The dog looked thin; extremely bony, his tail was tucked in, bent as though his spine was about to crack; a mere skeleton, yes he was a male dog; trembling and shivering.
I said to the owner:
“He must be feeling very cold.”
Spaniel are considered most intelligent dogs...Pic courtsey of Pet Wave...
October has just arrived (like an unexpected headache); London is turning viciously cold, lots of rain, winds and gales across the northern hemisphere. Summer, sunshine and Olympics seem to be sirens in the distance. So the man with the emaciated dog chuckled and smiled. He was elderly- a perfect English gentleman (always a pleasure to talk to)-with traditional respectful manners.
“He is not only cold, he is old, 15 years,” the man spoke with simplicity. He reminded me of former Mzungu teachers at Ilboru Secondary School. Those days we were allowed to worship unlike what was reported recently at the legendary Arusha school which I attended 40 years ago.
Me (second left) with The Gringos gang at Ilboru in 1972 during a late afternoon tea break. Others, from right, John Meciri (deceased), Barnabas "Bandido" Sengati (deceased, 1981), Tony Sarwatt (deceased, 2005) and Mohammed Miro (from Zanzibar).... Pic by Emmanuel Yuda
“Were you a teacher once?” I asked.
“Yes. How do you know?”
Thereafter the gentleman told me a lot about dogs.
<--more- - !>
That based on veterinary science the age of his pet (called Skipper) is around 76 years, a really Mzee animal. One year of our human lives equals approximately fifteen years of a dog. Based on this calculation by the time a dog is two years old he (or she) would equal a 24 years old human parent.
I did not know much about dogs.
In Swahili we say “tembea ujionee”- travelling is education. Culturally, we treat dogs as guards or nuisance in Africa. We fear or kick them. Fear of dogs is one of the biggest psychological warfare amongst us Africans living overseas. Everywhere you go Wazungu have animal pets. I used to be shocked when I heard Wazungu “sleep” with their dogs. It is one of the biggest cultural lessons when you leave the hot continent. As shocking as hearing dogs can be food in certain parts of the world.
Yes I did not know much about dogs.
In my early years living in Europe in the 1980’s, one of my neighbours’s had this dog that emptied its stool right on my doorstep. This was very annoying since it occurred every single morning. I complained to fellow neighbours who knew about it- but I felt I was in conversation with plants and trees. Can trees answer back? Mind you it was me cleaning the mess.
Can you guess where this story is going?
One day I woke up early; brick in hand waited for what I perceived to be my enemy. You must have heard of the old Pavlov experiment, conditioned reflex; animals and us are creatures of habit. Miss Fouling at Your Doorstep hobbled in and as she bent to deposit her goods, like a hand grenade I launched my brick. I did not want to kill her; my intention was just to frighten and stop the habit. She howled and screamed so loud that all cars stopped, people watched in horror. I was suddenly a subject of distaste and hatred. Someone phoned the police. Within minutes I was arrested and well- long story short- was strongly cautioned.
“You don’t hit dogs let alone animals, this is not Africa.”
I did not know that.
Live and learn your lessons in life.
Dogs have all sorts of uses. Various popular English phrases express this love of man’s best friend. Children are given puppies as Christmas presents and are always reminded pets are for life. Not just for Xmas.
Even the hated rats have their uses. Some people even eat them. They are used in experiments to cure serious diseases, psychological disorders etc. Pic courtsey of Scientopia
Over the years I have learnt that dogs can be excellent guides for blind people, livestock and police. I personally admire Spaniels in particular who are quite intelligent with a variety of skills, e.g. finding drug smugglers and other criminals. It is not only dogs who are useful. During the past decade, rats have been trained to sniff and detect bobby traps, bombs and land mines in war history countries like Mozambique.
Every single living creature has a value.
A dressed up dog. Pic courtsey of Sporah TV site
That is why we have to mention the ongoing debate regarding dogs on Facebook. The owner of the six pets was interviewed by London based Tanzanian presenter, Sporah TV Show. She spends one thousand pounds (approx two million and half shillings) monthly, to pamper the animals with clothes, food etc. Comments especially from Tanzanians have been disapproving:
“In Africa they will appreciate at least $50 of that ...to feed a family for a month.”
Or the ridiculous: “We have to grab one of dos Mbwa for nyama choma dis Xmas.”
To which the dog owner replied that she donates some money to charities: “...and yes we indulge our babies, yes they are our babies, but we also do some good, please follow our example and love, love, love and give a little woof, woof, woof.”
Also published in Citizen Tanzania on 27th September, 2012.