Human: Monique Luppes Caye Caulker, Belize, Central America
The morning I put Punch to sleep I lied down next to him. He was at his favorite spot under the steps in a shallow hole he had dug when he was still feeling strong enough. He could hardly lift his head but his eyes were still clear and alert. I started to talk to him, our heads close. I thanked him for all the good years he had given me, for all the love and loyalty he had shown me, for all the joy and kisses in my face. Punch was listening, as always. Calm, as always. I knew and felt he somehow understood what I was saying and when I was finished and put my head next to him, he gave me a big fat kiss, right in my face.
About 12 years earlier my boyfriend Maurice told me out of the blue we were getting dogs. Not just one, but two. I was a bit shocked. I met him two years before and was still figuring out my life with him, which was on a tiny island in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize. If I wanted to be with him, I had to leave my life in the Netherlands behind and move to Belize. To get used to that idea and to find out if I could do that I decided to try out the Caribbean way of life for six months. And when I was in my second month Maurice told me about the dogs. I must admit the idea excited me. I had always liked dogs, but besides when I still lived with my parents, never had the opportunity to have one. But I was also quite sceptic. I already had my hands full with my boyfriend and I knew that having dogs takes a lot of time, commitment and responsibility. Plus, I would go back home after a couple of months and what would become of the dogs then, as I already knew that I would be the primary one taking care of them. I vented all my concerns but he had made up his mind already. A month later two adorable puppies were running around in our yard. We named them Punch and Pujo. The latter was Maurice’s dog, Punch was mine. Not that it really mattered, but we thought it was funny to both have a dog of our own. I was the one to choose which one would be mine and I chose Punch. He was almost completely gray and had a serious look on his face which intrigued me. He was also a little cross eyed and I thought that was cute. But other than that the choice was quite random. Or not?
Eventually I decided to make the move to Belize and through the years Punch truly became MY dog. While Pujo was doing his own thing and mostly being stubborn and naughty, Punch would follow me everywhere and was watching me from every corner. If he was downstairs in the yard and I was upstairs in the office, he would come up about every hour to check on me. I would feel his nose against my legs and when I turned around he would be standing there, looking at me with eyes that said “you’re still okay?” And I would rub his head, told him I was fine, he gave me a kiss and went back down again. When we were all together watching TV, he would pretend to sleep, but with every movement I made his eyes would open and his gaze would follow my movements. Many times I would notice he was just staring at me. Maurice always said: “if any person wants to hurt you, Punch will destroy him”. And I think that is true.
Punch loved to run. For our afternoon walks I would ride the bike and he ran next to me, or rather a little in front of me so he could pull me. People on the island looked at us in awe when we passed full speed. Other dogs would bark at us or chase us, but Punch’s only goal was to run as fast as he could. Never would he pay any attention to those other dogs, who were just jealous. There was one trail on the island where I would let him go off leash. As soon as I took the leash off he would speed away from me, running like a frisky deer, his floppy ears going up and down. He disappeared into the bushes, looking for iguanas or something smelly and reappeared from out of nowhere, standing in the middle of the trail, looking for me with his ears up: “Are you coming? Hurry up, so much crazy things to see here!” At the end of the trail I would go sit on a dock and he would jump in the water to cool down. He never went for a real swim, he didn’t like that, but he walked around a bit and then sat or lied down in the water and looked at me sitting at the end of the dock. After a while he came to sit with me but soon he would get restless and wanted me to get up to go run with him again.
There are so many more things to tell about Punch. Like when he caught a pelican and didn’t know what to do with it or when he had a standoff with an iguana and the latter scratched his nose. The fights with his brother, which he always won or the stoic look on his face when you threw a toy to him and he had no clue what to do with it. Sometimes he heard the other dogs barking and started running, but didn’t know what he was running for. He looked around for the others who were behind, like he was asking “what is it, what are we chasing?” He could be the fastest and strongest, but he was definitely not the smartest.
The thing I will miss the most though is his listening ear. Punch has always been my confidant. His calm demeanor, his loyalty and his willingness to protect made him perfect for that. I have always liked my life here in Belize but it wasn’t always easy. Moving to a completely different country, living with someone with a different culture, it all takes time to get used to. During the hard times, when frustration took over, I could always trust on Punch. Whenever I felt alone or insecure, he was just there and made me smile again by giving me a kiss with his enormous tongue.
Needless to say I miss this boy. This painting captures him perfectly though, it’s how I want to remember him. Thanks Punchy, for being my dog!