LIFE BY LOUIS: How my dog breeding dream died

Tuesday July 9 2019

The following morning, I found the puppies body covered with fierce safari ants. I was devastated, and I felt like I had failed the puppy and had not come through for it at its hour of need. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH

The following morning, I found the puppies body covered with fierce safari ants. I was devastated, and I felt like I had failed the puppy and had not come through for it at its hour of need. ILLUSTRATION| IGAH 

LOUIS MUIRURI
By LOUIS MUIRURI
More by this Author

I wanted to be a dog breeder when I was five.

Although the tough breeds of dogs like the German Shepherd had not arrived in our village, I still harboured a dream of owning many dogs as pets and for sharing with the other villagers.

You could only share your dogs because there was no chance of breeding the dogs for sale.

No one buys dogs in the village and therefore no price tag is attached to the same. Dogs are communal pets and if your dog brings forth newborns, it is your duty to share the new members of the dog family with anyone who is in need of a pet.

ROLE MODEL

My role model was a man aptly named Njenga of Dogs. Rumour had it that he was a dog charmer, and he had started with just one dog.

But as he roamed across the village doing his business, he charmed other dogs that followed him like faithful disciples. By the time I knew him, he had a pack of more than 30 dogs following him wherever he went.

People admired and feared him in equal measure. If he passed by your homestead and he liked your dog or your dog liked him (we were sometimes not very sure which), that is the last you saw of your dog.

There was no way of keeping your dog away from him if it wanted to be converted into his disciple.

Because the shops in the village do not have a section for dog food, dogs are always let loose to look for their own food from the homestead and externally.

The dogs that don’t have the knowhow of rummaging for their food grow as thin as exercise books, and you can actually count their protruding ribs from a hundred metres.  

NOT OBLIGED

Subsequently, the dogs do not feel obliged to secure the household or act as any formidable deterrent to intruders.

Even when the naughty mongoose pays your homestead a visit with the intention of annihilating your chicken, the dog will be caught flat footed either asleep or away in another ridge looking for food and new friends.

At its best effort, it will give a few half-hearted howls at the intruder and go back to sleep even as your chicken are converted into dinner by the fierce carnivore.

Breeding time is the easier part and the dog’s owner is not under any obligation to look for a preferred mating partner for the dog for the purposes of retaining a superior ancestry.

During mating time, the dogs cross rivers and valleys to look for their mating partners. The mating season is marked with a sudden surge of large packs of dogs roaming the village with a lot of barking and howling.

You only wake up one morning to find new puppies under the granary and the proud mother plodding around proudly. You are not required to do anything.

The young ones are self-sustaining and no form of postnatal care or assistance is required from your part. Rumour has it that the dog must eat one of the young ones at birth, but that is neither here nor there.

The puppies will fight their survival  battle and if they are lucky to pass through the delicate teething stage safely, they are likely to survive to adulthood.

BIGGEST THREAT

The biggest threat to the puppies is the village boys. They have an insatiable appetite for puppies and if they catch them roaming outside your compound, they immediately change their ownership.

Not that the boys are really interested in breeding the puppies. Boys and dogs are always at war with each other, and the act of boys stealing the puppies is just part of their conquest.

Maybe they just keep them as prisoners of war, but no one really bothers themselves with this acrimonious relationship between boys and dogs.

My dreams of becoming a dog breeder were nipped in the bud on the first day. A friend of mine had given me a cute puppy in exchange for a few of my pancakes from my lunchbox.

I played with the puppy all day and I had named him Tommy, because all dogs in the village are either Chui, Tommy or Simba.

I put it in a makeshift kennel at night and I was sad to leave it in darkness and cold. In the middle of the night I heard the puppy make some woeful sounds that I dismissed either as hunger or homesickness.

The following morning, I found the puppies body covered with fierce safari ants. I was devastated, and I felt like I had failed the puppy and had not come through for it at its hour of need. I concluded that our homestead was not conducive for dogs breeding and my dream died at an early age.  

Advertisement