Junglepixiebelize - Recollections of a Gringa Pioneer
Nancy R Koerner - Copyright@2023 - All Rights Reserved
"The Potlika and the Shotgun"
"Potlika” (or “patlika”) n. a mongrel dog. “Bileez ga lat a patika daag: dehn miks op wid aal kain.” Belize has many mongrels; they’re a mix of many breeds. See: daag. [>potlicker: in the days when people did most of their cooking outside, stray dogs would eat from any pot they could find.]
Courtesy of the Kriol-Inglish DIKSHINERI (Belize Kriol Project 2007)
“That damned dog is eating our watermelons again,” my husband said, his brows furrowed in anger. We were both standing in the doorway, looking out at the crop of beautiful, nearly-ripe Charleston Greys occupying the garden between the house and the thatched hut that served as both fowl coop and goat shelter.
It was bad enough that the birds sometimes pecked holes in the large fruits, ruining them just as they were ready for market in San Ignacio. Good juicy dry-seasons watermelons had the best profit margin of any crop that could be grown in Cayo, fetching $20 BH apiece. But once the thick rind had been penetrated by a sharp beak, the condensation of morning dew would start the process of internal rot.
Now, the half-starving skinny mongrel, belonging to old Poinciano Perez, half a mile to the north, had taken to biting into our watermelons for a doggy fruit feast. I didn’t know it was physiologically possible for a dog to break into a watermelon, under any circumstances — but it was certainly indicative of just how hungry eat really was. I had always felt sorry for the wretched animal, his bony ribs showing through the thin scadgie coat, and his sad downcast eyes.
Our neighbor, Don Poinsiano Perez, from the farm half-a-mile downstream, where the dog lived, had apologized.
“Ah noh noa why di lee potlika di carry on so,” said Don Ponce. “Hihn
greedi-bad. An Ah done give ah two tortilla di udder day.”
I would soon learn that Belizean dogs were almost always starving, and therefore downright omnivorous, consuming avocados, mangos, maumee, bananas, sapote, custard apple, as well as tomatoes, eggplant, and just about anything that grew, or could fall from a tree or vine. the beginning, Belize had been a lesson in empathy, humanity, and the necessity of learning surrender and grace. There were things that could be changed, and those that could not. Some people and animals could be helped; others could not.
A wise man had once said to me: “In this world, Nancy, your first responsibility is to yourself, and your family. If you’re lucky, maybe you can help a few others along the way. But you cannot save the world, and certainly not the third world.”
Still standing in the doorway, I came out of my reverie as I heard my husband come up behind me. He was carrying the shotgun.
“You’re gonna shoot the dog?” I cried. “No. Don’t shoot the dog!” I pleaded. “It’s not his fault he’s hungry.”
“I’m not gonna shoot the dog,” he reassured. “I’m just going to fire over his head, and scare him away. Teach him to go elsewhere.”
And with that, the scene began to play out like a CARTOON. 🤣
The dog’s head was still down, munching on the watermelon. As my husband loaded the cartridge into the breach, it made the familiar chuk-CHUK sound. That was enough for the dog. Startled, he raised his head, alert to the deadly sound of the preamble, then started running like a greyhound. It was obvious he’d been shot at before. And he knew exactly what would come next: the tremendous BANG of the weapon, and the pain.
BOOM! The charge exploded out of the muzzle of the shotgun. In that exact same moment, the sprinting dog – who had already covered 20 yards – stopped like he’d been pole-axed. Frozen in mid-stride – rear legs on the ground, forelegs in mid-air, bony spine arched backwards, eyes squeezed tight, and grimace on his face. He’d been hit. It was over. Nothing left but the impact. The searing pain of hot lead. The moment of grace and death.
Wait. What? The dog looked backwards at us for a split-second, in a moment of instantaneous and amazed reality-check, then whipped his head forward again. And with that – alive, whole, and unhurt – he took off into the bush!