Friday, April 25, 2008


As I sit here trying to come up with my first post, which will no doubt be looked back upon as one of the defining moments in the twenty-first centuries literary history, I find myself at a rare loss for words. It's not that I have nothing to say. It's that I have so much to say. I feel like a puppy trying out it's legs in the first weeks of life. I am sure to fall any moment. I can't even tell if my eyes are open yet. But I am pretty sure that my mother has left the box, and for the time being, I am on my own. If I was more than the metaphorical reference to a dog, I would probably pee, step in some poop, and climb on top of one of my siblings. However comforting that may be for a puppy, I do not have that option available to me at the present moment. So I shall begin...
The island of Saipan has no shortage of dogs. They are everywhere, wandering about, unencumbered by leashes, collars, and the other trappings we humans use to mark these faithful animals as our property. The dogs that I see quite often are lacking not only the appearance of homes, but they are haggard and skinny, their bright pink tongues lolling out of their heads and proclaiming their thirst for all to see. they are commonly referred to as "boonie" dogs.
I'm not sure why they are called boonie dogs. Did someone mean to say bony, and somehow it all has been confused for so long that it stuck? The dogs I speak of are not limited to the "boonies", they hang out on the sides of busy streets, and at the entrances to the local corner marts, so I'm not sure that is it either. Why then, are they called boonie dogs?
Let me first make sure that you understand what type of dog I am referring to. Boonie dogs sleep in a manner that makes you wonder if they aren't dead where they lay. Breathing is quite often imperceptible, and even loud shouts of "hey boonie dog!" does not illicit any response. Boonie dogs rarely move quickly, preferring to turn almost as a horse does, swiveling it's entire body on some imaginary axis in between it's front and hind quarters. If one had the inkling, it would be entirely feasible to sneak up behind a boonie dog, tap it on the rear, and then move with it as it turned, preventing it from ever actually getting a good look at you. (Note: Do not try this with afore-mentioned horses...they will kick you.) The same lack of energy is demonstrated by a boonie dog that has found its way into the road. Boonie will quite often look at you with absolutely no intention of moving as you bear down upon it. Along the gravel road to my current residence, the boonie dogs combine these traits. They lay in the path of my car, as if dead, immobile and unconcerned with my approaching radials. They simply do not move! It is up to me to go around them. I suppose I could try touching them with a tire, but they usually lay in the ruts, so it wouldn't be a very accurate trial. If there is no way around them, than continuous honking of the car horn accompanied with shouted insults will make these boonies (there's two of them) slowly raise their heads, glare at me, then drag themselves upright so that they can amble out of my way at a leisurely pace. This is repeated all over the island.
You are probably wondering "What does a boonie dog look like?". As near as I can tell, someone brought a German Shepherd here long ago. It must've been lonely, so someone got it a dachshund to play with. (You know a wiener dog.) Or it could've been a beagle, who knows. The results are dogs of varying sizes, with strange unnatural characteristics. Or, as we all lovingly refer to them, mutts. They aren't all small mutant looking shepherds, I have seen a few that resemble yellow Labradors. But island-wide, I haven't seen a single dog that I would describe as 'stout'. All the boonies are lanky, but lacking in muscle tone and definition.
I don't want to misconstrue these dogs physical abilities. As I found out, they are still dogs, and some of them, especially the ones who have homes, can move pretty quickly when motivated. Motivation arrives in the form of me pedaling by on a bicycle! It is always fun when I turn onto a street, and see ahead of me, anywhere from 10 to 30 dogs just standing around looking boonie-ish. The best plan I've come up with so far is to ride straight at them, since they're usually standing in the road. Usually that confuses them. Of course, it's never the ones in the road you really have to worry about. The chaser usually comes flying out of a yard already barking and traveling at full speed as he closes in on your lower legs. I have heard from my runner friends that this scene is repeated against them as well, sans bicycle.
I am a little saddened by all the dogs that appear to be homeless. Maybe they aren't, I don't know, I'm not a $&%@# genius. Truthfully, any dog that got lost should be able to find its way home within 2 or 3 days simply by process of elimination. It's not a very big island. Forty-nine square miles or somewhere near that. And plus, I think the rule is sort of that if you want a dog here, you just feed one, and it probably follows you. So until the people of Saiapan start starving, the boonies will probably be ok. I mean, there's cat roadkill out there. Because when I'm driving, and mr. kitty just lays in the road looking at me, i don't make quite as much of an effort to avoid him. Cats should know better though.
So if anyone knows the origin of the term boonie in relation these mongrels, let me know. And someone tell my dog that he would be king on this island. And that I miss him.


sonya said...

Boonie means the jungle, any undeveloped land on island basically. As in "boonie stomp" (to go on a hike). So a boonie dog is a dog that lives in the wild, an un-owned dog, a wild dog.

ryran said...

Much hilarity & entertainment received from this first post riordanaire. I love it. Ydb. :)
PS: That picture rocks my socks! Who took it? *grin*

Yo whadap Sonya! Not at all surprised you were the first to respond (not to mention drop a little wisdom).

ksawhill said...

oooo-o-o-hhhhhh! The puppy's so cute--almost made me cry! You've become very poetic (maybe I just never noticed before--I was too busy reminding you to wear sunscreen.) since you left the States. I love you. Mom/ Karin

Extra-riordan-ary said...

I promise I'll send all the proceeds received from the picture to you Ryan...Mom, once you read the next one you'll recognize the good ol' normal sarcastic Rio...Sonya, thank you so much. I think I will start telling those moms with rowdy children to control their damn boonie kids! Love you all.

thirry said...

Better watch out for Brer Boonie Cat and the Tar Kitty. Don' be runnin' over my peoples, now.