Jillian R.

Jester is attending a month-long obedience course starting this Saturday. The cutest thing about this course is how proud it makes Eric. I can see what a good dad he is going to make because we've been having conversations like these:

Eric: He’s going to school!
Me: Eric! It’s not school!
Eric: Okay, pre-school! No, NURSERY school!
Me: *rolls eyes* you know that he’s going because he’s naughty right? You shouldn't be so proud!
Eric: *ignores comment* we’ll pack him some food, some water and a munchy stick!
Me: Should we pack him an apple too?
Eric: No, he doesn't like apples. We’ll pack him a notebook and some crayons.

(The little boy and his daddy)

Yes, I have two boys at home. They both make me laugh so much that I think I’m gaining some Happy Weight. Anyway, Jester is attending the class because he has mental issues. I’m serious! We think he has been traumatized at the kennel which he was kept. One minute he would be snuggling with us, being sweet and cuddly and the next minute he would treat us like his chew toys. It brings new meaning to the phrase; when he’s good, he’s very, very good. When he’s bad, he’s very, very bad!

(A napping Jester)

We both watch episodes of “Dog Whisperer” and have tried some of his methods at. Most of them would work on Jester except when “Crazy Time” starts. He never growls at us, he just tries to bite our hands, toes, legs, sometimes our faces…well, anywhere he could get. The scars are still one my arms, where he tries to claw on. Sometimes I get worried that people might think I don’t listen – if you know what I mean. Don’t get me wrong, Jester is a sweet boy and he never means any harm, he has never broken skin before, it’s just that he likes to play rough and it doesn’t help that he is REALLY strong. It’s hard for me to fight him off sometimes.

To be fair, he did get a lot better since we had him fixed. The first week we had him was a little traumatizing for me even. I don’t know what gets him going but he seems to want to make everything his “girlfriend”! He completely destroyed his mattress in 3 days and then peed on it. We were not spared either. I’ve had to lock him in the dining room when he gets too hyped up and I couldn’t hold him off any longer.


He is napping under my desk staring as I’m working on this entry. He loves being near me (sometimes he chooses Eric over me) so he follows me everywhere around the apartment. However bad he is at times, we both love him so very much.

Jillian R.

The streets and roads in Muscat are generally very well maintained and I've yet to come across a pothole when we drive around, even in small, heavily populated areas in the city.

Just when I was about to go bragging to friends and family back in Malaysia, we got ourselves into this;

(Kyle and Eric jacking the car)

Yes, after dinner at the American Club last Friday, we drove into a manhole – or something of the sort. They were probably drain holes designed to handle large amounts of water during the heavy rainfall months as floods do happen here. The problem was; they never bothered to cover them. Furthermore, the street was not very well lit.

The funny thing was, across the street was the drain cover, just tossed aside, with weeds growing around it, it was as if after they built the drain, the workers were so happy that they left to celebrate in a hurry – without bothering to ever come back and cover the holes. There were several more holes of death along the sidewalk. And of course, car tires fit the holes perfectly.

Or maybe the holes were there for a different purpose altogether? Perhaps to deter people from parking along the sidewalk? Laugh all you want, but it could very well be the real reason! It worked, didn't it?

(The approximately 1-foot deep hole)
Jillian R.
I had an interesting "encounter" with an Omani man (I'd say somewhere in his 40s) this morning as I took Jester for his morning walk.

I was walking him back to our apartment when I heard someone calling "Excuse me! Excuse me!" in a stern voice. I turned around and saw an Omani man standing at the spot where Jester just did his #2. So I said "Yes?" The Omani then said "Come here!"

First of all, no one should speak to another adult that way. His tone of voice was stern and it sounded as if he was addressing a child. Then the following exchange took place:-

Omani Man (let's call him "OM"): Come here!
Me: What's the problem?
OM: The problem? This! You come and pick this up.
Me: *walked over to the spot* Sure, I will pick it up, but I think you should be more polite about it, you don't have to be so rude
OM: I am not rude, but you have to pick this up, I see you everyday bring IT here
Me: Yes, I do bring HIM here and I will be happy to clean it up, but you're really rude!
OM: No no, I am not rude, just clean up after IT.
Me: Sure, mister. Don't be so rude.

He walked away without saying anything else.

Okay, now, in any other place (even back in Malaysia) I WOULD clean up after my dog as it is the responsible thing to do, but let me explain why I don't do it here. First of all, if you look anywhere on the street you will find Styrofoam boxes, soda cans, plastic bags, food wrappers, tissue...the list goes on. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think those are more harmful to the environment than some dog waste which will probably benefit the soil anyway. Take our neighbors for example; their piping is set up in a way that I guess their used water flows out to the street. How is that being responsible?

Back to this morning's encounter with OM, his complaint was perfectly reasonable. In fact, even though most Omanis are a dirty, littering lot, I should have been going about with a bag and shovel anyway. It was his tone of voice which really bothered me. These people do not have any respect for women at all (as I've written about before), and furthermore, who asks another stranger to "Come here!"?! I am not his child or his servant, I don't have to go anywhere he asked. If I wasn't so worried that he might do something drastic like call the police and have Jester taken away from us, I would've told him "No, YOU come here!".

What would you have done in my place?
Jillian R.

It was a difficult few days dealing with Bibbles’ passing. Walking around the apartment was especially hard because I’d imagine her little head peaking out behind furniture as she loved to follow me around the room when I do my chores. Therefore, I stayed in bed most of the time, watching TV and occasionally giving myself a migraine.

Two days of that and we decided it’s time to get another dog.

Again, we emailed the Qurum Veterinary to see if we could rescue another dog.

That was how we were introduced to “Dastardly” – that was his name. In the email picture, he was sitting with his ears back. We now know that those are his “happy” or “scared” ears. Laura, the woman we dealt with since Bibbles found him at the Al Fair (supermarket) parking lot just sitting there, watching traffic. She brought him to a kennel which accepted him since they did not have any room for him at the vet/shelter.

(Dastardly; pretending to be good a few minutes after he arrived)

It was Saturday (4 days after Bibbles) when Laura brought Dastardly over to our apartment. Immediately he started jumping on me and hugging me with his very strong front legs. Unlike Bibbles, who came in and sat down quietly until we showed her around, Dastardly started exploring the apartment on his own, sniffing everything in sight, wagging his curly tail very vigorously.

Since he wasn’t fixed yet, as soon as Laura left he started humping my leg. He continued to hump everything he could manage the first week he stayed with us, mostly he would jump on me from behind (as wrong as that sounds), oh, Eric wasn’t spared either. He was so strong that I couldn’t really fight him off. He wouldn’t just struggle; he tried to claw on my clothes to stay on. I still have scratch marks on my arms and legs, faintly but they’re still there. To tell the truth, it’s kind of embarrassing to go out in public because it looks like I’m a victim of domestic violence.

(His girlfriend; the mattress)

Testosterone aside, Dastardly really is a sweet, loving puppy (he’s only a year old), he heels good on walks, obeys “Sit” and “Wait” commands, and most importantly, he really is a jester, he makes me laugh all day; throwing his toys or (rawhide) chewy in the air and tries to catch them. Mostly he fails to catch it, and sometimes it hits him on the head – hard, because that is how he throws them. My favorite however, is watching him play “Football”. We bought him a squeak toy in the shape of a football. He would throw it around the room, sometimes up in the air; then grabs it with his mouth and start squeaking it for a few minutes, then pounce on it some more, making more squeaks. It’s really the most amusing thing (I’m sorry, I’m easily entertained).

(The football player!)

(He decided that he is too important to sit on the floor outside, so he climbs on the table)

 (This is our story and we're sticking to it; "His mother tried to put some socks on him but only managed to get half of it on his right paw as he pulled away too quickly")

Thus, we added “Jester” to his name and that’s how “Jester Dastardly” came to be. Remember “Johnny Dangerously”?

Coming up, the price of having a crazy puppy with a personality disorder!
Jillian R.
As far as first impressions go, Muscat is wonderful with a capital “W”; people are friendly, the gigantic mounts of sand that are the hills and mountains here sets the “desert” scene beautifully, the roads are clean and I’ve yet to encounter a single pothole the entire time we were here – even in the slums, and I love how some of the roads seem to swirl uphill and when lit at night, they appear to wind their way up into the sky.

(A couple enjoying the view by camping on the sidewalk. Weird, but kinda charming really)

(The "Said Bin Taimur" Mosque; named after Sultan Qaboos' father)

(Some of the items sold at the Muttrah Souq made it seem like I've stepped into one of the stories from Arabian Nights - oh wait, maybe I have!)

Living conditions are pretty good too. In terms of food, us expats can find virtually anything we need to make recipes our mothers taught us (or for some; recipes Googled online).The only thing I haven’t seen in a supermarket is a good French coffee press. We brought ours from Korea and but we’re still looking for a replacement in case it breaks. The only one we’ve seen was at expensive kitchen supplies store. Everything it there looked like it belonged on a cooking show.

They say every bushel of apples comes with some bad ones.

I’m sure many are guilty for this, even I am no stranger to tailgating; but these people - they are the worst I’ve seen yet! Every time we get on the road, even in the slow lanes, there would always be someone tailgating us. What I would usually do back in Malaysia was, I would slow down allowing the maniac to pass, but here, they seem to enjoy it, so they don’t pass, they keep it up until it forces you to drive faster too. I guess our little rental Ford Focus (the little hatchback one) screams BULLY in big bold letters. It seems like if you’re driving anything less than a 2 Liter engine, you’re asking for it.

Being in Muscat for 2 months now, I have learnt to never expect anything to be done within the same day. I know the people here are generally very laid back, but there is a very thin line between being laidback and being extremely lazy. The way I see it, they take the term “take it easy” a bit too far. The population of blue collar expats in Muscat is double that of the locals. The locals mostly manage these expats. For example, I was at a computer supplies store once, I just needed a charger for my laptop. There were two employees at the store at the time; a local and an expat. While the local was sitting behind the counter reading the paper, the expat was attending to two customers. When I saw that he was busy, naturally I turned to the local (who was probably the supervisor) behind the counter to ask if they had the charger I was looking for. I was ignored. Ignored!

The husband and I gave each other a look that read both astonishment and puzzlement – something we have been doing quite a lot lately; How could one ignore a potential customer? And Why? The expat had to then excuse himself from the other customers to tell us to wait. I was okay with waiting, I would have been happy to wait even if the supervisor told us to. The other customers were buying a laptop was asking a lot of questions – as they should be. So we left and went back another day.

And oh, It has been two weeks and counting since the employment company told us that they were processing my medical card; a process which should only take a couple of days to complete. They have my medical report from the hospital for about a month now and all the paperwork required. I cannot begin to fathom what is keeping them. Oh wait; there are no expats to process the papers at the company!

And of course, here are some of reasons why I sometimes feel like just packing up and leaving this country.

When I said that people were very friendly (as above), I failed to mention that they are only friendly when I am with Eric. When I go out alone, it’s a whole different story. I can’t walk 500 meters down the road without some guy honking at me. Help me understand this, they honk and I’m supposed to turn around, smile and/or wave happily at them? Or what, get in their car and be their friend? This happens even when I am walking my dog! I have talked to a few women; local ones included, apparently the same thing happens to them all the time. I get it that Oman is still a developing country (and I great one at that) but this is truly primeval behavior at its most basic form!

And finally, the most despicable thing about this country, one which I can barely tolerate is the treatment of dogs. Instead of rounding up strays and bringing them to a shelter or even putting them to sleep in a humane way, they shoot them. Why? Because dogs are filthy, beastly creatures? What kind of human being would shoot a helpless creature, which is already suffering from hunger and burning in the scorching heat? I think the answer lies within these few sentences.  Also, there are signs on beaches here disallowing dogs. Again, why? The beautiful beaches here are littered, nay, covered with Styrofoam containers, soda cans, plastic bottles, plastic bags, well, anything you would bring on a picnic could be found laying somewhere along the beach – when trashcans are places a few meters after one another. Heck, kids even defecate in the water and on the sand. At least dogs cover their waste!

When we moved here, I promised Eric that I would try my best to settle in, give Muscat a fair opinion. I did. On the surface, I LOVE Muscat, I truly do. It is certainly better than Korea in many ways. Once I look closer though, sometimes the ugliness seeps through and it’s hard sustain that love. What we can do when faced with such ugliness is to simply ignore it, just like the computer store supervisor if you may, and perhaps it will eventually go away. 
Jillian R.
It’s been exactly three weeks since our dog Habibti – “Bibbles” passed. I finally got through the difficulty of dealing with it to write about her.

Like any shelter dog, she came with her very own sad story. She was a stray dog who learned to fend for herself for one a half years, living in the harsh weather here in Muscat. The summers could hit over 50 ͦC with 99% humidity. It’s sad to even think about all the stray animals out there, sleeping under cars or trees for shade.

When we found ourselves settling quite comfortably in Muscat, we started looking around for a dog to adopt (instead of buying). There were numerous vets/shelters in Muscat rescuing and housing dogs and cats. We finally contacted the Qurum Veterinary to see if they had any dogs available for adoption. Within a few hours, a reply came with pictures of Habibti; a beautiful white Saluki mix with soft brown eyes and a slightly pink nose; probably from being out in the sun too much before they rescued her. Eric fell in love with her immediately.

We were told that she had been hit by a car and then left licking her broken leg by the side of the road. A Filipino man then saw her and carried her by foot some 5-6 kms to the Qurum Vet – in his McDonald’s uniform. He also offered to pay for her leg surgery. During the first few months of her recovery, the man would pick her up from the vet’s; which is also a small animal shelter to take her home with him every night. One day, one of the women working at the shelter drove by his apartment and saw Habibti sitting out in the hot sun in her bandages. They later found out that his apartment did not allow dogs so he had to keep her outside. Sometimes he would take her to the McDonalds where he works and tie her to a pole outside. The authorities were threatening to shoot her.

It breaks my heart knowing that there are still such barbaric acts in our society today.

Due to these circumstances, the shelter took her back and tried to find her a home.  It was a Sunday when we saw her. They had just spayed her before we arrived. When we saw her, she was barely conscious but she weakly wagged her tail and tried to lick Eric’s hand from her little bed on the floor. The shelter people assured us that we don’t have to adopt her if we don’t want to bring home a limping dog, and that they would find us another one if we wanted, but I too had already fallen in love with her. There are no words to describe how sweet her eyes looked.

We brought her home two days later. She hobbled on her three good legs into our apartment and shyly laid down on the tiled floor, making a loud “thump” as her bony limbs hit the ground. I patted her and led her over to her little mattress and blanket with printed hearts which we prepared for her. Without any hassle, she laid down, closed her eyes and took a nap.

We warmed up to her almost immediately and we lovingly called her “Bibbles”. She was already toilet trained since the first day we got her. She would hobble to the front door and wait patiently for one of us to see her and take her downstairs. She could go down the stairs fine but we had to carry her up because of her broken leg. I didn’t mind it one bit and she didn’t weigh anything. The morning after she came, I found a small puddle near the front door which she was drinking from. When I turned on the light I saw that it was urine. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to go in the house and she was trying to lick it up to try not to displease us.  If we didn’t wake up in time she would’ve licked the place clean. From then on, she became the best dog I’ve ever had. 

Also, we only had to tell her the rules once; we told her not to go into the kitchen, she never went in, she sometimes stood by the doorway to the kitchen, watching me cook. We also didn't want her to go into the bathroom because of the germs and chemicals which might have harmed her, I told her once and she didn't even go near the hallway leading to the bathroom. I asked Eric everyday when we had her "Why is she so good?". The answer he gave had always been "Because she's the Bibbles!"

Bibbles was still on painkillers and antibiotics the first few days we had her. I got so worried about her frail body and her not eating her food. We went to the butcher and got her chicken hearts to make broth for her hoping that the taste of chicken and fat would get her appetite going. It did. Another problem presented itself however, the poor girl still wasn’t completely sure that the bowls of food and water were for her. She wouldn’t go near it to eat and I had to feed her by hand several times before she would start eating – very slowly. She would sometimes eat some of her dry food after the broth which made us extremely happy. The crunching sounds meant that she would maybe put on a bit more weight.

(We kept the door opened, but she always loved laying out in the sun)

She couldn’t jump up on the bed with us so sometimes I would carry her up and snuggle with her. When we’re on the bed or the couch she would snuggle as close to either of us as she could. Always laying on her left side because the broken leg is the right one.  When she was on her own bed however, she would pull out a corner of the blanket and lay it on the floor so that she could rest her head there while the rest of her body would be on the little mattress. It was the cutest thing, to see the same arrangement every time she got up from her nap.

(She liked staying as close to us as possible)

She was also the most affectionate dog I’ve ever seen. With her three good legs, she would hobble around slowly following me around the house when Eric was at work. Of course, she didn’t understand when I tried to tell her to stay on her bed. She liked to take naps, either from the side effects of the pills she was on or her heart condition, which we didn’t know yet at the time. When the both of us were at home, she would sit in an area where she could see the both of us at the same time. If we were in separate rooms, she would find a spot in the middle where she could keep an eye on the both of us.

I’m starting to get very emotional and it’s hard to type with blurry eyes.

As frail as she was, her bark was incredibly strong. She couldn’t have done very much if an intruder did come to our home, but she tried her best. She never made a sound usually, but one time there was some rustling outside our door, probably a neighbor coming home with some groceries. She barked once, a very strong, “full-bodied”, proper bark.

She was just GOOD. PERFECT.

She came into our home on a Tuesday. A week later, a day before that fateful Tuesday, everything started like any other day. She woke up earlier than us, walked around the house quietly waiting for us to wake up. I took her out that morning. Like I said everything was normal until we came back. She seemed grumpier than usual, she snapped at me when I tried to clean her paws.

You see, we don’t wear shoes in the house, so whenever we come in from her walks, I would clean her paws with a wet rag. The first few times I did it she tried to snap at my hand when I went near her broken leg. I understand that she might’ve thought that it would hurt her. After a few times telling her firmly “No” to biting, she stopped snapping. So every time after that, when we came in, she would lay down in front of the door, waiting to her paws wiped (our current dog, Jester still tries to run away each time, after 3 weeks – more on him soon).

I admit I got a little bit concerned about her snapping and barring of teeth. I thought perhaps her leg got better and she had started to behave more viciously. As the day progressed, she got even grumpier and bared teeth whenever I tried to reach for her paw on that broken leg. Naturally, we grew concerned so we called the lady from the vet. She came with two needles; a painkiller and one to help her sleep as she hadn’t slept very much the night before. I woke up several times the night before finding her either whimpering or licking her broken leg, she sometimes whimpered during the night so I didn’t think much of it at the time. She screamed bloody murder when the lady injected her with the needles. Eric had to hold her down while she did it and I just couldn’t bear to see her in so much pain so I ran and hid in the kitchen.

We scheduled for her to get picked up by the vet the next day; Tuesday for a thorough check up. We expected that because of the high humidity that day, her wounds were bothering her more than usual. Tuesday morning, Bibbles had already forgiven Laura, the lady who injected her the day before and she happily followed her to the vet. In the meantime, I prepared her chicken hearts and some trimmed chicken fat from our dinner to make her a delicious dinner when she got back.

That afternoon, the vet called.

They checked and had found some broken pieces of bone in her leg. It wasn’t there when they checked her last. No one knew how long she had been moving around with those broken bone bits. I just couldn’t imagine how much she suffered through the pain. During the surgery to remove the broken bone (and to insert some pins), Bibbles suffered a heart murmur, we were told. We were faced with an extremely difficult decision; should the vet stitch her up and have no painkillers to deal with the excruciating pain afterwards because she might then suffer a heart attack OR to lay her to rest. When I heard Eric’s tone I didn’t need further explanation, I broke down. We both knew what the right thing to do was. It would be inhumane to let her suffer through a surgery with no pain medication, and to have a low chance of making through it In the end.

For days whenever I see the couch, the spots where she loved to sit and watch us, the pain of losing her would start all over again.

Bibbles was the perfect dog in every way. She was a good guard dog, a good companion and most importantly she taught us the true meaning of tolerance and forgiveness. She let us wipe her paws even though it hurt her so much (we were told by the vet that her leg was healing nicely), and forgave us for jabbing her with needles almost immediately when it was offer.

I pray that her soul is at peace. Bibbles will never be forgotten. 

She had such a big heart that in the end, God sent her to us;
She finally experienced having a home and lots of Love;
And hearts , literally.
We loved her so much but there is no greater love than God's love

Rest in Peace Little Angel

Bibbles; a 7-day gift and a great blessing
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