Human: Monique Luppes, Caye Caulker, Belize, Central America
Everyone who has dogs knows that they have a bunch of different expressions. At first you only see a few, but the longer you know the dog, the more distinguished and special the looks and expressions get. An outsider might not see all the nuances, but the dog’s owner does and its closest friends do. The expression of Scruffy, caught in this painting, shows “you can ask me everything you want, I’m going to do my own thing”. Or in another setting it might say “why did you disturb me, I’ve got more important things to do”. When she’s in a real good and playful mood this look could also mean “watch out, I’m going to turn around and jump on you because I feel like playing”. All together it perfectly shows the perky character of Scruffy, of course one of the sweetest dogs on earth.
About 9 years ago Scruffy came into our life and she definitely changed the way I look at dogs. I’m a true dog lover but Scruffy has something special. She almost has something human and sometimes it is as if she looks into your soul. The first time I noticed Scruffy was when I was walking my other 2 dogs. It was early morning, no one on the street, but suddenly I felt something pushing in the back of my knee. I turned around and saw a skinny, scruffy dog looking up at me with sad, but also challenging eyes. As if she wanted to say: “I’m here, notice me”. When I continued walking she would go in front of me and then suddenly stop, so I had to go around her and while repeating this pattern, she kept pushing her nose against my knees. My other 2 dogs didn’t pay her much attention and kind of tolerated her.
When I came home I told my husband about the dog, and he knew immediately what I was talking about. He’d seen the dog several times and experienced the same behavior. We decided to not give the dog too much attention, as it would follow us home and we didn’t need a 3rd dog. But we kept an eye on her, to see if she was doing alright. No one knew where she came from but several other people in our neighborhood knew the dog who they all called Scruffy. At that time she must have been 7 or 8 months old. She was doing alright on the street; we live on a tropical island without cars and sandy streets and as long as the street dogs are healthy, street life is not so bad. Lots of tourists and local people are feeding the street dogs and give them lots of attention. But after a few weeks a message reached us that Scruffy was having a hard time: she’d come into heat and was harassed badly by other street dogs. I work at the humane society and we happened to have a spay- and neuter day, so we decided to spay her. After her surgery Scruffy needed a place to recover (we don’t have a shelter at our humane society) and my husband agreed to have her recover on our veranda. And you know what happened: Scruffy never left after that.
Although that is not completely true. At first the street dog in Scruffy was hard to beat. Evening and night time she would stay at our house. We run an outdoor restaurant and she loved to hang out with the guests, put on her saddest face to get some scraps. But after spending the night on our porch she would get restless and bored and left in the morning to do her round. The island we live on is very small, so she could never be far. And after a while we knew her favorite spots: beach, bars and restaurants. I watched her several times putting up a show, acting like she was a very poor & old street dog, in terrible need of food and attention. And she had no problems getting that. Scruffy is not the prettiest dog, but somehow people fall in love with her the moment they see her. On the beach she was the one on the towel, while the tourists were sitting next to her in the sand. We have photos of her staring out at the sea, wearing sun glasses or with a book and a beer next to her. These photos were made by people that had just met her. Most days when I walked my other 2 dogs in the afternoon I would meet her somewhere on route and I knew immediately if she had had a good day or not. A bad day would mean that she would immediately come with us, without any problem. But if she had a good day, she would give me the look on the painting, saying “just keep on going without me, I will be home later”.
Lately we keep Scruffy inside our property. The island is getting busier and it is better for our peace of mind to have her safe within our fence. Once in a while she sneaks out and still wanders around the island. If she doesn’t come back within a few hours, I put a message on Facebook and ask people if they spotted Scruffy. Lots of island people know her and I usually get a detailed report of where she has been: she had lunch at the Sports Bar, an afternoon drink at the Margarita Bar and was watching the sunset at the Lazy Lizard. And when I go to pick her up, the minute she sees me she looks at me with na face that says “where have you been, I’ve been looking for you?!?” and she acts super happy, jumps up and down and walks cheery back home with me. The little sneak she is.
I can tell so many more things, but I can never capture it all. But if you look at this painting you get a pretty good idea of what a special dog Scruffy is.