My dog Bowzer was the runt of his litter. He was a puny little thing to say the least. Once, when he was an adolescent puppy of about 4 or 5 months, we actually found a banana that was practically bigger than he was. He was always covered in wounds from the fights that he invariably lost at the hands of the bigger dogs, aka any other adult dog in the entire country. But his size was not the only thing that let him down in the Mozambican dog-fighting circuit. He was also just the chillest, most non-chalant, most relaxed dog ever. He simply just went with the flow and tagged along with whatever happened to be going on at the moment: dog fights, a jog into the bush with his owner, a trip to the market, an afternoon snooze under a mango tree on a hot day. Bowzer was down for anything. When the other dogs were running wild, Bowzer was right behind them, nipping at their heels, mostly just wanting to join in the fun and play around rather than fight. His preferred spot to doze off the day was in his reed-basket turned bed, contorted in any of a multitude of ridiculous sleeping positions. But most strangely, Bowzer was famous: famous throughout the neighborhood. Now why would everyone around, from a culture that both abhors and fears dogs, inevitably know about the dog of the crazy white teacher, you might ask. Well, Bowzer only had one testicle, the other one apparently undescended. The women in my neighborhood thought this fact was absolutely hilarious and would constantly blame Bowzer’s odd-dog behavior on it (as well as claim that any eccentric or bizarre human male must be as such because he is “like Bowzer,” aka with only one ball). Thus, my old roommate and I nicknamed him as “One Ball Bowz.” Basically, Bowzer was a character and I loved him dearly up until his passing just a few days ago, shortly after his first birthday.
I am running a few trainings in the northern part of the country for the leaders of girls groups and I needed to go to a city about four hours away to access our girl’s group national bank account. So I was hitchhiking outside Invinha. And Bowzer, my other dog Devin, and two random dogs were apparently keeping me company as I waited. The four dogs were wreaking havoc in the middle of the road when a car pulled up. I was mostly concerned with flagging it down, seeing as it seemed like a safe, quick ride. I was wrong. The car ignored me and plowed right in the middle of the dogs, running over Bowzer’s two back legs, and then speeding away. Somehow Bowzer managed to drag himself to the shoulder of the road and I streaked over to him. The bones in his two back legs were severely broken and sticking straight out of his leg. It was clear he would never walk again. He was shaking from pain and couldn’t lift his head. As I tried to comfort him, I ultimately decided to pay some guys from the bush 100 meticais (about four dollars) to take him into the bush and kill him, ending the suffering he was undoubtedly experiencing. Meanwhile, a crowd formed and mocked me for petting this dying dog and talking to it in English, practically in tears. (Why is the white teacher crying over a lowly dog?) As I walked away with his collar in my hand, I heard him squealing in pain, as I can only assume he was being dragged away to face his fate. But I honestly believe I made the right decision. Even in the US it probably would have been difficult to salvage his legs, considering two of them were totally and completely mangled. If it had been only leg, I would have tried to find some, however far-fetched, way to amputate just the one leg, making me not only the crazy white lady with the uni-balled dog but also the crazy white lady with the uni-balled, three-legged dog (which I admit, would have been quite the legacy to leave on the community of Invinha). I briefly considered buying a lot of rat poison to feed to him as a means of euthanasia, but I’m glad I didn’t, as I learned afterwards that death by rat poison is incredibly painful and protracted. So, I believe the guys from the bush snapped his neck with a rope/chord. But I really had no other options. There is no vet that can administer whatever drug they use to humanely put down dogs in the US. Dogs are not a man’s best friend here during their lifetime, so that which ends it is apparently equally callous. Thankfully, Bowzer didn’t suffer too long, but as I write this, Devin and I are for sure mourning and feeling his loss.
The week before this incident, the students at my school completed their first trimester final exams, for the first time administered by the Ministry of Education. This means that not only were the English exams full of grammatical errors, but they were also completely un-evaluative and irrelevant to the students’ lives. The text that the students had to comprehend for the 11th grade exam was about pets in America: how we buy them their own food, treat them as a member of the family, and even use them to assist people with disabilities. Then the essay they were to write was to describe their favorite pet. This topic could not have been further removed from my students understanding of the world. Not only did they not know the word for pet when I translated it to Portuguese to help them out, but they also just do not view dogs and cats in this anthropomorphized and personified sense. It would be like asking an urban American student to write about killing a chicken, goat, or pig for dinner. Essentially, the test was exactly what I predicted it to be: the worst test they could have possibly thought to give, which is, however, another story and another tirade for another day. But as the crowd stood deriding me as I was saying goodbye to Bowzer, I couldn’t help but think about this dichotomy, between how I, an American, and the people of Invinha differ so greatly in our ideas of how dogs can fit into our lives. Obviously, there is no right answer. My dogs are seen as my children to my neighbors because of how I treat them, while Mozambicans use dogs solely to deter unwanted intruders. We all have our place.
But this blog goes out to One Ball Bowz, an odd, little dog that I absolutely loved.