We had hopes of bringing our dog, Charlotte, to Spain. She is Sarah's dog and she has been with us for our entire adventure in full-time mission service. We got her in Peru when we first arrived and she and Sarah quickly became best friends. In our opinion, she played a big part in Sarah's adjustment to Peru and in our lives.
So, when we left Peru, we took her to Texas with us. It was a huge financial sacrifice for us. HUGE!!! the funds came from our own pocket - don't worry, no ministry funds of any kind went to flying a dog to Texas! What was at first a nominal sum of money quickly became an enormous outlay of cash. We wrestled with the idea of leaving her behind. It was a decision that we didn't want to make, but felt that financially we may have to. But, when talking with our best Peruvian friend (and Sarah's Peruvian mom), she burst into tears at the idea of leaving Charlotte behind. Which, of course, made us burst into tears, too. She said it was unthinkable! On several levels, just unthinkable.
For one thing, Peruvians don't take care of dogs as 'pets'. Dogs are for guarding things and for herding animals and for killing anything that comes near your stuff. But dogs are not loved and cherished and cared for. They roam the streets. They eat from the gutters and from trash. They are chained up on rooftops and in concrete yards. It is sad. Our friend knew the outcome of what would happen to Charlotte is we tried to leave her behind with a Peruvian family... she would be mistreated and not loved or fed properly. She would be let out to roam the streets. She wouldn't know how to defend herself or find food. She would die.
The other reason - the one that made us all cry - was that Charlotte was, in our friend's opinion, Sarah's sister. She had been Sarah's only family. She was the live version of a most-loved stuffed animal or the baby blanket that is carried around for years. When Sarah had been sick several times and in bed with fevers and unable to do anything, Charlotte never left her side. Charlotte was immensely loyal. We couldn't leave her in a foreign country where no one loved her or cared about her.
The decision was made to move her to Texas. As we waited for our visas and our moving date to Spain, we prepared Sarah for the possibility of not being able to take Charlotte to Spain due to the cost. Leaving her in Texas with family was a viable option - Charlotte would be loved and cared for and she would have a great home. We continued to check on how to move her with us, but it wasn't looking good.
We left for Spain in August with the hopes of coming home to get Charlotte on a quick return trip that we would take in another month or so. Things were in order for the possibility of her traveling, but the contingency was for her to stay with family.
Finally, while we were settling in to our new house in Spain, the last of the quotes from airlines came in and they all surpassed the budget we had for Charlotte... they surpassed our budget by a LOT! There were lots of tears in our home that night. We called home and asked Granny if she would continue to keep Charlotte forever.
Soon thereafter, we began to look for a puppy to complete the void in our house in Spain. We had wanted a Spanish Water Dog and asked around about puppies for sale, but we couldn't find any that were ready. Some were still not born, some were not weened, and some were too old for what we wanted. Then we found a mixed breed puppy with the cutest face ever... he looked just like Benji from the movies of my childhood! Sarah fell in love the minute she saw him and "Buddy" came home to live with us.
Now for the interesting cultural mistake...
Several days after getting Buddy, we walked past the kiosk on the corner in our neighborhood. The guy who owns the kiosk (he sells candy) yells out and says, "Hey. I have your puppy here today. Here he is, right here behind my store." He proceeds to pull out a little bitty Spanish Water Dog! We had asked him the previous week if he knew where we could buy a puppy. We thought he might know since he has three of the same breed. He had told us that he knew who had some puppies, but they weren't ready to leave the mom yet. They wouldn't be ready for a couple of weeks or so. And he told us about how high pedigree they were and they were very costly (way more than we wanted to pay for a puppy!). We politely listened to they whole sales pitch, then said we would maybe think about it. He had told us that when the pups were weened, he would bring them to town and we could see them. We smiled and said we might like to see them, them we went home. Now, less than a week has passed and here he is shoving a puppy in our faces and saying that this one is ours. We told him that we had already found a mixed breed, but thanks for remembering us. (This is where the non-verbal cues that are so important to culture come in... the irritated, angry face, the clipped speech, then the silence.)
Our problem became evident to us quickly... 1) this guy was under the impression that we wanted his puppy, 2) "maybe" and politely saying "we'll thing about it" usually means no in the USA and it seems to mean yes here, 3) this guy is of a gypsy sub-culture which has it's own set of cultural rules, and 4) we have to walk by this guy's corner kiosk about 6 times a day, every day. Without too much discussion, we decided it was best to buy this puppy and dig ourselves out of this cultural soup! So, in our very best effort to smooth the waters / stop an international incident / save face / and keep the peace in the neighborhood, we went back and bought the tiny Spanish Water Dog.
Great... two puppies... I'm thinking Charlotte's airfare is looking like it was probably worth it... we should have just dug deep and shelled out the cash to the evil air cargo empire. Two puppies...
Who am I? In my USA life, I was a teacher in Texas for 15 years. I was also a professional photographer, a Southern Living / Martha Stewart wannabe, a soccer mom, and a short term mission team coordinator / intern director for missions in Mexico... you name it, I probably tried it!
In 2006, my husband Billy and I became cross-cultural workers (CCWs) with TMS Global. For five years, we served in three rural Quechua Wanca villages in the Andes of Peru. And when I say rural, I mean RURAL - like no potty! We have three incredible children... two adult boys who live in Texas, and the Sarah (14) lives with us in whatever country we are serving. I'm still teaching, still taking photos, still leading teams and mentoring, I just do it all in full-time service now! And I'm working hard at giving Southern Living and Martha Stewart a run for their money! I spent my days in Peru learning to live a Quechua lifestyle in a rustic adobe house - cooking Peruvian foods, sewing with Quechua women, raising my chickens and goats and pigs, and planting my gardens. Now I live my life in small town Spain, serving other cross-cultural workers and immigrant peoples, writing, and trying to figure out what life looks like for a Texas girl serving Christ in Southern Europe. Life in His service is AWESOME! I'm happy to share it with you here... Enjoy!