In honor of my pup's second year with us, I wanted to write a blog about having a dog in the Peace Corps. Before I came to Africa my dad told me a story about a volunteer he knew who had two pet mongeese that he brought back to America with him. After hearing that story along with numerous others about finding snakes in your house/bath/bed/shoes, I decided that my first order of business as a volunteer would be to find and train a mongoose to keep the snakes at bay. Instead I ended up with a dog who can't fetch, thinks the couch is hers and hers alone, and will come running from miles away if she hears a package of crackers opening. Despite her quirks though, she is a good dog. So here's an ode to Lua.
Lua is an approximately-two-year-old African mutt which I would describe as a mixture of whippet and jackal. My only basis for that assumption are her funky ears and how quick she is while chasing chickens. She will actually lap them when she catches up just so she can continue chasing after them. One thing about having a dog in Africa is the danger that someone will decide to poison, kill, or eat them. Yes, that's right…eat them. Dogs are generally mistreated and feared around here, and if one were to kill or injure your neighbor's livestock you can bet they'll be around for vengeance. Kids throw rocks at puppies and beat them with sticks, and adults are quick to toss boiling water at a dog sniffing around their yard for scraps. They are valued as guard animals, but even kept as such they can also be mistreated and poorly trained, making them mean and keeping up their stigma of being terrifying creatures. There are exceptions to this, though. Not all Mozambicans are afraid of dogs and we have been very lucky as everyone in our neighborhood loves Lua. They leave their leftover meat out for her so much that she often snubs her dinner at our house in preference for the neighborhood buffet.
|(Grudgingly) Feeding her puppies...|
There are challenges to keeping a dog, or any pet, as a Peace Corps volunteer. The most obvious is that there are going to be some extra expenses on your already ridiculously meek stipend. Also there aren't a lot of quality vets nearby, and hitchhiking or riding a bus with a dog isn't the most logistically sound travel option. Lucky for us Lua came complete with a collar, leash, and deworming pills from her previous owner, and I received a two-year supply of Advantix treatments from a lovely USAID worker and former PCV whom I met in the capitol. We feed Lua a mixture of dried shrimp and xima (course corn flour…sort of like grits) and everyone in the market thinks it's hilarious that we feed her shrimp. She even has a good friend in the market who lets her sit under the shrimp table and eat the bits that fall down underneath.
|Lua hates her dog pants.|
All the negatives aside, I wouldn't trade Lua for the world. It gets lonely here sometimes, and she's the best companion I could ask for. She's not the greatest at keeping critters out of our house; in fact she usually makes a swift exit or hides under the couch at the site of any large insects, and she recently let a chicken walk into my room and refused to chase it out. She is a great running partner, though, and I'll be amazed if I ever find a person that's as happy to see me as she is after I've been away. Upon my most recent return home, I had been on the verge of bursting my bladder for about two hours and I ran straight off of the chapa into the bathroom. I heard a strange galloping noise coming towards me and knew that Lua had seen me arrive. She doesn't usually go into the latrine but will sit outside in anticipation to accost you as soon as you come out. This time, though, I guess she just missed me too much. Next thing I knew Lua had burst through the door at full speed to jump on me in the potty. She nearly caused me to pee all over myself but I could hardly be mad at her, because that's the kind of love you just don't find in another human being.