Wednesday, October 30, 2013


            I had a nightmare the other evening.  I was walking along a road, walking with a woman – I know her, though I cannot place her name, an older woman – we were in Spotsylvania County, back home.
            Early on as we were walking I saw what I thought was a cow which was pulling another, smaller cow, dragging it with its teeth though the smaller cow – or what I thought was a cow - was resisting, its front legs planted firmly in the ground though the larger cow was still succeeding in pulling it along.
            After a while we came to some bungalow houses where there was an old couple outside and I again saw the animals, but I realized now they were dogs.  One, a larger, older dog had a smaller, younger dog in its teeth and was dragging it forward, the puppy digging in its front legs but still it was being pulled forward.  A second, smaller dog stood next to the first puppy.
            I suddenly realized the older dog was rabid; I yelled out that the dog had rabies and the dog leg go and turned and looked at me, its eyes ugly red and its mouth frothing with greenish, gray foam.  I yelled, “We have to kill that dog!” and in the same moment the dog lunged at me.  I ducked and the dog went past and it lunged once more.  I ducked its attack again and grabbed the dog by the neck and held on to it, the beast snapping and snarling at me though I managed to hold onto it and keeps its mouth away from me.  The dog was about the size of a Beagle.
            I turned to the old man and told him we had to kill the dog and asked if he had a gun.  The old man seemed not to comprehend what I meant and only muttered a response.  Again I said we had to shoot the dog.  The old man said he didn’t have a gun, and I said, “what kind of person from Spotsylvania are you without a gun?!”  He only mumbled a response.
            There were other smallish homes nearby and I asked if one of his neighbors had a gun and again he merely mumbled a “no,” and said he didn’t really know the neighbors well.  I began to suspect that the old man and his wife might have already been bitten by the dog.  Maybe repeatedly.
            I asked the man if he knew anyone with a gun and he said he did.  “Great!” I replied.  “Where are they?”  The old man said his friend lived 32-miles away.  “Thirty-two miles!  Thirty-two fucking miles!  Are you shitting me?  Are you fucking shitting me?” I screamed.
            At this point I turned to my companion and said, “Get a bucket of water,” and within seconds there was a bucket full of water before me.  Still being careful to keep the dog’s mouth pointed away from me I plunged the animal’s head under the water and as the life ebbed out of it I simultaneously awoke, highly disturbed and agitated.
            It took a long time for me to fall back asleep, if in fact I did.  The dream was so vivid and upsetting, and I didn’t know what to make of it.  But you can be well assured that while on my morning run I kept a warier eye than usual on all the filthy dogs that roam Juba, suspecting every one of them of being rabid or at the very least wanting to bite me.  I was a dog lover before I came to Juba but since I’ve been here the only thing I want to do to the dogs is shoot them.  They are all horrible, wild dirty creatures, half crazed by parasites and beset with open bloody sores, fleas and mange.  I was commiserating with a friend about the awful dogs of Juba and she said something like, “maybe they need more love and discipline.”  Channeling Naipaul I said, “What the dogs here need is a good kick.”  It’s terrible to feel that way, but imagine if you can a city full of wild dogs that no one looks after, that just live off garbage and die after only a few years – if they are lucky to live that long – and you have an idea of the dogs of Juba.
            Most of the dogs of Juba fall into three breeds.  There are the orangey tan wild dogs, nearly all of which look similar and are by far the largest class.  They breed incessantly, though owing to cannibalism – the larger dogs can’t resist a meal of puppy, and the mothers simply cannot defend all their pups – not many from any litter survive into adulthood.  Then there are some that look like they descended from American-style bird-dogs, medium sized, longish haired, lithe and quick.  On the morning after my nightmare one of this breed came lunging at me having run silently across the foreyard of the Bari-parish church and I did not see it until it was nearly on me at which point I instinctively howled at it and raised my left arm like I was going to throw a rock.  All the dogs of Juba recognize this movement, they’ve had enough rocks thrown at them that merely cocking your arm and yelling is normally enough to scare them off.  The last breed is the least numerous but the most disgusting.  These are medium sized hairless dogs, silent – I’ve never heard one bark, nor even seen one run.  They just lope along, their pinkish bare flesh a mass of mange and discolorations, cracked, dry and diseased.  Their eyes are often small and beady and they walk with their heads hanging down, they seem like the spectral dogs of death.  I shudder whenever I see one.
            Most of the roads of Juba are dirt, deep gullies washed into them, rocky outcrops mixed in with the right of way.  The few tarmac roads are edged with broad swaths of inches deep dust.  For some reason a lot of dogs love lying either in the dust on the edge of the tarmac roads or in the gullies of the dirt roads.  I suppose – especially where the dust is pushed-up into a sizeable hill – the sand feels coolish in the mornings.  Sadly for the dogs though is the fact that since  nearly all people here have no regard for dogs – viewing them as little more than flea carriers – people make little effort to avoid running over dogs which are not clever enough to know better than to lie right in the roadways.  Hardly a week goes by while I am out running that I do not encounter one dog carcass.  Usually the heat and the scavengers make quick work of the bodies, though a couple of months ago I was thankful to see that someone had had enough sense to douse with kerosene and a light a match upon a particularly large dog that was stiffening along the roadside by Juba University.  It would have taken a couple of weeks to rot away otherwise and we were all spared that gruesome spectacle.
            There are a few westerners here with dogs, proper dogs, well cared for and loved.  It is such a treat to encounter one of these dogs, to again feel clean dog-fur in my hands as I pet them and to not have to worry about being bitten or attacked.  Friends in Mundri had succeeded – partly anyway – in taming one of the wild orange dogs.  They even went so far as to have her spayed by a visiting veterinarian in Juba.  Sadly, someone disturbed a wild bees nest just outside their home and the poor dog was stung so many times that it had to be put down to end its agony. My friend also suffered numerous stings and I am not certain his family didn’t look similarly at him.
            I’m sorry to have to talk like this about dogs.  I’m sorry to have to want to see nearly all the dogs poisoned like was done in the town of Bor recently after a rabies scare swept the town.  I’m told the townspeople just left the bodies to rot, the poison making its way through the ecosystem to anything which would then feed on the carcasses.  It’s really quite horrible to think about.  It’s just the reality of living in a poor country where there is barely survival enough for people, let alone animals.


1 comment:

  1. Those hungry hounds of Budapest, never have I seen a ruder pest... stay safe!