For a long time, whenever Derek has been sick, my butler Jean Paul (q.v. March 2014 post dedicated to him) offers to heal him by “cutting his ears”. I never really understood what he meant by that, but I realized it was some canine equivalent to the Dagara (JP’s ethnic group) traditional healing method. For this, I always told Jean Paul that, no, I’ll call the vet and solve this like the civilized, 21st century, first world medicine proponent I am.
Last week Derek was pretty sick, he was refusing to eat and was laying around more often than usual. I gave him medicine from the vet but the next morning he seemed even worse. Jean Paul was over and offered to cut his ears, but I kind of laughed it off and said I’d talk to the vet. To clarify, I never actually flat out told Jean Paul that his Dagara traditional healing wouldn’t work on my American dog, partly because I don’t want to offend him or be culturally insensitive, but mainly because I know he won’t believe me. He has two dogs at his house and whenever they get sick he “cuts their ears” and they feel better within a couple of days. So I said we’d keep and eye on Derek and went inside to eat. Jean Paul left for a bit then came back in and told me he’d done it.
Now, when most people who have dogs imagine someone else slicing the tips of their dog’s ears with a razor, they probably imagine the anger they would feel and express towards that person. But I’ll tell you now that in the moment when you open your courtyard door and your dog looks back at you, blood dripping and sinking into the sand to both sides of his face from the tips of his traditionally healed ears, there’s nothing you can do but sit at his side and tell him it’s going to be OK. That you’re sorry you weren’t more straightforward with the person who did this to him.
I felt guilty about this for a while: was it my fault for « laughing off » Jean Paul’s ear cutting methods and not looking right at him to say, “No, we will not cut Derek”? And afterward, why didn’t I flip out at him? I should have told him that his actions only put Derek in more pain and that I was really upset with him. But I know he wouldn’t have understood. He was trying to help my dog and his only way to do so was to go ahead with his healing technique even after I asked him not to. No amount of yelling or arm flailing will grow back the tips of Derek’s ears, and I think in that moment, it meant more to my dog to be by his side than it would have meant to Jean Paul to be in his face with anger.
The more pain Derek goes through (be it castrations or Dagara scarifications or 3rd-world country animal abuse), the more connected I feel to him and the more I realize that I might owe him a ticket to the USA when all this is over. Besides, I need someone to hike the Appalachian trail with me. After all he’s been through, I think that’s what he deserves.