TIA Tales- Pets & Vets
As I prepared for the craft fair this weekend I spent a lot of time in town and when you wander the town you are guaranteed to cross paths with both street people and street dogs. These require two entirely different stories, i am certainly not comparing the two, but it suddenly occurred to me that our little furry friends easily warrant a TIA Tale column for their mad existence out here.
For a start most local dogs are what we call ‘shenzi’ (Swahili for a bit of everything, mismatched, also used to describe a rubbish car or dodgy fundi- another great Swahili word!), there isn’t really any breeding here and few Tanzanians keep them, in fact many are really afraid of them.
Anyone who lives here will have heard the street dogs howling at night. It’s the eeriest sound, like baying wolves. It starts with one or two and then it spreads in a wave of sound until the howls go up in unison across the whole area.
The pet dogs are largely imports and most frequently imported as guard dogs – so Rottweilers and Alsatians are popular options. Our two blondes aren’t quite in that league; we have a lab and a small fluffy thing, both of which are more likely to lick you than bite you. Anyway, the pet options are increasingly popular and this week several of my friends – in one of those odd moments of synchronicity – have decided to set about bringing in a dog.
The problem, though, with doing things against the tide out here is that you make your life pretty difficult – and it means pet owners frequently have crazy tales to tell.
There’s the problem of feeding them – local shenzi dogs will pick through rubbish dumps, or if they’re fed in the house they get treated to rice and dagaa (tiny little fish that smell absolutely revolting!). If you want to get dog or cat food like Whiskers or anything fancy then you may well need to visit the big cities (Dar or Nairobi) and stock up, or pay through the nose!
But that’s nothing compared to the dangers they face out here. In the uk my cats would bring in mice and the odd bird, here the birds could take them and they’re more likely to catch a rabid bat, poisonous snake or aggressive lizard!
Plus there are ticks. These things are seriously gross. They latch onto your pet and then suck, slowly. Over a few days they get so bloated that they go from little English wood louse shape to a perfect swollen round, and then they fall off, fully satiated. If you try to pull them off before they are ready they often take their revenge by popping all over you! They can also offer tick bite fever. Imagine my friend’s delight when she looked in the mirror one morning to discover she had one on her face! She said at first she thought developed a huge mole overnight!
And when they have these encounters there’s no such thing as the veterinary clinic to pop to! We do have a vet, we have a couple actually, but it’s all mobile, and they work with what they’ve got – and that often means using you as an assistant!
A friend of ours from a nearby gold mine needed his dog to have an operation not so long ago and we volunteered to host it and the vet at our house as getting the vet to the mine site was a bit too much of a distance. I came home from work that day to find our kitchen table in the car park with the dog – split neck to tail – bleeding all over it. Rather than apologizing the vet simply waved me over and asked me to hold onto a particularly bloody flap of skin whilst he removed some apparently no-so-vital part of the poor animal’s insides! This is by no means an uncommon story around Mwanza. We replaced the table!
You can’t even imagine how many neutered dogs seem to still go on heat, or even have puppies in some cases!
It’s all pretty basic. Medicines for animals are frequently human meds and any luxury bits, like those comedy cones to stop dogs biting stitches, need to be provided by the owner!
I have to end this blog entry with a reference to The Hero Dog. This was a little shenzi dog who had a nasty accident, I assume with a vehicle because one leg was partly removed and what was left was horrifically mangled. We’d see her, hopping in three legs, and try to avert our eyes. It was disturbing. Poor thing. Many of us talked about getting a vet to put the poor thing down, but she was a wily street dog and we could never find her when we wanted to. She disappeared for a while and we all assumed she’d died, and then suddenly there she was, still hopping, but bravely going on, finding food and somehow, against all odds, surviving. I admit I don’t know where she is now but I’ll never forget The Hero Dog.
Vet or pet stories to share anyone? Please feel free to add your comments! Thanks for reading.