Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dog Sitting in Doha

If I could communicate telepathically with Jasper, the dog I am dog sitting, I imagine he would be singing jaunty little songs about us being the best of friends. This isn’t a dog-friendly community I live in and most of the children have not been taught to love dogs, so unfortunately, Jasper gets taunted regularly on our walks. When this happens, he cries and hides behind me, but when there are no children around, he resumes the skip in his step.

Once I sensed trouble before Jasper did. A bunch of children were loitering outside the Iranian school, but they weren't close enough to pose much of a threat to Jasper. Knowing what was coming, I tried to warn Jasper so he would hold his ground when the children started in with their jeers and taunts. I looked down and spoke in a conspiratorial tone, “Jasper, when these children try to scare you, I want you to bite them, okay?” Sure enough, the children started in with their howls and yelling and using their hands to mimic shooting. Jasper freaked out and hid behind me, as usual.

We went back to my apartment. I tried to take an afternoon nap and Jasper snuggled up beside me. I told him that he would need to toughen up, no more being scared of cats or the sound of a plastic bag rustling, and when I tell you to bite someone, you do it, understand? It took a while for that to sink in, about as long as it took for me to fall asleep, because he jolted me awake with a bite on my arm. He was just being playful, but I banished him from my room and closed the door.

He still acts like a puppy and is definitely more of a handful than I had expected. Although I must compliment him on his fashion sense, I’m not happy about what he did after finding my brand-new shoes. He knocked them down off a high shelf and then chewed them beyond recognition.

It doesn't do any good to try to avoid the children by walking Jasper at night. They are out at all hours, playing in the parking lot with no adult supervision. I think these children never go to bed. Their parents must say to them, “Okay kids, put on your dark clothing and go play in the parking lot in the dark. I’ll be inside watching TV.”

Tonight the feral children ran up to Jasper, yelled at him and then ran away. They made a game of it, but I’m not exactly sure what the objective was. It was either to see who could get closest to the dog or who could scare him the most, but thankfully, a woman walked by and I was able to enlist her help. She yelled at the children in Arabic, something I wish I could do.  Unfortunately, she also scared Jasper, which is not hard to do. Hopefully, whatever that woman yelled will stop those kids from harassing poor Jasper.  He has enough problems as it is. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Where'd You Get Those Cheezits?

Tonight I ate Krispy Kremes and watched “The Perks of Beinga Wallflower” with an American friend and her teenage daughter. I had read the book when I was in high school and remembered how popular it was, how it was one of those books everyone my age was reading. As I reached the custard center of my donut, my friend’s daughter explained the inner workings of the eighth-grade social scene. I found her descriptions of some of her classmates fascinating, especially in light of my interest in the young adult genre of literature.

I thought it would be especially difficult for a teenager to become acclimated to living in Qatar, but she’s doing just fine. She enjoys playing games of “Spot the Americans,” in which she approaches people looking suspiciously American and inquires about their nationality. I would like to play this game from a distance, but I’m not bold enough to approach total strangers. Still, I think it might help to break down some of the rigid antisocial attitudes in this city.

Sometimes this game produces something useful, like information on where to buy imported American snack foods. After seeing a man eating from a box of Cheezits, she approached him and asked if he was American, followed by a blunt “Where’d you get those Cheezits?”

Don't you just love teenagers?