Hurricane Irma has thrown up a lot of stories. Here’s one about a dog.
Some folks are dog people, you know, dogs are everything and can do no wrong. It’s fair to say that my wife and I are not dog people and by that I don’t mean that we hate dogs, just some of them. There is one dog in particular that we really like. Jesse is a Golden Doodle that belongs to a friend and so it was that Jesse just happened to be staying with us when Hurricane Irma came to call.
Now Jesse is a cool dog and during the storm, when she hunkered down in the shower room with my wife, me and our two cats, she was totally calm. Which is good because Jesse is a big dog and having her bounce off the walls of the shower room like a demented bell clapper would have done nothing for morale not to mention the cats who would certainly have gone into full Ninja mode.
Unlike a cat with a small appetite and a litterbox in which to poo, a big dog generates quite a bit of waste and after the storm passed, and although the inside of the apartment looked like someone had tossed a hand grenade into a dumpster, a steaming pile of excrement on the living room floor was to be avoided.
Allegedly, there were armed gangs of looters on the prowl at night, which isn’t good news when a big dog needs to go outside to dump
The island was under 24 hour curfew.
I’d managed to sneak the dog out a couple of times during the day when she’d gratefully answered the call, and she was doing really well until three o’clock one morning when legs crossed she came sidewinding across the room and woke me up, making it obvious that last evening’s dinner was about to reappear on the living room floor.
The night was still, black and deathly quiet after the gunfire of early evening. I looked out from our third floor balcony at what was left of the roofs opposite, their twisted rafters stark against the night sky like shattered angels’ wings in a forgotten grave yard.
Shadows piled upon shadows. In the debris nothing moved.
Jesse began to whimper. The sensible thing was to get her to poop on a sheet of newspaper or just follow her around and go with the necessary cleanup.
Instead, we headed for the door.
I grabbed the flare gun, which normally lives on the boat, and checked the 12 gauge cartridge. Not a distress flare but this time a rubber bullet. Pushing the gun down my belt, Dirty Gary and his attack hound Jesse headed for the door.
My wife wasn’t happy but a dog has to do what a dog has to do.
Down three flights of stairs in stygian darkness. Not a sound but my whispered breath and a relieved panting from the end of the leash ahead.
Outside, the oppressive heat of the apartment melted, washed away by the chill night air. It was liberating.
Jesse did her business, her tongue lolling contentedly.
I stood on the salt-burned grass and Jesse sat at my side. In the total blackness of an island devoid of artificial light, we gazed at the stars dusting the sky from horizon to horizon. A precious moment of beauty against a backdrop of devastation rudely interrupted by a shiver of fear.
We were breaking curfew and there were people around who could do us harm. The sensible thing was to return to the safety of our locked apartment as fast as possible.
All my life I have pushed things, tested things, fought against fear of the unknown.
I pushed now and decided to take a walk.
Across the parking lot and over the remains of the wall knocked flat by 200 mph winds and an eight-foot tidal surge we went, stepping into a surreal world that up to a few days ago was the main Marigot road.
To left and right lay bent and twisted alien forms silent in their destruction. Again I felt the cold ripple of fear and below it something more disturbing, the first shiver of excitement.
We had made it this far, let’s go a little further.
Together we walked the road like something from Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalypse novel only I wasn’t walking through an apocalyptic world holding the hand of my young son, I was holding the leash of our friend’s Golden Doodle.
After a hundred yards my nerves tingled and alarm bells rang in my head. It was time to heed the warnings.
We turned and hurried towards the same piece of broken wall that would lead us back to the safety of our apartment.
That’s when Jesse decided to lay down.
I didn’t hear the vehicle as it coasted up behind us. A beast without lights that suddenly came on and held us in their powerful beams like two rabbits on a country road.
My heart slammed into my ribs. My mind screamed run. Dragging a dog that has decided to lay down in the middle of the road is not conducive to a sprint start.
This happened in a Nano second and all I could think was please don’t hurt the dog, she’s not mine and our friend will never forgive me.
I heard the car doors open.
My hand edged towards the butt of the flare gun and I made ready to turn around … when the flashing blue lights came on and four very angry, heavily armed gendarmes, cursing man and dog in a torrent of French, made it quite clear we were going to jail for breaking curfew and putting our lives at risk.
After much shouting and gesticulating, and having scared us half to death, they settled for escorting us back to our apartment all the while cussing and muttering in a mix of English and French, “Mon Dieu, next time, next time.”
Secretly, I think they were dog people.
Note: This wasn’t the last time that Jesse and I had a run in with the Gendarmes. There was more to come.