Thursday, June 10, 2010

Malawian Dogs

Dogs in America are pets. Dogs in Malawi are guard dogs. Dogs in America are pampered, cuddly creatures, regardless of their size. Dogs in Malawi are tough, fierce creatures, for the most part. I have never wanted a dog in Malawi since they are not what I am used to or what I enjoy. I like American dogs. I have been adamant about this. When my car was broken into and most everyone around me, including my sons, was insistent that I needed a dog for protection, I resisted. I don’t want a Malawian dog.

Recently we have had a number of break-ins and thefts around the Synod and the place has been put on high alert. We have had community meetings for instruction on how to better protect ourselves and our property. After one of these meetings, my gardener Maxwell came to me with the request for a dog for protection. He said he and the watchman had discussed this and they felt this was a necessity. I again resisted. I explained that I did not want a fierce dog around. I didn’t want the responsibility or the liability. I travel too much to be able to care for a dog and my grandchildren are both afraid of dogs. All of those seemed to me like valid reasons for not getting a dog. But Maxwell persisted. He would be responsible for the dog; he would take care of the dog; he would keep it away from the children; he would be certain that the dog was not vicious. We needed a dog. He cited two break-in attempts foiled by the presence of dogs. I still did not yield. Then my friend Sam Ncozana mentioned, within Maxwell’s hearing, that his son’s dog had recently had puppies and he would be looking for a good home for them. Maxwell pounced on the information, insisting that this was the answer to a fierce dog. He could train it from a puppy to be a gentle dog, but to bark to alert us of trouble. Sam sided with Maxwell and I caved. We bought one of the puppies, but with the strict understanding that the dog was Maxwell’s responsibility and I was not to be involved in its care in any way.

The puppy is only 8 weeks old and only about 8 inches tall, not my picture of a watchdog. The puppy followed Maxwell around all day, delighting him with its loyalty. But come evening, he began to cry. He was used to his mother and litter mates. This place was all strange to the little thing. He cried all evening. During the night he was with the watchman, so he was quiet but in the morning began the crying again. I remained silent. I was determined to stay out of this dog business. Several people suggested that I should have gotten two dogs, not one. This would eliminate the crying and increase the protection. This is the Malawian way. From my perspective, that was yet another reason why I shouldn’t have given in in the first place. I didn’t want one dog, let alone two. But Maxwell liked the idea and lobbied for a second dog, since Sam still had puppies available. I was worn down by the crying and the lobbying and finally said yes to the second dog. Yesterday when I returned from work, I was greeted by two little fur balls. But they were not chasing after Maxwell as the first one had. They were curled up together on the patio, enjoying one another’s company, quiet as could be. Maxwell was delighted and certain that they were going to be great watch dogs together. I’m still not certain. The only thing I know for sure is that I have caved and we now have Malawian dogs. I’m trying to stay away, but they are cute – at least at this age. We’ll see.

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