I remember the first time I walked into an animal shelter to pick out our first family dog. I think I was about eight years old, and I was with my mom and my brother. We were supposed to be picking out one small dog, and of course ended up with one small dog, Jack – and a German Shepherd we named Cody (mom’s pick, much to my dad’s shock and amusement). Our next rescue dog, Cooper, had such a look of sadness and confusion on his face in his picture on the shelter website that we went to break him out of dog jail the next day. I’ve always liked having pets around, and I was so happy to find that our host family here in Macedonia has a dog, Gina.
Pets in Macedonia are treated much differently than they are in the US. I’m pretty sure my host mom would fall over if she saw how my family’s dogs behave, sitting on the couch to watch TV and sleeping in our beds. Gina is strictly an outside dog, as much as she desperately wants to be an inside dog. Leave the door open a second too long, and she’s making a mad dash for a spot in front of the stove, laying her dense little body as close to the floor as she can so that she either goes unnoticed or appears too heavy to move.
Some mornings, Gina likes to follow me to work. She runs ahead of me, looking over her shoulder to make sure I’m still following along. The problem is, once we’ve arrived at my office, she doesn’t know how to get home on her own and looks at me helplessly until I end up walking all the way back with her. Last Friday she was going about her normal routine and running ahead of me up the street; I stopped to try to get her to go home before I got all the way into the center, but she had run into a neighbor’s yard. In what seemed like a split second, the neighbor’s dog chased her back out into the street – and into the path of a car. I watched her get hit, roll under the front of the car and out the side, and then take off at a full sprint towards home.
It was horrifying. I lost sight of her on the way home, and when I did spot her again she ran away from me. She didn’t seem hurt, but was also probably in shock. A few hours later our host brother found her wandering around a couple blocks away, and while it didn’t seem like she had broken anything, she was shaking and crying and we didn’t know if there was something wrong that we couldn’t see. People don’t really take their pets to the vet here – if they get hurt and die, that’s a fact of life. I’m not even sure that there’s a vet in the area to take them to even if you wanted to. We seem to have gotten lucky this time; Gina is bumped and bruised but relatively unscathed, although she is still terrified when I’m around, and I think in her head I’m the one who ran her over since I was the one around when it happened. I’m going to have to feed her treats until she learns to love me again.
We spent the weekend in Shtip celebrating a few Volunteers’ birthdays. It was rainy and dreary and we spent a lot of time moving from one cafe to the next, but it was a lot of fun and great to have most of our favorite people in one place again. When there was a break in the rain, we walked up to this really cool abandoned mosque in the center of town (a sign says it’s “a priority for restoration,” but it also looks like that sign has been there a while and that they’re playing fast and loose with the term priority). Hanging around the mosque was one of the cutest strays I’ve ever seen; you can tell the strays from the yellow tags in their ears that they get as part of a catch and release program to give them their shots and I think spay/neuter them. Such an adorable love bug!