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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
The Dog of the Most Celebrated Cuban Refugee Never to Arrive on U.S. Soil Speaks
by Marcy Jarvis
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I live down here in Spanish speaking Florida. Little Havanna, they call it. They said language acquisition might be tough on a northerner like me but it's not so bad; I'm still young. Just put an "o" on the end of every word - you're speaking Spanish!
      They call this yard where I am tethered, The Holy Garden of the Blessed Child Elian. That's Elian Gonzales they are talking about, in case you haven't heard of the Little Saint from the Deep. Weeping women hold up a doll strapped to a cross while the men beat their breasts. "Elian is the savior to our people!" they wail. Okay, okay. So Janet and Bill want to take the kid away and give him back to his Dad. It's no reason for All Hell to break lose.
     They're selling Elian Holy Water under the blue tarp. I can see them from where I like to lie, under this orange tree. One idiot marine is frantically filling his baby daughter's NUK bottles with the Elian Holy Water but not adding enough milk powder, despite his wife's protests that it's the milk powder that gives the infant the protein her growing brain needs. He is fighting her on it because he doesn't like "wasting" so much money on the powder he says. "This water is what's important!" he yells.
     Does anybody really believe that fathers are the best people to raise their own children?
     What am I doing here, you wonder? What is a black Labrador Retriever doing in the midst of all this?
     Easy. I am Elian Gonzales' dog.
     The newsmen say that because Elian did not make it to shore before he was rescued (First the fisherman saves Elian -- now Elian SAVES.) American immigration officials say he never "arrived," and because he never "arrived," the law requires him to leave. I can see how these religious fanatics think Elian's a saint. He's just like the Holy Ghost. Neither here nor there, but everywhere. Oh man! It just hit me - Fisherman. Fishers of men. Jesus Christ.

     Who in the World
     Do you think you are?
     Is anybody registering this stuff ? In a conscious way, I mean?

     Yow! What was that? Some kind a Spanish flea just took a bite out of my hide. I've had about all I can take of Elian prancing back and forth in front of the TV crews. I wish somebody would come over here with the mikes. It shouldn't take a dog to tell them that you cannot leave if you never arrived.
     Hey Elian! Over here! Somebody throw me the ball! When does this kid go to bed anyway?
     Everyone wants a piece of Elian. Even the Pekinese poet in the neighborhood. On no! Here he comes now. (This dog's too fruity for me.)
     "Wanna hear my latest poem about Elian?"
     "Not really, no."

     "Oh, Elian,
      you buoyant little stowaway
      to a rude peninsula.
      Starving Somalian
      bulging bellied boys
      have nothing on you,
      you wash 'n' wear little alien.
      Who can resist rising up in revolt against
      a cigar toking general
      on your behalf?
      If only a dog could capture
      the imagination of a nation.
      If only a dog could be
      a savior."

     "Oh don't start." I whine, burying my head in my paws.
      "Hmmpf! Don't you care at all that this tender child may be taken from the bosom of his Miami family where he has drunk the only milk of solace he has known since his mother's untimely¾oh, I can't go on." The Pekinese offers a soulful bay to the moon, then sticks his tear stained schnozz in my face.
     "Hey, go on! Get outa here. Don't slobber on me¾ Jeeeezus!"
     The Pekinese poet maintains that this dog and pony show is being generated, in part, by the cadence of Elian's name.
     "El-i-an-Gon-zal-ez. It just trips off your tongue like Ring Around the Rosies. It's just like Red Rover, Red Rover," he insists. "Check it out...

       Let El-i-an

      "El-i-an-Gon-za-les. It's like Am-er-i-can-Band-stand. It's got a good beat and you can dance to it."
     I'm always relieved when he's done sounding off and hightails it for home (especially when it involves singing) but I guess he's got a point. Elian is food for thought.
     "Hey! Elian's become part of the food chain!" I say. "Ever think of that? Elian is like fast food. Think El-i-an instead of Ta-co-Bell. El-i-an's: it could be the next Mc-Don-ald's. Every time a good time. Forget the cake. Let 'em eat Elian!"
     "You are too irreverent for your own good," warns the poet.
     The supercilious little pug from next door has been standing here listening to us and decides to drop this bomb. "You wouldn't even be here if Elian had 'arrived'" (He's addressing me!) "My master says this family never would have gone out to get a dog in the first place if Elian had made it to shore on his own, rather than been reeled in from the sea like a bag of drowning pups tossed overboard. I have it on good authority from a smart little chiahuahua that a state court would have already decided the issue of whose kennel he'd end up in if that were the case. Don't forget for a minute that you are here for image alone."
     "Oh look! Here he comes now," says the pug, pointing his nose in the direction of a little scrappy looking thing heading our way. "This pooch can recite line and verse of U.S. immigration law. He's been around. Ask him!"
     "The Wet Foot/Dry Foot Act, as it is known," the chiahuahua clarifies, "makes a distinction between Cubans rescued at sea and Cubans who make it to land, my friend. It assumes that any Cuban landing in America is a political refugee, but requires that the U.S. Coast Guard send back any Cubans caught at sea."
     Being a Lab, this resonates. Think about it. A Labrador Retriever falls into a wet foot/dry foot category, too. "What kind a crazy crap is that? If I bring in a duck, whether it's from off-shore or on, it's still a duck, for Christ's sake!"
     The Pekinese poet perks up his ears at this. "Do you mean to tell me that if Elian had arrived, no one could touch him?"
     "That's exactly what I'm telling you. He would have already been given asylum and scheduled to receive his green card."
     "Don't you mean white?" I interject.
     "What are you talking about white?" squeaks the chiahuahua. (His dander is up.)
     "I'm talking about those white cards! We dogs may get a bum rap for being color blind, but I can see as well as the next guy that those cards are white," I say.
     "I think you are missing the point, my friend."
     Like shit I am
. Somebody throw this dog a bone.

* * *

I'm on hand for a dog's eye view for what happens next. That is, I see the whole thing as it's going down, from here under Marisleysis's bed - Rambo bursting in and all that. I've seen some scuffles back at the kennel but this takes the bone!

* * *

I've been expecting to be picked up myself now for several days. I can see Elian and his father romping around on their new compound in Maryland, on the television which I watch through the living room window from my vantage point here in yard. ("Holy" or not, this place is feeling a bit cramped, especially when you compare it to what I'm seeing up there in Maryland. I could do with that kind of leg room.) "Hey? Hello? You forgot something!" I bark at the Feds on TV. "Hey Rambo! See me? Yoo hoo!"
     Sure, I have my hopes for the good life. Bringing in the slippers to the fisherman who first reeled the kid in was not so bad. He seemed a decent enough guy. A doggie bed by the fireplace, even if it was a fake gas log one. Since the raid, though, I've been in the dog house and Maryland is lookin' better by the minute. Fine by me, just pack up the Alpo, leave the flea bath, and go.
     I lick my balls, the hot pads of my paws. I'm going right out of my tea kettle with boredom. Oh! Here comes the chihuahuan lawyer now. He can be hard to take, a bit of a dog on a bone about things, if you know what I mean, but he's always good for an update.
     "So when will they be sending around the helicopter to take me to Maryland?"
     "I have it on good authority that Elian has requested asylum, but as for you, my friend, there have been no registered requests. So, for the moment, you are probably not going anywhere. Bill Clinton is big on letting sleeping dogs lie, if you know what I mean."
     "What?! Since when does the President get to decide who gets the pick of the litter? Shouldn't this be a matter for the state family court?"
     "Yes, and in which case, the father will undoubtedly be found to be an unfit parent and sent packing. The fact that he lives in Cuba alone will practically guarantee it. Elian will remain in the custody of his Miami family. But the psychological scars from being taken at gun point like that will also remain."
     "Please. Don't give me that gun point thing. Dogs get taken from their homes all the time."
     "Too true, my friend. Too true. And that brings up a good point. You will be lucky if this family doesn't toss you out on your tail when all this is said and done."
     Oh, here we go!
There is already a nasty rumor circulating in my neighborhood of scrawny Spanish dogs that I did not act valiantly in defense of the family. They say that's why I'm in the proverbial dog house, literally, now. But hey, I can hardly give a shit about Elian at this point. He barely looked at me after about my first week here anyway. All along, I've had to depend on that bitch Marisleysis to feed me, when she wasn't too busy wiping Elian's ass.
     "Look! I am a Labrador retriever! I'm the wet foot/dry foot type - not a watch dog," I defend.
     (I'm sorry but until Marisleysis gets down on all fours and lets me hump her big time, I am just not going to stick out my neck that way. I refuse to be made into a pawn of the Cuban American cause.)
     "Be that as it may, do you realize that there is a very real danger that Elian's going to have to go back to Cuba where they will more than likely put him to work rolling cigars ten hours a day, at least until the flesh on his little fingers falls off the bone? Just hope that Elian doesn't ask for you then!" the chiahuahua warns.
      "Jeez - I hadn't thought a that!" (I was figuring on the father wanting to stay here now that he's escaped the clutches of what's-his-name down there.) "They couldn't send me there, could they? I mean, I was born here."
      "Aaaaaeee!" he yips and trots away.
      "Hey! Come back here!" I yell. Damn this chain!
      A cute little doll of a chow is heading my way, causing the chiahuahua to turn tail and come back over, his tongue hanging out.
      "Hi boys," she says coyly, giving me a sniff on the rear. "I hear an appellate court says Elian has a right to make an asylum claim." She turns her cold, wet little nose smugly away from my butthole and sticks it in his. He gives me a triumphant, pointed look.
     "If he can manage to do that now! Remember, he is only six years old, and is in the custody of a man who wants to repatriate him to Cuba!" the chiahuahuan lawyer is trying to sound authoritative and sexy, but he just ends up sounding shrill.
     "I think you just nailed it," the cute little chow asserts, turning her nose back to me and going for for a deeper whiff. "He is six years old. He belongs with his father." She gives my balls a lick. Oh man, just get a gander at how her tail curls up and over! It's enough to make me forget about this whole mess.
"All I can say is that if Elian drops the lawsuit now that he's in the custody of that man, we must assume he is being denied access to his lawyers," the chiahuahua maintains.
     "Denied access, my paw. Maybe you should be 'denied access' to all this hot-shot legalese you use to bolster your bias." She clips away down the sidewalk on her pedicured nails, leaving us both a little deflated.
     "What a tease." The chiahuahua sniffs.
     But hey!
What about what I'm being denied access to? Oh sure, I was good for a couple of newsreels (a boy and his dog - we put the "us" in U.S.) but now I see that I have outlived my usefulness. (Do I feel the "us" in used? In a word - Yes.)
     And what if the chiahuahua is right? What happens when the camera men have turned off their lights and the Ladies of St. Elian have all gone home? Where am I gonna end up when all this is said and done? I'll be lucky if that bitch Marisleysis remembers to set out a bowl of some crummy generic dog food she got on special down at Wal-Mart.
     (Speaking of which - somebody oughta bottle what's been sitting in my dish in this Florida heat for three days. Talk about your holy water.)
     Next, a dachshund pads up, gives me a pitying look. "Was ist los?" he asks. "Vy the long face?"
     "What are you, German or something? You gotta work on that accent, man!"
     "Ja, klar! Que passa?"
     I poke at the bowl of stagnant water with my nose. "Obviously, the best a dog can hope for is that the father will defect and send for me as soon as he's worked out a new life up there in Maryland, far, far away from his communist homeland, where the only thing to do is roll cigars all day long, from what I hear."
      "Really, is that vat you hear? That is not the vay it is at all. Let me set you straight; my family vinters in Cuba every other year. It is an island of great charm and beauty, even in comparison vis Florida. My master picks a different varm climate vacation spot every year but ve return again and again to Cuba."
     "What are you telling me? That some people and their dogs would actually choose to go to Cuba?"
     "Korrect! It is a vacation paradise videly enjoyed by us Europeans."
     "You mean you think it would be okay for Elian to end up there? What about Disney World? What about the Back Street Boys?" What about Alpo?
     "Ach! You Americans! If you're going to apply your material standards to justify keeping a child from his Vater, then you must go one step beyond that. Send him to Germany vhere he can grow up in an atmosphere of, not only material comfort, but one that is free of guns and hormone-injected meat and dairy products as vell. One vhich guarantees a superb elementary education and a high level of health care and vhere the mothers still stay home to make the mid-day meal."
     "You seem to know a lot about this."
     "Ve Germans pride ourselves on our social system and family values, as vell as our knowledge of current and international affairs. Germans are the most environmentally conscious people in the vorld and their distribution of foreign aid is not connected to political advantage the vay it is here in the U.S. You yourself vould be much better off in Germany, for that matter. There, ve dogs still get the respect ve deserve. Three valks a day in the frische Luft! In Germany, ve are not only allowed into the restaurants, ve are provided vis our own fresh bowls of food and drink vhile our masters dine."
     "But let me see if I've got this straight¾you're also saying Cuba wouldn't be so bad?"
     "It could be wurst."
     "Hmmm. I wonder if you're right."
     "Of course, I am right. I am German."

* * *

It's been more than a week since the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its ruling denying my peoples' motion to have an independent guardian appointed and giving Elian's father sole custody. Marisleysis has lost her head in her grief. I fear for the worst, suspect that it may be just a matter of time before I end up at the pound.
     Then a miracle happens! She comes out and unhooks me from my chain, lets me run around. She's so distraught, she can't eat and lets me finish off what's in her Taco Bell bag. She pushes open the screen door to the porch and lets me through, back into the house. I follow her into the bedroom where she throws herself across the king size mattress she once shared with Elian. I offer up consolation by way of my tongue, starting at her ears and neck and working my way down to her crotch without losing any time. She scoots off her panties, turns over and moans. She lets me finish her off.
      All I can say is I hope it lasts. She can back herself right up to my nose from now on; I'm happy to oblige. In fact, it makes me a very happy puppy dog and is at least as, if not more, appropriate than her sleeping with Elian.
     In the meantime, Elian may be destined to live out the rest of his days in poverty or paradise - depends who you talk to. In hindsight, I can see that Elian was no saint. He was not even an international freedom fighter. Elian is as red as they come. They should grind him into dog food while they still have the chance. Forget the Alpo - Yo quiero Elian.

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