only male names persist genealogically. In fact, in formal documents, the father's first name and the grandfather's first name get placed after the child's first name. Lulit told me her passport reads Lulit Bezuayehu Tesfaye ('My Hope') while her father's reads Bezuayehu Tesfaye Ballacho. So, at least among the Amhara, descent is reckoned patrilineally in Ethiopia, and I learned this by hearing about LOTS of dogs.

Our family will never have lots of animals or even lots of children. Suzanne and I started the adoption process again for a second Ethiopian child but we had to abandon that plan when I was diagnosed with a second brain tumor in 2011. It is still within the realm of possibility to adopt again despite ineligibility for a few years after chemotherapy, but it becomes less likely with each passing month.

That's why, even though she drives me nuts, I actually love Softy. She's been a faithful companion for Anemo, jumping on him when he returns from school, chasing tennis balls he throws, and cuddling with him each night. She's also played the role of little brother with amazing fidelity, destroying elaborate Lego creations Anemo has displayed with pride on shelves clearly too low. Most importantly, even when Anemo is too embarrassed to admit he loves either of his parents (which is pretty much all the time), he can always say without hesitation that he loves his dog Softy.
Anemo and Softy at our local dog park.

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