Sunday, September 04, 2005

Because of Winn-Dixie

Another book about a kid dealing with death. It was recently made into a movie that was recommended to me. Actually, the soundtrack was recommended to me (it's good), and the movie was recommended as an afterthought. But I think the recommender was biased because she's a dog person. But I decided to read the book anyway.

This the reason I've been thinking about plot lately. I felt like this book didn't really have one; it seemed more like a few character vignettes tied together at the end with a party. I can see why this would make a delightful movie, with plenty of quirky characters and a very friendly dog, kind of a kids' version of Where the Heart Is, but I wasn't into it.

So instead, I'll share my story of the smiling dog. (Winn-Dixie likes to smile, showing all his teeth.)

When I was in Tanzania, the three of us stayed in a bed and breakfast owned by an American living in Tanzania. It was very beautiful, in the mountains near some waterfalls. It was run by two or three Tanzanians who spoke very little or no English, but they were very friendly and fed us lots of delicious food. Two dogs lived there, one black and one yellow. (They weren't any recognizable breed, but they looked somewhat like labs.) There were also a few puppies, and it was obvious that the black dog was their mother, and still nursing. She seemed friendly enough when we began to approach her, but when we got within a few feet, she showed her teeth, in a snarl that kept us from getting any closer. We figured that she was doing the maternal instinct thing. She did this several times, wagging her tail to confuse us.

Finally, Hillary asked the young man who lived there about the dog. He told her that the dog isn't snarling, she's laughing. And she'll do it on command. If you tell her, "cheka," she smiles. Cheka means laugh or smile in Swahili. Sure enough, when we met the dog and tried it, she smiled. Later, we noticed that the woman who was cooking dinner called out the kitchen window to the dog to offer her scraps. She called, "Chubby! Cheka!"

They named the dog after an American pop star.

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