Tuesday, March 30, 2010


A few weeks ago, someone near our guest house was beating a dog.  We sat mutely through the yelps and screams, assuming the brutality was taking place in the neighborhood on the other side of our wall.  We don't know where the sound was coming from, but a few days later, I found these two puppies living in the rubbish pit behind our guest house.

I have named them Bowser and Squirt.  Bowser is the one in my lap in the picture, and he is by far the more intrepid puppy.  Squirt has clearly suffered more--his tail is between his little legs when a stranger comes near.  If he gets startled he will squeal and run away while piddling.  He has mange and maybe worms.  We have to get him to a vet, but I'm not sure he could get through the car trip.  Poor Squirt.

I have posted  an ad on a local message board for ex-pats to try to find them a home, but I am only a little hopeful.   There are many stray dogs, and few potential homes.  There are few dogs as pets in the city, and those are in homes with walls; if they belong to Rwandans, they are guard dogs.  People do not walk their dogs.  They are not status symbols for the rich like they are in the Dominican Republic, for example.   In the two trips outside of Kigali that I've made, I haven't seen a single dog.  Rwandans do not like dogs. At all.  If you ask them why (and I have), they will tell you it's one more mouth to feed.

From what I understand, however, there is a deeper reason:  During the genocide there were corpses lying about everywhere possible.  Dogs which had been pets were left on their own; the obvious food was lying all about them.  The dogs then went feral, and when family members would try to protect their loved ones' remains, the dogs would attack.  Then the dogs started attacking anyone as a potential food source.  All dogs seen in Rwanda were shot on sight, for the sake of both the living and the dead.

Today, when I mentioned to a student that I have a dog at home that I love and miss, he was completely incredulous.  Thankfully, the staff at our guest house tolerate the puppies.  There is a night guard who has actually taken a fancy to them.  For the short term, I think they are safe here.  When they are grown, though, I fear for them.

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