2013

Chubby, Our Pet Dog

I never wanted to own a pet. However, Chubby joined our household in 1971. My husband and my friend, Mayy, conspired to adopt her when I was vulnerably pregnant with my third child. She was a beautiful puppy and she was epileptic, which made us love her even more. She was a lady, though, and became bilingual, understanding our English as well as our Arabic speech.

The Lebanese Civil War started long before February of 1975. However, that date was the effective “demarcation line.” April 13, 1975 was when life began to spin out of control. Despite these very ominous dates, we, the “bourgeoisie” were still living the fata morgana that was Beirut. In July of that year, with my three children, my friend, Wadad, and her three boys, we went on vacation to London as if all was well. Two weeks later, after hitting every touristic site in London, we were ready to go back. Wadad’s husband told her that the situation had escalated dramatically; the road from the airport to our apartment building was too precarious to navigate. Wadad stayed in London. Against my husband’s pleas, I returned. Since that time and up until the murder of innocents was halted, this manufactured war with its horrific daily events, was to bring on disastrous consequences to all of us, Lebanon’s citizens, and to the region as a whole.

Our apartment building was about a block down from the Holiday Inn Hotel. Snipers had taken over control of the hotel and were amusing themselves with taking out a few people daily. The local militias were exchanging fire with them and so we had moved to my parent’s safer apartment. A few days, we thought. My parents had a Scottish Highland Terrier, a temperamental little fellow who wouldn’t have accepted sharing his turf with our Chubby. So we left her in our flat and asked our concierge and his family to feed her. Three days later, with the fire exchanges becoming more vicious, the concierge called and informed us that Chubby was crying and barking all day and night. We had to go and retrieve her.

We parked the car around the bend, out of the sniper’s range, and dashed across the street to the building entrance. A few bullets zinged eerily over us and we were greeted fervently with hugs and tears. We had made it safely across! After retrieving the ecstatic Chubby, we took her to my in-laws where my brother-in-law, Elias, was going to look after her.

Elias took her out when he went for a daily tour around his relatively safe neighborhood. The rubbish had been piling up on the streets. At first Chubby walked daintily away from the odiferous piles. Soon enough though, she began rummaging in the trash! At that moment, Chubby turned from a lady into a tramp!

We then moved to London and then to the US. However, since her street days, we could never retrain Chubby back to being a lady. If I looked away for a minute, she would climb on the kitchen counter and eat the meatballs I had put aside for dinner; she went into the rubbish bin, toppled it and spread it across my kitchen floor; she often ignored my commands and sometimes if I, or the children, did anything to displease her she would pee right in the middle of our beds!

The war had ruined our perfectly well-mannered Chubby, and the effects of that had become permanent. That’s what wars do. They leave scars on all of us who have been through them. Sometimes the scars are perceptible, often they are not. Sometimes we cope, often, as happened with me, it would take years before I realized how injured I was and how deeply I had internalized those traumas and horrors, but . . .

. . . That’s for another day.

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11 thoughts on “Chubby, Our Pet Dog”

  1. Hi Auntie Hala! I enjoyed your post! I vaguely remember Chubby. I remember playing alone with all the toys that you guys left behind in your apartment by the Mediterranean and being stressed out that a rocket could zoom in any time. I look forward to your YouTube channel in your energetic 80s! 😉

  2. Hala, I remember well your moving into your parents place. Tony Bahou and I would visit often and sometimes we played card with Nehmeh to while away the evenings since Beirut had effectively shut down.

    Keep writing, please.

  3. Hala!!! This was amazing! Can’t wait for the next ones!
    You are an inspiration!
    Love,
    Your other daughter!

  4. My Dear Hala,

    I finally got to your glob …… amazing but not surprised…..
    Words cannot describe the memories it brought back….. especially
    the day I arrived at your door and all I heard was your reprimanding
    words to Chubby and your ……………. mayy saffouri for being guilty of
    the introduction…… Loved it Hala and look forward to more…….
    mayy

  5. Hey Hala,
    I only learnt today about your blog! Congratulations! I will read all slowly to absorb all the details.
    Looking forward to more.
    All the best, Samira Rafidi Meghdessian

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