Meleline decided to bring breakfast crackers to campus for Lesi. We had bought these thinking that they would be the sort of slightly salty or herby or garlicky cracker that goes well with a small slice of cheese; instead they were slightly sweet. Lesi didn't mind that at all. We offered him breakfast crackers now and then in the course of the next couple of weeks, which he accepted graciously, and he came to look forward to them, greeting our arrival on campus with a wagging tail. Tongan dogs have not forgotten how to wag their tails; they simply have little occasion to do so. Meleline and I continued to talk to Lesi, and he continues to regard us with questioning eyes. One day he saw us working in the computer lab on the second storey of Lolo Masi, and we invited him to visit with us. This went against the natural order. A Tongan would no more allow a dog indoors than a pig or any other animal. Lesi crossed the open threshold. That was one small step for a dog, and one giant leap for canine kind. We fed him breakfast crackers and talked to him, and by now he was used to being stroked on the head, snout, jowls, and neck. In subsequent days Lesi returned to the computer lab to visit with us.
"When Futa Helu died, Lesi lost his best friend," Maikolo said. "They were close. If there is a dog on this island who has a high level of consciousness with regard to human beings, it's Lesi." His comment was an interesting contrast to an earlier reflection that years earlier Lesi's pack had "torn him up," and he had had to see a doctor to get stitched up.
By late May, other dogs of the Helu pack began venturing onto campus and seeking us out. Meleline named one Annabelle. One day I asked Losi Helu what name they had given Annabelle.
I pointed to the alpha male. "I thought his name is Lesi."
"They're all named Lesi."
And all of the faculty in the Philosophy Department of the University of Woolloomooloo are named Bruce. I had read that Tongans were not above having the palangis on. The story from 'Aliasa Helu was that he didn't think the family had given Annabelle a name. That was probably the truth. A couple of weeks later we asked 'Atolomake for names. She said that the children had names for some of them, but when we asked her daughter about one of the dogs, she didn't give up a name.
Sometimes one or two other dogs would show up and wander around outside of Lolo Masi. None of them wanted to enter the classroom, but they would come right up to the threshold. I sat upon the cement outside the classroom so that we could enjoy each other's company for a while.
Then on 30 May 2010, Meleline and I were astonished to see Lesi appear with six members of his pack. How had this come about? Why would so many dogs, some of whom we had never seen, come to us? It seemed that Lesi had some ability to round them up and make them follow him to us, but why would he do that? Seven dogs stared at us. One of my cousins commented on the image that Meleline took with her cell phone, "So alert! Are you holding a steak?"
"One would think so! Actually, I was only holding a cracker. Maybe they're Catholic and they massed to receive communion. Church culture is big here in Tonga, bells ringing day and night. I wouldn't be surprised if the dogs have picked up some bad habits from the humans."
There was an alertness in their manner, a curiosity in their eyes, perhaps a light of hope for communication. It was as though we had set down in a starship on their lawn.
Are these humans different? Are they as aware as we are? Do they understand that we are a people, a collective of beings, different from them but deserving? Do they know that there was a time when the world was ice, when we realised that we could cooperate with them and that together our struggle to survive would be easier? To cooperate in the hunt was the height of being. Two species bringing down prey and sharing the kill: that was communion. Then they lost the art of the hunt and therefore so did we, so now what good are they to us and we to them? Here we are now in a place where we are dependent, useless, disrespected, and sometimes eaten. The ancient contract is broken and we have grievances. Would they throw coral at us, and would they eat us, if they understood that we would die to defend them? This was the pact: that we would fight together to survive. One team, one fight.
Meleline and I shared our breakfast crackers with the seven dogs. We celebrated communion. Receive from us these wafers as a symbol of the body of our shared kill, amen. It seemed to us that we went some way toward redeeming the pact. We await whatever may come from this.
For certain, more money spent on crackers will come of it. We don't have to kill for those crackers, nor does the proprietor of the falekaloa where we purchase them look like he's making a killing. We're all just living the quasi-good life here in quasi-civilisation.