as a weekly practice I listen to npr and do a little sketch on one of the stories. take a look, you can click on the illustration to make it bigger!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

neutering nunu: a dog-culture clash in iraq.

In Iraq, one of the connections NPR's Baghdad bureau has made centers on a white terrier that sought refuge from the mayhem of Sadr City. The staff took him, and named him Nunu. But like many impulsive pet adoptions, we didn't anticipate the problems that owning a dog can bring. A few months after Nunu came to live with us in Baghdad, I asked Ghasson, an NPR translator, to call a veterinarian and make an appointment. We needed to have Nunu neutered.

Ghasson didn't have any idea what I was talking about. I explained that in the States, when we own a dog, we think it's responsible to stop it from reproducing. We even call it "fixing." In Iraq, Ghasson explained, it is just the opposite. "The idea of having a dog is to have puppies — and especially that you may give one of the puppies to one of your close friends, your neighbors, your relatives," Ghasson said.

It was Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and I who decided we had to neuter Nunu. Garcia-Navarro is a correspondent in Baghdad. Nunu kept getting lost — slipping out to gallivant with the pack of stray females who roam the street outside our bureau. "The snip," as she called it, seemed like the only solution. "Everyone is sad about Nunu," Ghasson said to me. He explained that for Iraqis, having a big family is a great achievement — a basic right that we shouldn't deprive man or dog.

Sabah explained that veterinarians in Iraq are basically matchmakers. Sabah proudly told us about hundreds of arranged dog marriages. He'd even brokered a few international unions.

But had we done the right thing? I asked Garcia-Navarro what she thought. "I think it's one of the things that you grapple with here all the time," she said. "Whether you're imposing your own system on an alien culture ... and you always end up questioning yourself." And of course no single one of us can say for sure if it was a good decision — except for maybe one dog.

-excerpt from NPR

1 comment:

kati said...

i forwarded your post to my dad, i thought he would find it interesting. he wrote back:

"During my stay in Di An, Vietnam, our company adopted a ragamuffin mutt
and we named him Dufus. None of the dogs roaming the dirt streets of camp
were neutered and one day two dogs (not dufus) were "doing it in the
road." One soldier i didn't recognize decided to throw a bucket of water
on them in the midst of their fling. The result was two panicked dogs who
had trouble separating. Some people laughed. I thought it was a cruel
joke. The morning I left camp with my duffel bag and M-16 to head to my
new assignment in cam ranh bay, dufus chased the jeep for a final goodbye."