Tag Archives: Vacation

Dog Guardian or God Watching over the House in the Form of a Dog While Family is on Vacation

Because this interview exchange took place with my sister, I was able to ask in-depth questions about the events and beliefs she discussed in her stories. I remember the day she describes in her interview. We had just gotten home from vacation and a little dusty white dog met us at our car. We don’t own a dog and thought the animal was a stray. I didn’t think much of that event, but this experience had a large impact on my sister, who believes this dog watched over our home while we were away on vacation.


My sister said that God works through people and animals, and that during a conversation with our neighbor, she learned that the animal has been seen wandering around our house in the time we were gone. Our parents feared that the house would get robbed while we were away. They prayed that God would keep the house safe and that no one in the community would notice we had left.

My sister described how our parents would hush us any time we mentioned that we were going on vacation. We couldn’t talk about it outdoors, and while packing, we always kept the car closed to avoid showing passers-by a trunk full of suitcases.

One time when my sister and mother were not on vacation but rather at school and at work, the house did get robbed. They arrived home to find the door swung open and an alarm blaring. My sister said that this was a very bad experience, and that at first she couldn’t believe that the house had been robbed. She thought someone had come home early or that someone had left the door unlocked.

My sister said that she was not sure whether the dog was God or a messenger, but she did say that she believed it watched over the house while we were gone, and that she hadn’t seen it since.

My sister also mentioned that she is training for Confirmation, a sacrament of initiation in the Catholic faith that allows high schoolers to reaffirm their belief in church principles. She said that she had not met any other animals or people that she believed had watched over her. She also said that this might be because she considers herself capable and that she wants to take care of herself.

She also said that she did not come to this conclusion right away. It was only years after this event that she came to believe the dog had offered protection. She was pleased to know that God had watched out for the house when the family was away.


I do not share my sister’s belief in Catholicism but I do believe in signs. I remember this event and know that the dog made us nervous at the time. It was strange that the dog went right up to our car, and I do believe I saw the animal around the neighborhood after that day. This is an example of religious folklore. There are cannon Bible stories where God talks through a donkey to get his message across, such as the story of Balaam, the donkey, and the Angel ( Numbers 22:21-39 of Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition Bible)

You can find a version of this story here:


This story also relates to conversations about whether animals have souls.

This conversation took place over the phone, and the recording is very bad quality. It is important to note that our house is visited by members of a feral cat colony and other wild animals like squirrels and raccoons. These animals were not mentioned in the interview. The house is also located less than 100 yards from a homeless encampment of about 20 people.

I find it interesting that this is the story that my sister wanted to tell me most. She knows quite a lot about folklore from playing Dungeons and Dragons (see, “How Not To Play Dungeons and Dragons” in the USC folklore archive”) but this is the first story she shared when I asked her to think of a story for this archive.

Month-Long Vacations for Argentines

“In Argentina, when people go on vacation, they take a whole month of vacation. When people say they are going on vacation, they’re gone a whole month. A lot of people will come to the states to Miami. A lot of them will go to Brazil. That’s a popular place to vacation. Some will go to Europe, like Spain. They don’t joke around with vacation in Argentina. They have the right idea, and I think we need more of that here. Most people have their own businesses, so it’s not uncommon to pick a month, usually in the summer, and take a vacation. It’s impossible to get anything done in the summer in Argentine. It’s a completely different way of life in Argentina that you wouldn’t understand if you haven’t lived there.”

Background Information and Context:

This topic came up when the informant told me that the lifestyle in Argentina is completely different from life in America, and I asked her to explain. She knows this from experience because she was born in Argentina, and she still has family that lives there.

Collector’s Notes:

As the informant said, this different approach to vacations, and the fact that most Argentine’s own small businesses shows a marked difference between the way of life there and that at of Americans. A month-long vacation in America is often thought to be reserved for those who do not care about money, especially those who are already rich. Living in a deeply capitalist society, most Americans do not think to take so much time off work, nor would their places of employment allow it. America is a place where large companies flourish, and financial growth, security, and what it means to have a successful life are often the same.

Desprit Idjit

L is a 53-year-old homemaker living in Winnetka, IL. L grew up mainly in the northern suburbs of Illinois, but she also lived in Germany and England for a while when she was younger. L speaks English primarily but she is learning French. L attended both the University of Southern California and the University of Wisconsin Madison for her undergraduate college education. L considers herself to be American. She does not really identify with her Welsh ancestry.

Me: Where did the term come from?

L: A crazy woman named Shawna that was leading a tour around Ireland through the ring of Kerry on a huge coach bus. Every time the coach would get stuck, by some car not making room for the coach, or some person walking in front of the coach, in the middle of a sentence explaining what we were seeing at the time, she would blurt out, “Desprit ijit!”

Me: What does it mean?

L: It means a person that is so clueless and is not paying attention, so in English it would be a desperate idiot. Someone who is painfully stupid. It was really more of a pronunciation thing because she had a thick Irish accent. She repeated it throughout our entire trip probably six or seven times a day. So, there were a lot of idiots.

Me: Do you still use the phrase?

L: Desprit ijit? Yeah. All the time. It’s the funniest thing, it cracks everyone up. I use it when I’m driving a lot. But you have to say it with the accent because otherwise it just isn’t as funny.

L talks about how a random phrase that some people in the U.S. likely use, though it sounds different due to the accent, has become so funny to her. The accent of the tour guide and the phrase she said constantly, “desprit ijit,” was so funny to L, and she liked it so much that she has started to use it on a daily basis. She exudes Shawna, the tour guide’s, personality when she get behind the wheel because she has to deal with “deprit ijits” who just don’t know how to drive.

Blueberry Island Trip

My informant described a family tradition that takes place

Usually first week in august during their stay in their vacation home, which is located on Blueberry island (in Lake Joseph, Canada).


The following is a transcript of our interview:


“Each year up in Canada we go to this island called Blueberry Island for a picnic. It’s like a 90 minute boat ride and we have like 4 boats going together and we go and dock up next to each other on this tiny wooden dock and we jump off this rock, fry soft shell crabs, make s’mores, and sit on the rock, which has a nice view. It is a family tradition, and my whole family goes, often with extended family, every year for the past 50 years. My mother did this once when she was a little kid, and she liked it so much that she vowed to come back every year.”


To the informant, this day is the pinnacle of vacation, and he looks forward to it all year. He said it wouldn’t occur on a specific day, just when a majority of his family could come out for the picnic. He said he liked it so much because his family was together all at once, but isolated in the world because they were alone on the island.


The informant’s mother, who enjoyed this so much when she was a child, is sharing her favorite memory with her entire family. Also, by repeating what she did that day, she is likely conjuring memories of her parents and siblings and reliving the moment so that she could feel young again. The food, crab and s’mores, represents their vacation home and summer, since crabbing and cooking over the fire are limited to their vacation.  Thus, this event serves to create a memorable experience with which to codify the vacation.  Moreover, family is key to the event, which will not take place until a sufficient (but arbitrary) number of members can go, illustrating the importance of their established community. Spending time together, the family strengthens their bonds, and since this takes place on a private island, this trip reinforces their identity as part of the family.