Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  42 / 112 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 42 / 112 Next Page
Page Background


JUNE 2016



A Foreign Service

Anthony C.E. Quainton, a retired Senior Foreign

Service officer, is currently Distinguished Diplomat-in-

Residence at American University. He served as am-

bassador to the Central African Republic, Nicaragua,

Kuwait and Peru, and as assistant secretary of State

for diplomatic security, among many other assignments.


oreign Service life brings us into contact

with all sorts of people—rich and poor,

powerful and powerless, amusing and

dull—who must be sought out, enter-

tained and endured. Fortunately, it is also

filled with pets and other animals, both

ours and other people’s, whose presence

reflects important dimensions of the For-

eign Service experience.

So it was with my family, which had a total of three pets dur-

ing my diplomatic career: a turtle named Peter, a rabbit named

Updike and a Lhasa Apso named Sengtru.

We carried Peter across the Pacific in a plastic bowl, com-

plete with a plastic palm tree. He survived a typhoon and was

carried through customs at various ports of entry en route to

New Delhi, to the amusement and consternation of numerous


There Peter lived the usual solitary life of his species until he

was left alone in the care of our bearer and cook, while we trav-

eled by train around Rajasthan. Sadly, unlike small American

boys, Indians do not love turtles, and Peter’s life was soon cut

short by inattention.

Rabbit, Rest in Peace

Updike the rabbit also met an untimely demise, in Nepal,

where I was deputy chief of mission (DCM). A beautiful white

animal, he was the only pet of Elizabeth, our younger daughter,

who was then 8. Updike lived in a hutch behind our residence in

Animals can play an important part in a diplomatic career, for better or for worse.


Kathmandu, where he was attended faithfully both by Elizabeth

and by the residence servants.

The few Western cultural activities in Nepal included a small

amateur theater company, the HAMS (which stood for “Hima-

layan amateurs”). One of our many productions was Arthur


The Crucible

, in the second act of which John and Eliza-

beth Proctor have rather insipid rabbit stew for dinner. When it

came time to host the cast party I, as co-director of the produc-

tion, opened up my home and proposed that, in the spirit of the

play, we serve rabbit stew.

Our cook, who belonged to the butcher caste, dutifully went

off to the market and bought the necessary ingredients. Most

of the cast enjoyed the meal, although some of the American

guests objected to the very idea of eating rabbit.

The next day Elizabeth went out to feed Updike, only to find

another less attractive bunny in the hutch. It appeared that we

had eaten our daughter’s pet! How could this have happened

when everyone knew of her affection for Updike? The answer

only became clear a week later when, instead of one white rab-

bit, there were now seven: a mother and six thumb-sized babies.

It turned out that our cook had decided to spare the life of a

pregnant rabbit by sacrificing Updike.

Despite that trauma, rabbits remained an important part

of our daughter’s life. At Princeton she acquired another one,

which she named in honor of Colonel Coniglio, our military

attaché in Managua. The Colonel, as we affectionately called

him, lived (illegally) in her dorm rooms, and accompanied her

home to Washington, D.C., for the holidays.

A rabbit straight from the pages of

Alice in Wonderland

, he

supplied live decoration on our back lawn, to the great admira-

tion of family and guests. Happily for the Colonel, his only mis-

hap was a brief escape into the neighborhood, before a young

neighbor found him a block away and returned him. He lived

out most of his life in Elizabeth’s dorm room.