Jan 02 2015


As an adult, I can go anywhere and eat anything without getting sick. This stems, I believe, from the amazing immune system I had to have picked up along my travels. Granted, the State Department made damned sure we were immunized against absolutely every possibility out there, and I have the shot record to prove it. State hands out these little yellow booklets to everyone going overseas that you’re supposed to present whenever someone official demands it; it’s called an International Certificate of Vaccination, or “yellow health card.” It’s supposed to show all of the immunizations you’ve had that will insure, they hope, that you don’t drop dead in that particular country. Unfortunately, whoever designed this particular little booklet had never had to travel to the assorted countries I did, so it was too little for our purposes, and they ended up stapling extra pages into it, so that my shot record looked more like an accordion file. Rubella? Check. Measles? Check. Smallpox? Not a problem. Bubonic plague, hepatitis (A and B, thank you), typhoid, yellow fever…. Needless to say, I’m no wimp when it comes to getting jabs!

In spite of all the precautions, though, shit happens. Like, to me.

Not much you can do about a rabid dog, and frankly, this could happen even to someone from Wichita, though probably not on the scale, and concomitant absurdity with which it happened to me and, seemingly, everyone I knew within a fifty-metre radius.

I had a dog named Snoopy. He was a little black mutt, just a puppy, and too young for his rabies vaccination. Which is a shame, because wouldn’t you know it, poor Snoopy got rabies. (Caught? Received? I don’t know; he got really sick.) We know Poor Snoopy got rabies because, one day when I came home from school, he ran up to greet me as usual, but instead of stopping and begging to be scratched, he jumped up and ripped my face off. Well, not all of it, but it definitely felt like it at the time. I guess I started screaming, because my mother came out and for the only time in my life that I’ve seen, almost lost it. I guess my face was covered in blood, and there was Poor Snoopy beside me, looking really sad and kind of pitiful, knowing deep down somewhere in his damaged brain that he’d done something wrong. In the hullabaloo of getting me to the Embassy clinic, I guess they forgot to lock up Poor Snoopy, because he then went on to bite the gardener, the maid’s daughter, and I think half of the rest of the neighbourhood! Rabies makes you crazy like that.

They eventually caught Poor Snoopy, and he was put into a closet that was part of the house, but with a door on the outside. In order to be certain he had rabies (because apparently this wasn’t obvious from the insane behavior he’d exhibited!), he had to die a natural death so that they could examine the mush that was left of his brain. It took him a long time to die. Loudly, howling, outside in agony. I can hear it in my imagination to this day. Needless to say, I’ve never really wanted another dog after Snoopy.

When he finally did die, my mom was told that she had to send the head to Thailand for analysis (because, like, we still aren’t sure!?) “Just cut his head off, and we’ll send it up.”

“With WHAT?!” my mother wanted to know.

“Oh, you know, those big kitchen cleavers are a good tool for that.”

Yeah, nuff said about the beheading. In the meantime, I was subjected to what is now an old-fashioned solution to being bitten by a rapid dog: 21 rabies shots in the stomach—did I mention it was a very big needle? One per day. Well, actually, two per day: the shots themselves were so painful, that they’d jab you first with Novocain to deaden the pain. Still, at least I didn’t have to die in a closet with my brain turned to mush.

Poor Snoopy.

  1. Jewell

    Lordy lordy. Rabies was a fact of life overseas, wasn’t it? I almost came in contact with a rabid dog in Liberia. One of our compound residents, a bachelor whose name escapes my memory, had a boxer. Have never liked boxers since being bitten in the face by one when we lived in Manila. I was out one day in our huge front yard in Mamba Point with our Basenji hound when off in the distance, say 300 yards away, I spied this damn boxer. Something didn’t seem right about his movements. Head was down, as if he was sniffing at the ground. He meandered, with no particular purpose. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. He continued to meander but was making his way towards me and my dog. I knew instinctively, don’t ask me how, that something wasn’t right. I picked up my dog and ran back to our house. Found out later that a guy who lived just outside our compound had shot and killed the boxer. Head was sent to the hospital in Harbel where it was confirmed -the dreaded rabies! Only one kid in our compound, Arjan Mulder (you may have known him, his brother Robert Jan, and sister Marja) had come in direct contact with this poor dog, and endured the same round of giant needle-in-his-belly shots. To this day, I have a pathological fear of strays because overseas, “stray” meant “rabid”.

  2. Marcia Murto

    We had a dog named Snoopy who died of rabies in Laos, too! What year did yours happen? Ours, in 1974, was much the same, except Snoopy had had her rabies shots. She had the “dumb” version so she was mostly quiet. My mom tried to nurse her and was scratched; she did the series of shots too but in her arm since she had had the rabies vaccination. According to my mom, the Medical Unit removed the head and sent it to Thailand for testing. Our second dog (Snoopy’s son) was never the same and kind of neurotic. We had to leave him in Laos when we evacuated the next year.

    1. KLife

      HAH!!! I’m beginning to see a strange animal trend going on in Vientiane. There was also a pony named Rusty who it seemed was owned at one time by just about everyone! 🙂 I think I was about seven when it happened, so around 1970. The Medical Unit must have made some progress in dog head decapitations!


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