We take Olie on walks outside our complex almost everyday to give him some exercise and to teach him to be on a leash. It’s also a great way for us to see the neighborhood that we live in, even if we are the crazy ‘blancs’ walking their dog through streets that everybody stares at in disbelief. Often times we get stares, sometimes we get smiles, and then other times we get the weirdest requests ever:
REQUEST #1: “Give me your dog!”
I’ve made it pretty clear that the begging in this country bugs me a little bit (you can check it out here, here, and here), so I guess this shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did. Almost every time we take him out of the gates of our complex someone on the streets ask us to give them Olie. At first I didn’t understand it, but it’s totally true. There is a group of woman that sells food and clothes on the corner by our complex, and they called Olie and I over one day.
I abliged, as I was expecting them to want to pet Olie in all of his cute puppy gloriousness, but NO!, they took his leash and said, “bye-bye.” I stood there confused, “bye-bye”? I went to take the leash and she wouldn’t give it to me, and then I realized my mistake…I had just given away our dog. I explained in broken Kreyol that he was not for her, and he was my dog, and she reluctantly handed the leash back to me.
I walked away confused, not understanding that the begging could go this far. I (kind of) understand the begging for food or money, but the idea of me giving someone our dog because they just wanted to have it seemed ridiculous. Imagine walking your dog down a suburban sidewalk in the United States when someone stops you, “You have a beautiful dog there! Give it to me please.” That person would likely have just been released from a mental institution (as a clerical mistake), or…well, there is no ‘or’.
So I continued our walk, expecting that instance to be a crazy outlier, thinking those women were simply just a little off their rockers. But as we walked up the hill to the grocery store, a moto-taxi driver called me over to him. I thought I would try this again: someone in the country has to be able to just appreciate him as MY cute little puppy. Nope. He took his leash, and then cast me aside. I had just given away our dog, again.
Since then I have made the conscious decision to not go over to people who look like they just want to pet Olie. These are extremely awkward situations, as I really don’t find them very funny. “Haha, you want to take my dog away! Haha! Sure!” Forget it. But even though we don’t stop anymore, we still get the requests. Random people will walk by us: “Thank you”, “For what?” we respond, “For your dog!” It’s unbelievable! I just got in an argument with a random guy who seemed to think it was insulting that I would not leave Olie with him. In an effort to rebut these requests with something that I see as equally outrageous, I have considered responding, “Give me your baby!” but I unfortunately think they might actually hand over their child.
REQUEST #2: “Show me his passport!”
Now, this one I really never expected. While walking Olie one day we were stopped by a respectable looking Haitian gentleman. “Come here,” he said. He looked a little upset, so I went over to him. “Where is your dog from?” he asked. “What do you mean?” I didn’t get it. “Is he a Haitian dog?” he specified. “Nope, we got him from the United States,” I responded. “Then show me his passport,” he said, completely seriously.
This was a new one, so I played along: “He’s a dog, he doesn’t have a passport,” I responded stoically, trying not to laugh. “What do you mean he doesn’t have a passport?! He’s not a Haitian, he needs a passport! How did he get into the country?!” he exclaimed. “Well,” this was actually kinda fun, “we brought him here in a crate. On an airplane.” “So then where is his passport?” “Are you kidding with me?” I asked, thinking maybe this guy was just messing around, “he is a DOG, he does NOT need a passport.”
“Well, then where is YOUR passport?! Show me your passport!” Woah, this was taking an unexpected turn…”I don’t have my passport,” I responded, getting slightly defensive. “Where is it?” he asked. “At my house, I don’t carry it with me everywhere, I live here.” “Well, you HAVE to carry your passport with you, this is not your country.” He might be slightly right here, but I pushed back. “Show me your passport! Do you have your passport?” “No! I am Haitian, I don’t need to carry my passport! What is your name?!” he asked back, he was getting a little upset. “My name is Frank, what’s your name?” “I don’t need to tell you my name! Where do you live?!” he yelled back.
Now I started getting pissed. I’m sorry, but I was simply walking my dog! “Who are you?!” I quickly responded, stepping towards him “Who are you to be asking me these questions?! Are you a police officer?!” His eyes got big, he noticed he was no longer in control, “No, I’m not a police officer, I just want to know where you live,” he said. He wasn’t yelling anymore. “I don’t need to tell you that. I’m leaving, goodbye!” I responded, calling Olie so that we could go home. “Next time I see you you better have your passport!” he yelled after me. “GOODBYE!” I yelled to him while walking away. Prick.
So there you have it. When people ask what it’s like to live in Haiti, the perfect response seems to be that everyday is interesting, and these are perfect examples. While I would prefer to be able to walk Olie without having to worry about people wanting to take him, it does make the day that much more interesting. While I would love to not be accosted by some random guy asking for Olie’s and my passports, it turned out to be a pretty good story. So in the end, if I leave Haiti having accomplished absolutely nothing, I’ll at least have a ton of really great stories to tell at the bar when I get home.