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There aren’t a lot of Americans here in Las Galeras. The few who live here as “residents” are more occasional visitors rather than full-time occupants in the village. Katie and Paul are the exception, and Katie is simply exceptional.

Paul is retired, I think from the constabulary in Boston. Except for three or four weeks each year, he and his wife live here year-round and have done so for more than a decade. Paul’s special time is the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. He’s a real traditionalist and for those few weeks beginning with Black Friday he is a very credible Santa Claus. I think there’s a photo of him in his “casual Santa” outfit somewhere back in the archives of this blog.

I’ve given up trying to anticipate Katalina. It’s much easier–and more rewarding–to simply marvel in her presence and enjoy the way the world swirls around her and she through life. This is not to imply that she’s in any way a superficial person; there are seemingly depths to her beyond what we mere mortals can apprehend. And she, modestly and charmingly, blithely continues along as though we ALL have a share in these wonderful qualities, a characteristic that to a large extent appears to govern her life. She is perfect for this place as it in turn is perfect for her.

Paul and Katie have animals, apart from a normal complement of wildlife. They have cats and chickens. They have two dogs. Somewhere on YouTube, there is a clip of Katie feeding her donkey a passionfruit by mouth. (This was shortly before the animal went completely and demandingly out of control resulting in several days where Paul and Katie were barricaded in their house. Eventually, cooler thinking prevailed and the donkey was returned to a more normal if less interesting existence on the farm of Sr. Quinengo down on the flat at the foot of the little hill on which we live. But this note isn’t about Matilda the donkey. It’s not about la lomicita. Nor is it about Paul–in or out of uniform, and neither is it about me (other than to the common extent that it’s ALL always about me.)

Rather, I want to tell you about their dog, specifically the bigger of the two, the one with the maybe smaller personality but the more reflective disposition, Buddy.

Yesterday I drove down to the village at 6:45 AM to pick up Pasquala, who cleans and cooks a couple of meals for me about once a week. Yesterday Pasquala was late; the normal gua-gua driver was in the Capital and so all bets were off as to her timing. She called and told me that she would take a moto-concho up to my house whenever she arrived in the village. And so I returned home.

At the turn into the lane leading to my house I encountered Buddy the dog. I stopped. My window was down. We regarded each other. I asked him: “Buddy, Where’s Katie?” He looked at me as if to say “What does it matter?” I suggested that he’d better head on home, and then I did likewise.

A few minutes later, Buddy materialized on my walk. He regarded me once again. He helped himself to a little drink, stopped over for a brief ear-scratch and then he settled down on the concrete veranda, maybe waiting for the sun to come around and make it pleasantly warm.

Pasquala arrived. Buddy settled in. I called Katie. She answered the phone with “Is Buddy with you?” and I said, “well, yes he is.” She asked me to send him along home and I did so but, honestly, my effort was half-hearted. I sort of liked the idea that he’d taken it upon himself to come calling. This is something he’d never done before, even though both he and Saucy (Ms. Canine Personality) frequently accompany their master when visiting here.

After about a half hour my phone rang. It was Katie. “Is Buddy still there?” I said that he was and allowed that he showed no sign of wanting to leave anytime soon. Then Katie said–and I did not see this coming–“let me talk to him.”

Pasquala’s eyes widened. She does not speak English but it was pretty evident what was going on as I held the phone out to the dog and said “It’s for you.”

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of living with a really smart dog you will understand fully when I characterize the look that passed over his face as something like “…this is a call I would really rather not take,” even as he took a hesitant step and a half towards my outstretched hand holding the cell phone. I could hear Katie, in a voice not at all authoritative let alone commanding as it squeaked from the tiny speaker “Buddy, I want you to come home.”

It took a beat or two for this to register before–I am not making this up–Buddy deliberately turned and just as deliberately began to pick them up and put them down as he headed off for home. He didn’t even say goodbye, thanks for the water, see you around. Nothing. He was simply off away home.

Katie, who of course couldn’t see this, continued yammering something or other into the phone. Perhaps she was asking him to pick up a loaf of bread on his way. (That’s what I choose to believe this afternoon, anyway.) As her small voice continued to rattle from the phone in my hand Pasquala and I just gaped, first at each other and finally at Buddy as he disappeared up the lane.

All of this occurred before my second cup of coffee today. And some of you wonder what I do here!

Well, I marvel; I simply marvel.

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