After returning from America, I plucked the mother of all ticks off my dog Bowzer’s neck. Apparently this thing had been feeding off him for the whole month I was gone because that thing was HUGE and fat. He also had 17 other smaller ticks and my other dog, Devin, had 14. So, on that same, admittedly gross, sentiment, here is my account of the barbarous life of dogs here in Mozambique, and thus inferring how they differ from the “Jewish house-dog” with which I grew up (I would like to credit Mark Berenberg for coining that term).
FOOD: My dogs eat trash. Exclusively. But WAIT! Before you go calling the animal rights people (who, for obvious reasons don’t even exist here), please know that I used to feed my dogs. I used to make them food everyday. That’s right, I used to cook food from scratch for them everyday: corn mush and dried fish, YUM (surprisingly, I can’t buy Purina One at the local onion-selling stand). But, being the “smart” (aka, food-motivated) dogs that they are, they soon realized that they obtain much better fare by making multiple daily rounds through the neighborhood trash pits. So when they stopped eating the food I prepared, I accordingly stopped preparing it.
FREEDOM: The world is their dog park. They can roam for miles without a leash, meet up with their bush-dog friends, fight, play, romp in the mud or the river, and wreak general havoc. They can chase after birds and chickens, get in fights in with goats, splash in the river, and go wherever in the bush that their hearts desire. Sure, their jaunts may sometimes incur bamboo-stick slaps to the face (thanks to a random kid) or a thrown-rock that grazes their leg (maybe this time thanks to a drunken old man), but it is a small price for their constant, true, and unbridled freedom. I have no yard and therefore no valid method for containing them, so they go off, sometimes just for the night (scratching at the door in the morning to spend all the next day dozing in their respective favorite spots on the floor), and sometimes for days at a time. They always come back, however, overjoyed to see me, splaying mud and dirt on every surface of my house, and attending to each other’s newest wounds. My dogs are covered in battle scars from their midnight fights and track dirt everywhere (why would I give them a bath when they will invariably just go roll in the mud five minutes later? I have no means or desire of stopping them from doing so) But I love them. It is the perfect human-dog relationship, I don’t have to do anything for them except remove their ticks and they just chill with me all day, exhausted from their haunts into the bush looking for female dogs in heat to knock-up. I am probably a doggie grandmother many times over by now.
MOZAMBICAN INTERPRETATION: Among my most crowning accomplishments in Mozambique is that I taught some of the neighborhood kids that dogs (at least my dogs) won’t bite if you don’t throw rocks at them. When they wag their tails, it means they are happy and when they come near you and smell you, they are just saying hello. A dog’s lick is equivalent to a kiss and they like it when you scratch them behind the ears or on the stomach. The littlest ones now actually love to touch the dogs (barring I hold their mouths closed with my hand to ensure no foul play) and to see their legs kick freely when you found their “spot.” Mozambicans do not generally touch dogs, they are solely there to offer protection from intruders, because the general cycle of behavior between Mozambicans and dogs is as follows: Mozambicans don’t like and are scared of dogs so they throw rocks at them and kick them, and thus dogs bite people for revenge, and thus people are afraid of dogs, etc. My neighborhood kids therefore had had no previous concept of canine social cues. They now get quite worried when they don’t see the dogs for a day and will inquire about the dog’s whereabouts. My dogs are named Bowzer and Devin, so I am often asked by three year-olds, “Where are Blowsa and Kevinee?” Man, that white lady has some strangely-named dogs. Who names their dogs Blowsa and Kevinee? No one. But apparently me.
MY CHILDREN: Mozambicans refer to my dogs as my children because I let them into my house and scratch them behind the ears, two things the normal Mozambican would never be caught dead doing. They also add quite a bit of craziness to my afternoon jogs. Not only is the white girl jogging in relatively short shorts a spectacle to lay eyes on, but the two dogs barreling next to her are just flat-out a never before seen anomaly. Not surprisingly, Mozambicans do not see dogs as normal running buddies, therefore, the only logical explanation is that they must constitute the family of the weird white girl. Someone once caught me applying flea-meds to my dogs’ necks (though, African fleas and ticks are not always deterred from American flea-meds…) Giving medications is something you only do for family here and thus Bowzer and Devin must be my sons. I am always asked “and your sons?” when being asked how various members of my real family are, a very Mozambican curiosity. Apparently, American women without children (god forbid!) must adopt dogs to fill the no-child void that is so very potent in their strange lives.
Devin (left); Bowzer as a puppy (right)
I think they like each other's company