Reading this week:
- A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
- Lost Horizon by James Hilton
- King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
A lot of Peace Corps Volunteers get pets. There are advantages to pets. Cats catch mice for you. Dogs can be nice to have around. I like dogs a lot more than children, for example. Dogs have several advantages over children:
- Dogs don’t ask me for stuff over and over again.
- Dogs don’t play the game “let’s see what we can do to piss off Pat.”
- When I tell the dogs they gotta get out of my yard, they leave.
That being said, I had not planned to get any pets. Pets are work. You gotta feed them and get them shots and find someone to feed them when you’re away. That being said, I more or less have two dogs:
The one on the left is Muka. Muka is my host family’s dog, but he was originally the previous volunteer’s dog. He is a good dog and is pretty well known in the surrounding villages, having been on many adventures with the previous volunteer.
He’s got his quirks. His worst habit is that every once in a while he’ll spot a girl with a load on her head and suddenly growl and bark at her. I don’t know why he has a thing against women carrying things on their heads, but maybe he is just overzealous about gender equality. He likes to pretend he isn’t falling asleep. He’ll come in, sit by me, and then do head bobs and touch n’ goes instead of just laying down to sleep. He is a big fan of mud. Here is his, moments before sharing his mud enthusiasm by covering me in mud:
He was also, until recently, afraid to hang out inside my hut. When there was food on the line, he would forget this taboo and hang out under my armpit until he could lick the bowl, but otherwise he was afraid. When a rainstorm hit a week or two ago I lured him inside with a dog treat and closed the door. I didn’t want him to be wet and cold. He stood around nervously, until I scratched him behind the ears enough until he fell asleep. That changed something I guess and now the mutt rolls in like he owns the place. At night he departs to do whatever he does at night, but he’s scratching at my door at 0500 asking to be let in. So what do I do, since I am so kind and generous? I built the dude a dog bed. I went into town, bought foam and chitenge, and slaved over a needle for hours sewing him what I am willing to say with some seriousness is probably the most comfortable dog bed in all of Mbala District. Does he use it?
Not a chance. But you know who is all about the dog bed life?
Lala. Lala, being a refined lady, didn’t think twice and flopped right down on that thing the second she saw it. Lala is short for Katungalala. Only I call her Lala. She is this guy Abraham’s dog. “Katungalala” apparently means “diseased,” which is not a nice thing to call a dog. It is important to note that ZamDogs aren’t like American dogs. The dogs here aren’t companions, they’re security systems and garbage disposals. The upswing of that is if you show a dog some affection and don’t kick it, she’ll follow you around everywhere and then eventually spend her days snoring behind you and getting underfoot when you’re trying to sweep. Lala is also Muka’s girlfriend. Muka’s not a great boyfriend. He sleeps around and gets jealous, growling at Lala to get away when he thinks there is a treat on the line. But now I more or less have two dogs. They try to earn their keep every once in a while. When I run out to chase off goats or kids, they come out and help. Do they proactively chase away goats from my garden so the goats don’t eat all my velvet bean? No. But they’re cute. And so now, despite never actually getting a dog, I buy treats by the kilo and spend money on flea collars and flea powder and dog multivitamins because that is a thing. I fret over Muka’s botflies (dude, first off, when I squeeze the larva out, Muka eats them, and second, he’s got botflies on his balls, in case you think your day is bad, but he won’t let me tweezer those suckers out, not that I blame him) and have to try to make amends when he growls at people who don’t deserve it (one time he chased off a whole crowd at the nearby football field, then came trotting back to my porch wagging his tail happy as can be), and put up with these guys getting underfoot at every possible moment. But they are also the best adventure buddies there are and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.