Experiences of an American woman who was married to a Serb.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Don't Tell the Neighbors About Our New Dog Bed

Most of our marital arguments have been about the dog. When we first met, I flat out accused him, "You don't like dogs!" He was shocked and appalled. To his mind, he's a total softy for dogs -- in fact in Serbia he had a dog that he would sometimes allow inside the house.

In Serbia and Croatia, dogs are animals, just like cows or sheep. They have their uses. And they have their place. That place is in an outside cage or chained up in your home's courtyard. Dogs don't ever ever ever sleep on the bed. They don't lick the plate. They don't have special diets selected for their age, stress-level and allergy-profile by a vet.

In Serbia, you don't treat dogs as though they were humans. It's seen as vaguely disgusting -- a sign of how devoid your life must be of real human companionship, mingled up with a titch of mental insanity or outright stupidity. It's a dog, stupid!

My husband's first impression of American traffic, beyond how shiny new and large all the vehicles were, was how many dogs were riding along with their owners. Around here, seems like at least every third car has a dog in it. That just doesn't happen in Serbia. No way.

After five years of arguing, I agreed to make my dog sleep outside at night. Every single night. Even if it's really cold. My husband built her a custom doghouse to beat all doghouses. It's insulated and built specifically for her dimensions. But when the temperature plummeted last week I began to worry. So I trotted over to Ocean State Job Lot and picked up a cheap new dog bed for her house. This is America, so it's got a few bells and whistles.

My husband blanched when he saw it. Don't anyone tell the neighbors in Sombor Serbia that in America our dog has an electronically heated bed with intermittent massage functionality. It's just a bit too Ancient Romans Eating Pickled Hummingbird Tongues Served By Slaves in Golden Loin Cloths. You know, the way seriously idiotic rich people live.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm a Serb and I would never let any of my pets anywhere near the bed. But, I do buy them all sorts of stuff - toys, special food and snacks, etc. Funny thing is, what kind of shocked me when I first moved to America was seeing people put their shoes on the couch, coffee table, or - even worse - on the bed. We're talking about shoes that they wear outside. I cringe every time I see that, hehe.

Anonymous said...

When my (then)Serbian boyfriend began spending the night in my apartment, my cute little dog, John*, was our constant bed companion. Once my boyfriend and I became engaged and moved in together though, John's presence became a problem and he was moved to a bed/cage in our room. About a year after I married my (now)husband, suddenly John smelled and he was noisy. What changed, you ask? Good question! John now sleeps in the kitchen and (I believe) is increasingly aware of his proximity to the back door. We live in the Midwestern U.S., so it's not exactly tropical around here.
Although many, many arguments have allowed John to stay in the house up until now, I can't help but wonder whose how many more times do I need to tell my husband "He's a friggin' Yorkie!"?

*Dog names have been changed to protect the ego and reputation of a certain dog owner.

Anonymous said...

Hi Rosemary!

I'm enjoying reading your blog, it's great!
I understand your husband's reaction and I find it absolutely normal.
This that I cannot understand is this obsession you Americans have with dogs. You said that in Serbia the dogs are not treated enough like humans. Of course they are not, they are animals.
By the way, I'm Greek and I really love animals, but I wouldn't accept to drink neither a glass of water in a house where the dog (and its hair...) walks freely, licks the plates as you said etc.
As to your husband's reaction for not telling the neighbors about the new bed, it's not because the neighbors will consider it as extra luxurious thing that the ..."rich" Americans can afford, but he rather ashamed of the laughs they will make behind your back.
This is how these things are taken here in Balkans.

We like animals, but just like we do with our shoes (as "anonymous" very well said), we never put them on our bed neither on our table.

Anonymous said...

About cringeing at shoes: Yeah, that shocks some Americans, too. "Shoes off the couch!!" was a daily reminder during my (non-Serb family) Californian childhood.

Anonymous said...

"In Serbia, you don't treat dogs as though they were humans. "

not true... maybe the 'super villagers' don't treat dogs with respect, but i have many friends who play with their dogs like a best friend (same as in the USA)

Angelene said...

I have a friend who has many cats in Subotica. I went to have dinner at her house and afterwards had a cuddle with the kittens for a while.
When I got home my partner promptly asked me to remove my "kitten clothes" and get changed into something clean.... I can't imagine how he would react to the way I have lived with my dogs in the past, who were spoilt rotten and slept at the foot of my bed every night, sometimes even under the blankets if it was cold..

Anonymous said...

Serbian attitudes towards dogs, women and "shoes indoors" is pure Turkish backwardness.