Tragedy seems to befall the dogs of Mozambique.
In our neighborhood, especially, the bodies seem to be piling up. First, it was Bwino’s mother. Soon after we adopted our 6-week old puppy, his mother was stoned to death by a family who accused her of stealing food. Next, it was Bwino’s brothers and sisters, who died from parasites and malnutrition. In February, it was “Dog,” the mother of the puppies next door. She was poisoned and, the following night, her puppies were stolen from the outhouse where they slept.
After the untimely death of “Dog,” there was brief, peaceful lull. Recently, though, the turmoil has resurfaced.
Seni, who is our waterboy, yard sweeper, house watcher, and ear to the ground, brought us a piece of worrisome news—
“They’re going to kill Bwino.”
This—the threat against Bwino specifically—took us entirely by surprise. I’d actually thought, in the way of most mothers and caregivers, that my puppy was perfect and that everybody else loved him as much as I did. Walking around the bairro, I would often hear a chorus of neighborhood children shouting, “bwino-bwino-bwino!” What I didn’t realize, though, was that when I wasn’t looking, “bwino-bwino-bwino” often ended with a resounding kick to his little puppy gut.
“Listen,” said Seni. “Bwino is just too friendly. You are too nice to him. You have to be more strict with him to teach him fear. All of the neighbors hate him because he steals food. They say that they are going to put poison in his food to try to kill him.”
All of this, of course, we didn’t know. While the voice of Zobue is always audible (in fact, it grumbles incessantly), it speaks primarily in Nyungwe. Dan and I can listen as hard as we like, but we will never understand.
Our first step was simply to feed the dog more food. We assumed that if Bwino was eating three giant meals a day, he wouldn’t be tempted to “share” food with the neighbors. That seemed to be working until we learned that Bwino was now unloading some of his extra waste into the yards of some of our neighbors.
One of these neighbors, a thirty-year old homemaker with four kids, called Seni into her yard to have a serious chat in Nyungwe.
“This dog,” she said. “Has to stop. This is the third time that he has made a mess in my yard. If he dies, you or his owners won’t be able to say anything against me, because you have been warned.”
Well, that was a new problem. How could we stop a free-range puppy from defecating underneath a neighbor’s mango tree?
Dan and I started taking Bwino for a walk every morning, in an effort to coax out some of the offending mess. It didn’t seem to matter, though. All of the other puppies poop beneath the mango tree, too. It was all getting blamed on Bwino.
Then, on Sunday night, something terrible happened. On our porch, under a bucket, Dan and I found a fistful of xima loaded with broken glass. It was clearly left there for the dog.
Things had escalated to a point of real danger.
In the meantime, Seni’s dog, Diana, fell sick. She had been growing increasingly thin after giving birth a few weeks ago, but we thought that she was just suffering from post-partum complications. Then, she started coming home at night with wounds and scabs from where she had been beaten. She started limping and then, unexpectedly, lost all nerve function on her left-hand side. She started walking in circles. She was too weak to climb up our stairs and would stare at us from the sunny patches in our front yard, shivering and holding her head at an increasingly cocked angle.
Last night, two of her puppies died. In their lair, Seni found a plate full of xima with broken glass.
It’s now become a race of detective work—to identify the dog killers and to appeal for help from our district superiors before our dog gets seriously injured. Unfortunately, though, I don’t know how much that will help. Our Director’s dog was poisoned and killed, just last week.