LIFE BY LOUIS: Of village hunting dogs and pampered city pets

Monday May 14 2018

The tragedy is that unlike their counterparts in my village, these upmarket dogs cannot even catch a dead mongoose. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH

The tragedy is that unlike their counterparts in my village, these upmarket dogs cannot even catch a dead mongoose. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

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As part of my New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, I have made it a habit of jogging in the morning in one of the protected forests in the outskirts of Nairobi.

There I encounter other people either having a lazy morning jog or just walking their cute dogs.

The kind of dogs you find here are not your usual village type, which, due to starvation, have visible rib cages that resemble bass guitars.

These are the fine bred dogs that live in en-suite kennels. They are driven in the back seat with the windows lowered so that they can catch fresh air and smile at the other dogs in traffic.

Some of these dogs only respond to commands in English and they have as many as three names.

The tragedy is that, unlike their counterparts in my village, these upmarket dogs cannot even catch a dead mongoose.

Any dog in the village that cannot chase and catch an antelope is considered a liability, and is likely to be allowed to wander away and become a market dog. 

When I was younger, we used to engage in our own version of game hunting. Although we did not pride ourselves in having long bore rifles and the kind of cowboy life enjoyed by the modern-day hunters, we still had our own share of fun.

I did not own a dog like every other boy in the neighbourhood, because Wa Hellen could not stand dogs’ horrible toilet manners.


Nonetheless, I gladly participated in the hunt as an observer and strategy adviser.

On hunting days, which mostly fell on Saturday afternoons after we completed our household chores, the hunting parties would meet at a central location at the edge of the forest.

This was the assembly point of all breeds of dogs that ranged from the thin and cowardly ones, to energetic packs from families that had a long established history of rearing fierce dogs.

The fierce dogs led the pack and the others were chase dogs and pacesetters. 

Our job as strategy advisers was to locate furrows in bushes where there were chances of encountering hares or even antelopes.

Once we located a potential hiding place for our prey, we would lay siege around the bush and strategically position the dogs to give them a head start if the prey suddenly ran.

A sharp dog would sniff out the hapless prey from the bushes and a chase would ensue.

Sometimes the victim would be a sprightly hare with no intention of being converted into dinner, and it would lead us into a half-day chase that would sometimes end in a neighbouring province.

Some dogs with no hunting experience would run aimlessly with no idea of what the chase was all about, and some would even overtake the hare in an overzealous display of athleticism.


Once caught, the dogs would sometimes eat half the hare before we caught up with them. 

Upon retrieving the remaining meat, the boy whose dog caught the hare would be given the honours of spearheading the slaughter and sharing the meat.

Dividing a one kilogramme hare among more than 10 boys was no mean feat.

The quantity of meat that one got was determined by whose dog first sniffed out the hare, whose dog roused it, whose ran the fastest, whose cornered it, and whose eventually caught it.

That was quite a difficult task and it must have been the first real life application of Calculus.

Fights were common because every boy laid claim to the active contribution of their dogs in the hunt. Even those who provided the pacesetters claimed that the lead packs would not have caught the hare were it not for their contribution.

We roasted the hare and everyone had a bite; and sometimes we would also pick green maize and potatoes from nearby farms and cook them as an accompaniment for our main meal.

The dogs were offered the offal and soon after, a fierce fight would ensue as they all fought for a piece of the meal.

These well-groomed dogs in leafy suburbs will never experience the thrill of a good hunt.


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