From the age of three to six I lived in Panama. My father was stationed at an air base there during the last part of WWII. It was an interesting time for a young boy with so many unique things to see and do. My father was a radioman in the air force and they flew all over Central and South America. On one trip to the island of Haiti my father brought back a present for me. The present was named Meloff, he was a very handsome white poodle.
Me, Meloff and my father when we lived in Panama – 61 years ago.
This dog was amazing! He had been trained by a Portuguese breeder and trainer and he could do all kind of tricks. My father would say “Sit” and the dog would sit, he would say “Stay” “permanecer” and the dog would stay in one spot until you told him to come to you. When my father told the dog to “roll over” “capotagem” the dog would drop to the floor and roll over then stand back up.
I was amazed watching this wonderful present perform to perfection. Well of course since it was my pet it became my responsibility to feed, water and take the dog for walks on his leash to use the bathroom and also clean up his deposits and bring them back home. We started spending a lot of time alone together but a problem developed. The dog would not listen to me! When I told him to come he just sat there and looked at me so I had to tug on the leash firmly to get him to follow me. When I would try to get him to do some of the tricks I had seen him perform he just ignored me. When I became firm with him he would bite me! This of course hurt my feelings and made me mad so I hit him and he bit me again harder. It was not long before the dog would hide from me and wanted nothing to do with me. He was still my responsibility but I would have to crawl under the furniture, drag him out with a leash and get bitten in the process. When he bit me I hit him and he bit me again. The dog hated me!!
What hadn’t registered with this six year old boy was that my father was giving the commands in English followed by Portuguese. When my father came back home and discovered the strife going on between me and the dog he explained to me that the dog was raised by a Portuguese trainer and could not understand English!! My father taught me the Portuguese words for the commands I needed to use and wonder of wonders they worked. What ever I told the dog to do he did eagerly. I was so proud, the pet I wanted to love and take care for began to like me and before long we were the best of friends, as long as I spoke his language. It was also pretty neat that I was learning a new language. I also learned a lesson that stayed with me all of my life; we don’t all speak the same language but we are all the same regardless of the language we speak.
When we moved back to the United States I was not allowed to bring my dog with me, he was given to some friends who were still stationed at the air base. It broke my heart to leave my friend even though the friends were supposed to try to find a way to ship Meloff to me. Meloff never made it and I have no idea what ever happened to him.
The recent earthquakes in Haiti have reminded me of my lost friend several times. The tragedy, death and loss of all kinds in that island country are heart wrenching. It is unimaginable to think of the huge loss so many have suffered there. When I watch the news from Haiti I keep thinking at least I have one great memory that came from that country.
A story from my very young years when I lived in Panama.