An Act of Violence

Sunday we killed Miki. We had been planning to kill her for several days, but somehow couldn’t quite manage. We were all too busy Thursday and Friday. Then came Saturday, the Sabbath in our mostly Seventh Day Adventist community. On top of all that, it was a hard thing to resolve ourselves to do. Much, much easier to procrastinate. But Sunday, Madanm Frenel insisted, and with good reason.

When I told Toto how Miki was killed – how Frantzy, Toto’s little brother, and Ti Papouch killed her – he shook his head and said only this: “Yo mechan kamenm.” He was saying that the boys were wicked, or nasty, even though he recognized that the killing had to be done. Frantzy had gotten a rope around Miki’s neck. Then he dragged her, running at full speed, to the galèt, the rocky ravine, a few hundred yards away. He threw her, by the rope, off a cliff. Then the two boys stoned her to make sure she was dead.

Miki was our dog, really Madanm Mèt’s, a sweet and gentle creature. She was very often the first to greet me when I got home at the end of the day. She was always the first one to greet Madanm Mèt. She would sit at my feet whenever I read outside, hoping that I would take a minute to scratch her ears. A thin but energetic little dog that seemed to enjoy being around people.

At the end of December, she gave birth to three puppies. It was her first successful pregnancy. One previous time she had lost her litter because one of the children had kicked her. Soon after she gave birth in December, however, she got sick. She stopped eating, and immediately lost a lot of weight. The two weaker puppies quickly died. Of hunger, I suppose. The third hung on.

And then Miki started to regain her strength. She began eating again. She could stand up and even walk without trembling. It looked as though she would pull through. And the puppy’s strength grew with hers.

Then things suddenly got worse. Wednesday morning I heard odd squealing as I stumbled back in the half-darkness from the outhouse to my room. For some reason Kenedi, Toto’s mother’s dog, had brought her own six puppies to a quiet, sheltered spot near the outhouse. Miki was devouring them. She tore up three of them before we could shoo her off. She got two more on Thursday. Friday, we awoke to discover that she had killed her own puppy during the night. She spent much of Saturday and Sunday morning stumbling around. She would stand up, hobble around for a few steps, lie back down, then stand again. At one point I thought I saw whiteness around her snout, but I’m not sure. A had clear memories of the dog that Gregory Peck shot in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Finally on Sunday, she went after Madanm Frenel’s new puppy. She’s had the puppy only for a couple of days. Her last dog had died suddenly about a week earlier. Toto and I were sitting on my patio, working on his English homework. We tore over when we heard the noise. He managed to chase Miki away, but Madanm Frenel became firm. Her young boys were very likely, despite any warnings or prohibitions, to put themselves in danger trying to protect their little dog. Or simply out of mischief. Mèt Antenò agreed, and he called Frantzy and Papouch over. And they did what they did.

Haiti’s dogs must be among the most wretched creatures on earth. My neighbors were a little amused by how fond I was of Miki. They weren’t really surprised, though. I suppose they think it is the way of foreigners, something “blan.” John’s fondness for his dogs is well-known all over the mountain.

Haiti’s dogs are beaten, broken, and despised. One sees them everywhere. Limping on twisted limbs, their ragged flea-bitten fur hanging loosely over their protruding ribs. Almost all the families up where I live have dogs. And only a few give them any sort of care. They keep them for security. Not as attack dogs, but for the noise they make. They are barely fed, but called thieves when they try to take some food. And “volè,” or “thief,” is a very harsh word in Kreyol. They wander around Bwa Mokèt, looking for market scraps. They wander around Petyonvil and Pòtoprens, looking for God knows what. People think nothing of beating them, of kicking them, of hitting them with rocks.

Children are especially fierce towards them. The boys near Erik’s house broke his dog’s leg by picking it up high by its hind legs and letting it fall. Breny and Christophe, Madanm Frenel’s two boys, think nothing of dropping rocks on puppies when there are puppies around.

I don’t understand that violence. I know that it’s connected to the violence that we all experience and see here every day, but I wonder why that connection is so hard to break.