Today’s author is Sebnem E. Sanders, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, who lives on the Eastern shores of the Southern Aegean. Her pet memories revolve around two mischievous dogs.
Sebnem donated a short story to our latest anthology, Paws and Claws, featuring not dogs, but a pair of Red Kites.
Champagne and Caviar
Champagne and Caviar were two male Golden Cocker Spaniel puppies that we adopted when they were eight weeks old. Out of a litter of eight, we chose the best looking male. Then my husband said, “We should also get this naughty one.” He was not as handsome as his brother, but his mischievous eyes mirrored his intelligence. We had only planned to get one, but returned home with two.
Our house in Singapore had a big garden with a separate quarter for servants. We gave the puppies one of the free rooms to spend the night in, until they were house trained. During the day they ran along the vast grounds, getting up to all kinds of mischief. Frightening the Malay postman who hated dogs, their favourite game. They chased his bike, barking after him. He would throw the letters on the doorstep and cycle away, while the puppies opened them on the lawn and read them before we did. A mayhem of torn envelopes and half chewed postcards awaited for us to solve the jigsaw puzzle if we didn’t rush to collect the mail before they did.
Then, things started disappearing. Bahari, the gardener’s brush, my cigarette packs and lighter, combs, hair clips, and other small items. The leader of mischief was Caviar, the naughty one. Champagne did as he was told and followed his brother. As the number of missing items increased, we discovered their den behind the patch of daisies surrounding a tall, flamboyant tree. Some things were recovered, others completely useless, chewed, torn and damaged.
They loved to crunch on ice-cubes, eat apples and salad droppings on the kitchen floor. Grapes were the hardest fruit for them to deal with as they couldn’t figure out how to bite them. Due to the tropical climate, the house was surrounded by narrow canals, covered with iron grids, for discharging rainwater. Caviar managed to find a gap he could fit through and Champagne naturally followed him. At the end of the shallow drain, despair set in when they discovered there was no way they could turn around. In panic, they started barking. We ran to their rescue, trying to find a way of lifting the iron grids. Caviar worked it out, pushed his brother back with his bum, and kept pushing until Champagne figured out how to go backwards towards the other end of the canal. My husband lifted them through the gap, and made sure to cover it to avoid another catastrophe.
That year there were no orchids decorating our patio. They pulled the stems and roots from the perforated pots and laid them out on the tiles with great pride.
An intercom connection to their room provided contact to check up on them from upstairs. They recognized our voice and communicated with us in their language.
Sadly, we didn’t know we would be leaving Singapore for Hong Kong, eight months later. During our visit to the island, I looked for flats that accepted dogs. There weren’t too many among the available ones. But the biggest setback was the quarantine period of six months. How could I leave two eight-month-old puppies in confinement for such a long time? They were used to their freedom, running around the big garden, receiving love and attention all the time.
I visited the Hong Kong kennels, saw the cages where the dogs were kept, and returned to the hotel with tears in my eyes. No, I couldn’t do this to my beloved dogs. It would be unfair to put them through such torture.
On my return to Singapore, I spread the word around. A friend said she could keep them in her house until she found a good home for them. Our last month together was a time of unconditional love and devotion. We swam, went on walks, watched TV and cuddled each other constantly.
The day the packers came, the puppies watched them from behind the glass patio doors, all day, without leaving the spot. I think they understood.
We dropped them at our friend’s house a couple of days later and bid farewell. It was very sad. I cried all the way to Hong Kong, and more during the following days and months.
My friend found two Americans who wanted to adopt them and lived next door to each other. Though the puppies had different homes, they shared the same garden in the complex. I was delighted to hear about this and to know they could still play together.
Two years later, one of the families moved to Indonesia, and they were separated. It has been many years since I left Champagne and Caviar in Singapore, but the memories are still fresh in my mind.