There are many dogs here in Aouchtam, Morocco — three within the One People Community. “Oppie” — the One People dog looks like a white Labrador mix, is still a puppy and growing fast. “Laya” was probably a stray that got taken in by the community (don’t have the story on this pet) and Lucky, a small black dog that I first thought was a puppy but later found out was full grown and had already had a litter of puppies. I call this last one “Lucky Lady,” because she was apparently so abused prior to the One People leasing the Sanctuary compound, that she wouldn’t come out of hiding for the first couple of weeks. She’s getting more accepting of people now but she’s still very skittish.
It has been unclear to me since arriving in Morocco how the Islamic people regard dogs, as there are many who roam freely through the neighborhoods but few that seem to “belong” to anyone. With one exception: “Tony” the affable German Shepard that is the adored pet of our next door neighbor near the apartment complex where I live. Tony is the self-appointed “Guardian” of this entire area. You can’t go the bathroom in the middle of the night without setting off Tony; and he doesn’t bark just once, either.
However, there are several other German Shepherds that one might encounter while walking between the apartments and the Sanctuary and although we don’t have names for these dogs, we know them on sight and have formed a kind of bond with them.
Tuesday, Tomas returned to our apartment midday and told me that the big German Shepherd that we would sometimes see on our walks, had been killed by a vehicle during the previous night. His body was lying beside the road, already bloated and starting to smell bad enough that you had to cross the road and hold your breath to get by it.
The image of that beautiful big dog body lying dead on the highway brought me to tears. My first thought was: “We have to bury him.” My second thought was: “How the heck would we do that?”
Apparently, both Tomas and Blue Star were feeling similarly. In the evening, as Tomas and I prepared to go for a walk, the three of us conferred for a few minutes about what to do with the dead dog. Blue Star decided she would find a way to bury him. She headed to the Sanctuary to get the pick axe and something to tie onto the dog’s leg to drag him across the highway. We headed to the beach, promising to meet up with her at the dog site.
As we completed our walk, we saw Blue Star just beginning to cover the dog’s body with dirt. We joined her, giving this gentle giant his last earthly “pet” as we piled the earth around and over his physical shell. We sang to him and let him know that he was loved and would be remembered.
Then we gathered some rocks to make a circle around his grave.
At that point, we looked up to see another dog — a younger, smaller dog — coming toward us. She stopped about 30 feet away and lay down with head and front paws pointing straight at the grave. Then she put her head down on her paws, as if bowing to pay her last respects. We were amazed. We’d never seen anything like that before.
After we left, the little dog got up and slowly walked over to the grave. She sniffed all around, taking in the information — this friend is no more. I spoke to her and said: “Be careful on the road, Little One. The cars come so fast. Please be careful.” She looked at me as though she completely understood.
Blue Star went to return the pick axe and Tomas and I went home to fix supper.
While we were eating, Blue Star told us that she had a long history of burying animals that had been killed on the highway. When she saw the dead dog, she took responsibility for disposing of the body properly. When she turned the dog over, she was relieved to see his face reflect complete peace. She said that comforted her, to know that he hadn’t suffered.
She also told us that while she was digging the grave and placing the dog body in it, several other dogs and several local men had come by and observed what she was doing. One of the men looked at the scene from his car while driving up the hillside road. Blue Star felt that the man had been close to the animal.
We didn’t really know what people do in Aouchtam with dead animals that aren’t edible. We just knew that there is no Animal Control to call and the longer we waited, the more difficult it was going to be to deal with the situation. The good news was that there was also no “authority” to show up and site some regulation that would have turned Blue Star’s good deed into a crime. Village life has it’s trade offs.
Farewell, Dog Spirit. Happy journeys. We honored your life, as we laid your body to rest.