This past week my extended family had to help two beloved border collies move on to their next flock. These two lovely girls had filled our hearts and lives for 13 and 15 years. Certainly they were spoiled and certainly they deserved every moment. Dogs are omnipresent in Bhutan but in such a different role than in the U.S. Here in Bhutan all dogs, with a few exceptions, are considered stray dogs. That means they have no specific owner but they are an accepted part of the community. Their role is well defined but so different than my concept of dogginess. The dogs are free to do whatever they like. They lie where they choose, they wander where they will, their territorial disputes are overly dramatic, all of a sudden you will hear what sounds like a fight to the death with enough fierce growels and woeful yelps to believe one is being eaten. In the end one will demur and all returns to normal in a moment. The dogs are chased out of buildings when they come in to check things out. Chasing out consists primarily of a lot of “tsh tsh tsh tshshshtt” on the part of the chaser, occasionally some stick waiving or stone throwing finishes the task. Left over food (rice) is dumped in the yard with the anticipation some critter, likely a canine, will eat it. The dogs are primed to the sound of trash dumping. I sort my trash carefully, the only person in this part of Bhutan to do so I’m sure, I dump my organic waste over the bank. Every time the dogs come running only to find vegetarian kitchen scraps, very low on their menu.
Affection for dogs seems to be limited to kids and puppies. It is not unusual to see little children with arms full of puppies. The puppies here have the same forlorn “oh well if I have to” look as puppies everywhere seem to have as part of their DNA. But the number of puppies does not add up. Here, puppies are often seen in ones and twos. Litters do not work like that, quite what happens to the others is a mystery to me even after several conversations “around” the topic. The communities, with help from the government, do encourage neutering and even have large events in some of the bigger towns to try and control the population. The dogs, for the most part, are very well socialized, by and large they appear to be content, generally well fed and reasonably healthy. Dogs seldom get treatment of any kind so if a dog is ill or injured it is left to care for itself. However, one puppy did start visiting me when she was quite little, 6, weeks or so, she is now several months old and still comes to visit and responds to my voice whenever we meet out and about. My own personal share of the community dog bank.
The cows are placid and well trained, they are taken out to “pasture” every morning and brought home in the evening. The trip out and back can be a pretty good hike, many cows spend their days in the forest with someone to tend them. Here the boy who looks after the cows is called a cowboy, one of the lowliest positions in the workforce, they are generally uneducated and illiterate and on the path to a life that has been lived in this part of the world for centuries. In the
Many Bhutanese want to improve their existing house or build a new one, often right next door. The process begins by accumulating materials when they become available. This process can be spread over many years. The primary material to be obtained is wood. Whenever a tree falls nearby it is sawn into large timbers and stacked close to the house. Corrugated metal is laid over the top to protect the investment. In many areas the majority of houses have these stacks of wood