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Expat Life

Spot was here

El Fantasma slid to a stop in the loose gravel of the parched clay roadway. His engine idled down to a steady throb as I hit the window switch to get a better look at the scene before me. More fine dust settled on the dash adding to the steadily building layer. It was a cool yet clear day and billowy white clouds scudded across azure skies. Edie and I were driving in a rural area we had previously explored a couple of times.

We were near the small town of Quingeo. For those of you who haven’t made the trek, Quingeo is a town and parish in Cuenca Canton, Azuay Province. Wikipedia tells me that in the 2001 Ecuadorian census the town had 5,700 inhabitants. The geography is pretty out that way and the people I meet are always friendly. Those are two great reasons to return to a place and that’s what we were doing that Sunday afternoon.

I spied an interesting little operation along our rural route that had prompted me to brake our truck for closer inspection. In a dusty blind curve, in one of those out of the way roads that I seek out, sat a small brickyard. It was located on the side of a hill that was providing a quality source of clay for the manufacturer’s processes. On a flat area next to the hill was a large brick lined pit with tendrils of smoke wafting out from the charcoal fire that was burning below. Surrounding the area were row upon row of bricks that awaited their fate in the firing pit. This operation was very small and there were only a few wooden hand molds lying about with which to form the bricks.

As I walked around for a moment, camera in hand, I noticed something unusual. The  imprints of animals and birds could be seen in some of the bricks. While the clay was still damp, and before the bricks were stacked, wandering fauna had left their individual marks. Some were more distinct than others so I took a moment to make my selection. It was the print of a dog I chose for my composition.

I was thinking about how humans and animals alike do different things to indicate to their peers that they have been in an area. The concept of the old GI graffiti from WWII wasn’t lost on me as I considered not only the words, “Kilroy Was Here” but also the mark or drawing often associated with the words that form that 70-year-old phrase. I thought about how GIs had assured each other that they weren’t alone in those far-away places by making their mark and writing the words, “Kilroy Was Here.” It was always good to know that friendly folks are nearby. As I reviewed those thoughts, I felt a wet tongue lap at my dangling left hand.

Startled but for a moment, I looked down into the brown eyes of the possible maker of the signature in question. She had hurried over when she noticed me, anxious to see who was poking around her stomping grounds. With a lick to my hand, her wagging tail indicted that my presence was not only accepted, but enjoyed. I had been duly welcomed. She followed me as I made a few images. You’ll laugh but I did look at her feet to see if she could have been the mystery signer; I think she was!

Just like the GIs found solace in encountering the simple words and design of their long-ago graffiti, I found a certain solace in the paw print, the signature, left in the clay brick by who else!? Man’s best friend and in this case, my latest new-found pal, have a special place in my heart.

A dog, unlike many humans, doesn’t care where you come from and it doesn’t judge you by your accent. The color of your skin or the state or country you have immigrated from don’t make a whit of difference to a dog. It doesn’t count your money or lack thereof. But, it does count your kindnesses. For, if you are kind to it, a dog will repay your meager efforts tenfold. A dog is an awesome creature for us to share our planet with.

Like the GIs of times past, I too find myself in lesser known corners of our planet, hemispheres from my old home. I’m assured by the acceptance the paw print denotes. Observing the smaller things in the world always keeps me in the right perspective for the bigger picture. Thank goodness for our four-footed friends. We’ve been loving and needing them since the dawn of time.