Friday, February 20, 2009

Africa is Alive; A Dogs Life

In addition to being stacked to the gills with people, Africa is also littered with dogs. And like the people, the multitudes of dogs are ruled by the hard fact that life has a different value here. Far from the well bred, pampered Canadian dogs - the yappy, groomed fluff balls who get dressed in sweaters or carried in purses through Yaletown, or the muscular, strong willed companions, labs, shepherds, or mastiffs, who run through special parks in the city - African dogs are a mangy, roguish bunch of muts who are born preoccupied with surviving the inevitably rough life ahead of them. The streets here range thick with dogs, digging in or sleeping upon the heaps of trash, eyeing the rare scrap of discarded food, ducking bodas or four-by-fours in the city streets, loping through the narrow passeges of the IDP camps, snarling and ripping at each other in alleys, and baying in tormented heat through the nights. Dogs 'mean' something different here, except perhaps to the multitudes of love starved children.

Like African children, the life of a dog is a combination of factors. Where, and to whom you were born, and if they will keep you past birth. What kind of genetic gifts those parents left you; looks, cunning, strength, visciousness, cuteness. Unlike a cow or a chicken, dogs don't seem as well valued by the practically minded Africans, for whom the dogs gifts of companionship, security, and awareness are mooted by the particular nature of African society. An African dog must prove it's worth or fend for itself. There are no African dogs going to canine psychologists. None will ever get a hip replacement. Nor will any be put to sleep in their old age, their owners sad and loving hand on their fur as they go gently into that good night.

The problem for me is that I love dogs, and my innate affinity for dogs, the natural instinct to 'connect' with them, is very strong in me. Unlike African children, whom I can try to help, and who actually have a chance at a good life, the African dog that you take a shine to, flea bitten, tick ridden, mangy, but with that familiar and recognizable canine consciousness in it's eyes, is ultimately a lost cause. African dogs seem born with one paw in the grave and to let yourself love them, even just for a bit, is to court sadness.



  1. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
    There are people that believe you can tell the prosperity of a country by how well the scavengers are doing.
    I will show Nugget he's not the only one with ears out of proportion to the rest of their body.I have noticed that seems to be the running theme with stray dogs, in South America, Europe and even North America..maybe they are evolving into a new breed.
    As for how mangy, tick ridden and flea bitten (never mind the parasites)they are...survival of the fittest and natural population control my dear. It's very hard for me to see but I understand that there are more pressing issues in a country such as Uganda.
    Miss you dearly and thank you for this post!

  2. I must tell you it is very fun to read your journey my dear uncle! yes it is your far far away niece Mary..... Andy sent me the link to the site and I must say I enjoy it thoroughly your photographs are fantastic. I hope you will continue to enjoy your stay there and I hope to again see you when you return! and you can meet my son phoenix. Much love, -Mary

  3. Appropriate that I'm posting after my lovely daughter. Incredible journey, not a bad way to spend a mid life crisis my little, Marty.