Journal #6 – Kick The Dog In The Face

Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: Sara Fondo got attacked by two dogs in Huahine, French Polynesia

In this journal entry: a dog gets to know my blood type, and lessons from the universe.

As I stumbled back to the boat, blood seeping from my torn leg, my crewmates immediately fired off the burning question, “did you kick it in the face?” Yeah, I’m talking about the savage dog that had just made a centimeter deep hole in my thigh. It’s been just a century since the Polynesians stopped feasting on human flesh, but I guess their dogs missed the memo.

So, did I deliver a swift kick to the snout of the perpetrator? Hold that thought. Let’s rewind for a minute.

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The Floating Tin Can

Ask me what the toughest part of boat life is, and it’s not the relentless swaying, the leaky ceilings that perform impromptu rain dances on my face, or the daily dose of ant bites. It’s not having the skin on my hands torn open every other day or greeting my dinner ‘welcome back’, as it bursts through my mouth instead of my butt on one of my sea-weak days. It’s not even the lack of privacy, though that’s about as rare as catching a blue lobster.

Nah, that’s not the hardest part about living on a boat.

For me, the real kicker is the enforced bodily inactivity. Imagine being cooped up with twelve souls on a floating tin can, barely making a few hundred steps a day. Well, that pretty much sums up my current living situation. Sure, some days are more active than others, but my average daily step count on my phone is somewhere between 70–200 steps. In comparison, when I lived in Copenhagen, I would bike somewhere between 20–30 kilometers almost every single day. And I’m actually the kind of lunatic who loves being on the move. Less movement for my body means more chaos in my mind. I need the hustle to keep my sanity.

Run Forest, Run

So, on a cloudy day on the island of Huahine I decided to go for a run. Running is perhaps the form of exercise I despise the most (particularly on asphalt, if I get to jump over rocks and dug beneath branches it’s a different story). But desperate times call for desperate measures. I strapped on my gear, blasted some Elderbrook tunes, and hit the road.

It was a good run. Right until I stood shaking on the road with a flood of blood streaming down my right leg into my sock and onto my shoe. Tears welled up, not from the pain yet, but from the sheer shock of a bloodthirsty dog trying to claim a chunk of me.

Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: Sara Fondo got attacked by two dogs in Huahine, French Polynesia

As I passed a house at a leisurely pace, two dogs erupted like diarrhea at the worst possible moment. They came at me like bullets, barks piercing the air. In a flash, one sank its teeth into my thigh and claws into my calf, while the other attempted to jump me. I’m usually a pacifist which I consider a good thing, but when attacked by two angry dogs, foaming at the mouth, with annihilation in their eyes, I wish I had a bit more fight in me.

Their owner, a Polynesian woman, rushed out, flailing her arms like a deranged puppet. “Whargbghabgahvag,” she shouted at her beasts, using her flying limbs to fend them off. The one that had left its tooth mark in my thigh darted off, leaving the other sniffing my bloody leg. “Venenahznamaoi,” she said, and I wish I knew French, but I figured she wanted me to come with her. The rest of her family emerged as I limped into their abode, “pardon,” I heard myself saying in a trembling voice, “pardon”. Exactly why I was apologizing after their dog had just gotten to know my blood type, I’m not sure. I just hate being a bother.

The lady put forward a small, red plastic chair for me to sit on. “Which one?” she said in Franglish, and I reluctantly pointed to the muscly, light brown fella. She dragged the dog closer to me, clinching its face in-between her hands. She roared words in French, which I made out to be “Look at what you did!” It seemed as if the dog’s drooping eyes got even heavier with regret. Then, she whacked it over its head several times, and a pang of sympathy hit me.

She tended to my wound with chlorhexidine, cleaned me up, and slapped on a massive bandage. The way she handled this incident, made me think, it wasn’t the first time it happened. She gestured down the road I’d been heading, warning me of a big dog lurking. Oh, don’t worry, I thought, as I still had a good 3.5 kilometers to limp back.

As I hobbled away, a dog yelped.

Home-Amputation

“Dogs in Polynesia don’t carry rabies, right?” I texted Mads on my way back as the bandage turned from white to crimson. For some reason we had spoken about this the other day, and turns out, only bats are rabies culprits in these South Pacific isles.

But even without the fear of rabies looming over me, it’s still quite interesting getting bitten by a dog in Huahine. You see, there are no hospitals on the island. The closest you get is an online doctor’s appointment, likely not even on Huahine. Well, that wasn’t going to stitch me up, now, was it? But my research revealed I could catch an air ambulance to Raiatea, an island about 50 kilometers away, before my crewmates got any ideas about a DIY amputation using rusty tools.

Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: Sara Fondo got attacked by two dogs in Huahine, French Polynesia
It might not look like much, but this sucker is deep. At least one centimeter.
Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: Sara Fondo got attacked by two dogs in Huahine, French Polynesia
Thankfully our guest and nurse, Helena, tended to my wound because I would’ve smothered it in hand sanitizer and put on a bandage (FYI, don’t do that).

“Did you kick it in the face?” the boys asked me as I finally made it back onboard. I hadn’t booted the dog, nor do I think I would’ve if I’d had the chance. Was it wrong of the dog? Sure, I hadn’t even trespassed its territory. Did the dog know that? No, it was a dumb dog. Lucky for me, one of our guests was a nurse, and she worked her magic on me. Very painful magic. She flushed my wound with soap and salt water, sending jolts of agony from my thigh to my brain. 1-2-3-4. 1-2-3-4. I tried breathing on the count of four to calm my nervous system, but when yellow spongy lumps, perhaps from a squeaky toy, started to emerge from the wound, and a tweezer came into play, I stopped trying to find peace within myself and simply sobbed. Eventually, no more gross, yellowish bits surfaced, and a new bandage got pasted to my skin.

As I chugged some painkillers and antibiotics, I remembered a quote, that goes like this, “the universe will keep sending you the same lesson, until you receive the message.” This is my second time being attacked by a beastly dog in Polynesia. The first time was on the atoll of Fakarava back in February. So, maybe the universe is trying to tell me that running is a lousy form of exercise, and I should quit. Or maybe the Polynesians should school their dogs on manners or invest in some fences and leashes. Either way, this was a bloody reminder that paradise has its share of teeth.

Photo Update

Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: The wound after the dog bite a week after, still wide open
A week after the dog latched on to my thigh

A week after, the wound was still wide open.

By this time, we were back in Papeete, and I finally ventured to the doctor. Here, I got some crème and bandages and antibiotics to help the healing process along. But the antibiotics? Absolutely disgusting. I had to drink three sachets a day for 7 days, and they made me so nauseous and sick and I completely lost my appetite. So that whole process turned out to be an involuntary diet.

Journal #6 – Kick the Dog in the Face: Sara Fondo got attacked by two dogs in Huahine, French Polynesia
The most disgusting antibiotic drink ever.

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