Even in Honduras dogs flock to me. They are not the coddled and spoiled pooches I have left at home but skinny black mongrels Beethoven and Pantera. They are loved but not like children, more like instruments of defense.
Beethoven is ill. He is very skinny and has a leg that he won’t let touch the ground. Nena believes someone hit him in one of his wonderings outside of the yard. At first he was terrified of me, scurrying off the patio when I came outside. And Pantera, protective of her ailing brother, barked and howled at me once.
Until I shared my semita with them. Now I have two friends that sit as I write in the corner of the patio. Pantera just walked over to kiss my feet before ambling to her place at the foot of the armchair her brother is curled up on.
They are well fed and treated – better than some of La Ceiba’s children. It is one of the great ironies of life that I grapple with. My dogs sleep in their own beds and can count on me to give them two walks a day. fresh water to drink, food to eat or ignore, and treats when they obey. They fall asleep next to me, under my head, on my belly, and manipulate me with mischief into bribing them with sausage to behave.
And more than 300 million of the world’s children are without food, without water, without love, without protection and have no shelter.
This is why I get impatient with yuppy environmentalists who protest against dolphin parks and other forms of animal captivity. Do they not realize that in the wild many of these animals will die brutal deaths on the food chain? Do they not realize that in captivity they have a life of protection and provision that would be the envy of a large percentage of the world’s children?
One moment on my night of Flor de Caña haunts me today. A little boy, shivering with cold in a clinging wet shirt four times his size came up to the window on the other side of the baleada stand when we stopped at La Línea. As the lady prepared our baleadas on one side, his face appeared like a ghost, muddy and full of need. I dug through everything – pockets, purse, brassiere – secret stash for safety sake – trick learned in Jamaica from my daddy who uses the far less fresh hiding place of his socks. I found change enough to give him, yet not enough to make him the target of bigger urchins, and added it to the collection Boris was taking. It was handed to the silent little ghost through the window, cracked just enough for it to pass but not enough to let the rain in.
Beethoven has just stood up on his three legs and is barking an answer to some very chatty birdsong in the guava tree. One leg out of commission, he is still the boss of this yard and dedicated to his job.
So much of me is being wasted. The thought turns over and over in my mind. I wait for the time when my children will be born and my family begun, but perhaps it is not God’s will. There is a call deep in me to take a child home, to clothe him, feed him, hug him in the mornings and teach him to love each day. There is a burning desire to rescue a little ghost from begging at La Línea and to give him a future of possibility and potential.
When I was 17 years old my school did a mission trip to St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. The home of my grandmother. We worked in the library of a Catholic school and spent the evenings at an orphanage playing with the children. Children in the home of my roots, abandoned and in need. There was a little boy six months old and very sick. He had been found on the doorstep waiting for the nuns and covered in his own soil and was taken in to be nursed back to health and loved by childless women. There was also a little girl. I will never forget her name. She was six years old and full of energy. She took a liking to me, climbing me and asking me all sorts of questions about my hair, about my home, about family, about what flying on a plane is like.
I learned on that trip that I love children and that they love me. And I decided that day that one day, with or without a husband, I will give an orphan a home.