It was about month before the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami on 26 December 2004. My father had engaged a group of painters to work on the exterior of our house. Daddy would monitor their work, often from where he sat on our swing in the garden.
One evening, my dachshund, Ladoo, and I joined my father in the garden. To prevent Ladoo from running around and barking at the painters, I tied her leash to one of the poles of our swing.
As it was close to the end of the work day, only one painter remained. To quote a newspaper columnist’s description of her plumber, our painter could be described as follows: His droopy eyes were set in a worn face, which sat upon a wrinkled neck that disappeared into an equally wrinkled shirt. This description would fit this painter perfectly.
With a cigarette balanced between his teeth, the painter climbed down the ladder. By the time he put his foot down on the ground, Ladoo was almost berserk with excitement. She started to dance and go round in circles at the thought of making a new friend.
The painter stopped to admire my dog, but did not go near her. Instead, he turned to my father and spoke to my father Malay.
“Wah, doctor, ini kambing banyak cantik lah.”
Wah, doctor, this goat is very beautiful.
My father, without missing a beat, replied, “Apa kambing? Ini anjing lah.”
What goat? That’s a dog-lah.
The painter looked a little closer at Ladoo and mumbled, “Ha.”
I will remember the look on his face all my life. It was a mixture of puzzlement, embarrassment and confusion. He walked away from us scratching his head. To give him the benefit of the doubt, I think he genuinely believed he was saying the right thing. In his mind, he meant ‘dog’ and thought that the Malay word for ‘dog’ was ‘kambing’. He was baffled when my father set him right and said that Ladoo was no ‘kambing’, but an ‘anjing’.
Nonetheless, from that day onwards, though, every time Ladoo danced, I called her my ‘Dancing Kambing’.
(This story is a modified excerpt from my book, ‘Ladoo Dog’)