An American and Moroccan dog switch places. The American dog asks his Moroccan friend how he likes the U.S. “It’s great,” the Moroccan dog replies, “everyone is so nice, the food is amazing, and there’s lots of comfortable places to rest. How do you like Morocco?” The American dog replies, “Well, everyone here treats me like a dog.”
I just received news that my dog of 17 years, Corki, will be put down today, and I thought about that story after heading to my host family’s house, which is on a farm (a place where the circle of life for animals is well accepted, if you catch my drift). My host family knows how much I love my dog, so they’re sympathetic as I hold back tears telling them. Just outside, there are four newborn puppies sleeping peacefully besides their mother.
My dog, by contrast, got spayed early so she could become a member of our own family instead of creating a dog family of her own. Indeed, I came from a community where we agonize over naming our pets, buy them presents for their birthdays, sleep beside them in beds, take more pictures of them than of anyone else, enter them into “cutest pet” contests in the newspaper, hug them after months apart, and seek comfort from them when we’re upset. When I was in elementary school, we even said Mourner’s Kaddish and held a formal burial service for my friend’s dog, Jake.
These two canine realities – the one in Sidi Bouzid and the one back home—seem to reconcile only in Corki’s passing. In telling me the news, my mom reminded me, “Corki is a dog. She doesn’t have a life. She’s not happy living like this, and keeping her around would be easier for us but harder for her.”
At the end of the day, Corki’s not a person; all she had was her health and the little joys each day. She measured her affection unintentionally based on who spent time with, protected, and cared for her (aka my mother). It was a type of instinctual and in-the-moment affection that only dogs can provide us with.
A lot has changed in my life since I was 10. Through making new friends, hanging out with old ones, long nights of homework, lazy days in, tears and teenage drama, graduation parties, long farewells, and airport reunions, Corki’s been there. I’d come home and talk to her in made-up languages, vaguely Slavic accents, or the broken Arabic and Turkish I’d been learning in college, because I knew it didn’t matter what I did or said to her.
My own feelings of love, loss, and nostalgia only come from the place I made for her in my own complicated human way over the past 17 years. But surrounded by stray dogs and cats, albeit none of who are as cute as her, I’m reminded that Corki, too, is one of them. And remembering that Corki's a dog helps me to grieve her in the same way that she loved me—openly, simply, and with unwavering acceptance and appreciation.
B’slama lorkadoo, seni cok seviyorum.
My name is Julie, in Turkish it's Jülide. Right now I'm serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco, and I'll write my thoughts here!