Joy: Earlier youre telling me about this time in Costa Rica where you have this interaction with this dog who keeps coming up to you. At some point during this interaction this change happens where you say I have to have a dog. Lets go to this time where you actually are realizing that youre now becoming a dog person.
Ken: There was a dog, I remember its sort of embarrassing because it’s like this soft focus memory of meeting the love of your life. I arrived in Costa Rica. I knew nothing except that I had been invited to go there for three months and was met by people I didnt know at the airport, who drove me. It was night time, through these rocky, unpaved mountain roads in the middle of the pouring rain, with no street lights anywhere so its just pitch black. Im thinking, Where am I?” And we arrive at this farm and they show me this little apartment building. I have sort of a four-unit building that had been built to host writers and artists. They were showing me my room and there was one little light outside the house. It was still raining lightly and this dog appeared from the other side of this grove of trees. He looked at me.
His picture is on the title page of Dog Culture. He was a mutt basically. Im not sure what his mix was. He may have been a little pit bullish but not much, like pit bull shepherdy. And he had a cropped tail and under the single light that was shining down on him in the rain his little nub of a tail wiggling back and forth. The person who was showing me the grounds said, This is Duque. Hes my dog.” And of course it turned out that he was his dog but he didnt care for him that much.
At some point the dog started following me back from the main house after lunch. It was strange because he would follow me back from lunch and come into my little apartment and curl up under the desk to take a nap. Then he would get up after twenty minutes and leave. I just started taking a nap with him. Not under the desk but in my bed. A nap after lunch is a really good idea. Then he would get up and follow the gardener all day. And then he would come back at dinner time.
I remember the first time he came to dinner because I actually cooked dinner in a separate building and I heard what sounded like knocking at the door and opened it up and it was him. I was so excited. I was like, Come on in!” And then he started coming and staying in a chair facing my door while I slept at night. As soon as it was morning he would go out and follow the gardener again and then hed meet me at lunch time, take his nap, leave and meet me at dinner.
I realized it started giving me this schedule and I got work done. When he came I took a break, which is a much more efficient way of working than to work straight through the day. And then I decided I wanted to see some other parts of the country and I had to leave him. Thats when I realized Im worried what hes going to do while Im gone.
I ended up going to the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica to a little town. There was this beach and there was this whole pack of dogs. Like a poodle and a Golden Retriever and a Great Dane and all these different mixes of dogs running in the surf of this little beach. I was watching them play and somebody who was local turned to me and said, You realize none of these dogs have an owner.” Which I hadnt realized because when you think of a wild or stray dog you dont think of them happily bouncing through the surf on a beautiful beach together. Later that night I saw they all gathered together at the bus stop and all slept there together.
I became fascinated by these dogs. Also, these dogs who were homeless in this particular town seemed so happy. Which I know homeless dogs are not happy and they dont live long, obviously. And yet somehow the character of these dogs that they werent being taken care of and yet they still were incredibly friendly and would come up to you and would make you think this dog must have an owner because they were, to be honest, much better behaved than the owned dogs I see in Manhattan. I became fascinated by the good nature and the reasonableness of the dog.
Visit us again tomorrow for Day 5 of the interview. In the meantime, check out Ken’s blog where you can see more pictures, read about the rebuilding of New Orleans and other events in Ken’s life.