Monday, November 23, 2009

R.I.P. Tahi

This latest update is written with a heavy heart. Tahi- my constant companion, my source of comedic relief, my dog- passed away Saturday. On Friday he was fine, running around the school yard playing, and Saturday morning he couldn't walk. I sat with him and tried to feed him carnation mixed with water (my neighbors said it would help) but he was gone pretty quickly.

My neighbors (who live in the same schoolyard and take care of Tahi when I travel and have three dogs that Tahi hangs out with all the time) told me, in no uncertain terms, that Tahi had been poisened. They had seen it before (apparantly it's not uncommon?) and it had in fact happened to their dog last month. That kind of added a whole new dimension of grief. I heard this not only from my neighbors, but also from a few different people in the village, everyone saying the same thing, he must have been poisened. They even explained to me how it is done- they mix bettery acid and pesticide with a can of tin fish and feed it to the dog. They said someone probably got mad at Tahi because he had killed their chicken or something. But the thing is, Tahi has been extremely well-behaved lately, he hasn't been chasing pigs or chickens and as far as I know he defninitely didn't kill any. At first I wrote it off, it HAD to be an accident, everyone on the island knows Tahi is my dog and I feel like because of that he is granted a lot of leeway where other dogs might be more severely treated. For example: the day Tahi ran into church they all said it was okay, he could sit with me in church (I quickly vetoed this however). I think there is no way someone killed Tahi as a result of Tahi misbehaving. So then I got to thinking that IF someone hurt Tahi on purpose, they had to have done it because they were upset with me. I've heard of Tongans hurting volunteers' dogs before when they were upset with the volunteer, it is seemingly a more socially acceptable way of expressing anger than risking a confrontation with someone, especially a palangi. So I poured over my transgressions of late. This is what I came up with, my confessions:

-Two Sundays ago I skipped church and came to the office to watch T.V. shows on the computer.

-On Tuesday, it was a warm, clear night outside- I could see every star in the sky, so I snuck out of my village and went on a walk. I snuck out because if I told anybody they would send their kids with me (to protect me from the tevolo- devil) and I just wanted to walk alone. Unfortunately I wasn't very good at being sneaky- every single dog started barking as I made my way back into the village.

-Wednesday I went to tea, then afterwards came down to the office and didn't return until after dark.

-In church on Sunday one of the men in the village told me I'd been traveling too much. He doesn't know I was in Tongatapu because I was sick and then went to Ha'apai to help with the training of the new group. Maybe he has been upset because I've been away a lot.

-I've been building a fale-Tonga with my neighbor, Tevita. Most of the village has been assuming I'm involved with him simply because I spend time with him. They also thought I was involved with the guy that was teaching me to play guitar last year and who is now in Tongatapu. In fact I'm not involved with wither of them, but I never really disputed the rumors as I've found that it doesn't matter what I do or say, they WILL talk about me. This is a VERY difficult place to be a single palangi woman and keep your reputation in tact. So maybe someone was angry that they thought I was kaka (cheating).
After spending two days trying to figure out what I did wrong and why someone would do this to Tahi, I came to my conclusion. I cannot allow myself to believe that someone hurt Tahi on purpose. If I believe that, I don't think I could continue to work here and put my heart into my work. If someone did hurt Tahi on purpose, I will never figure out who, or why, and I will never find peace with it. Furthermore, there is a LOT of toxic stuff around here. There aren't exactly safe places to put toxic stuff such as old batteries, motor oil, etc. And all the cars are generally leaking something. There are any number of things Tahi could have gotten into, and I can't continue on here wondering if my neighbors, the parents of my students, the people I sit next to in church killed my dog. So I have decided to consider this a tragic accident, and to mourn my friend.

Here are just some of my favorite Tahi moments:

- Sitting on my lap on the plane ride out to 'Eua

- Spending nights with me in my hammock where we huddled for warmth when it was freezing clod and he was still a puppy

- Running down the center aisle of church the first time I took him- for some reason I was under the misguided impression that he would just sit outside and wait for me to come back out.

- Camping with him at Fangatave beach when he was still small enough to pass down the cliffs

- Hiking with me in the rainforest and him drinking his water out of a half coconut shell.

- Him draping himself across my legs as I sat on the floor and played guitar.

- Him jumping in the wharf to swim with me when it became clear that I was swimming away from the dock he was standing on- he was a great swimmer!

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