Dogs roam the roads and fields here. Freely. Independently. With no one to tell them what to do, where to go, or when to do either.
Dogs represent the most successful examples of entrepreneurship in Arusha. At least as far as I’ve seen. Each one births as an immediate entrepreneur. Almost. They suckle their mothers for a bit. Probably not long. From there on, they begin their entrepreneur apprenticeship. Learn where to find food. Throw-aways, mostly. “Please don’t feed the animals!” They don’t get fed. No charitable sentiment among human-kind. They steal. They scrounge. They learn how to live to the next day.
People in Arusha don’t own pets. Dogs, cats too, live independent lives. Free of rules. If they sneak something off the grill, success! Garbage represents a more stable diet, though. We threw out goat bones. The owner of the place ate ’em right up. I bought dog food the other day. Felt sorry. Thought the king needed something to eat. Sniffed it. Walked away. I crushed the nuggets and let the chickens peck the pavers clean. The fake bacon strips yielded no more excitement than the dry stuff. Interesting sniff, but not a taker.
Dog days begin about dusk. They get up from their day-long respites in the shade of someone’s wall or step. They stretch and yawn. They don’t wash up or brush their teeth. No deodorant. I checked. Fur maintains a living paradigm for other small life. Probably flees. Who knows?
Rover, the owner of our place, and I have become friends. After waking up, he looks for me. I petted him during the day a couple times. Must have remembered. Wants more before he starts his night. Nuzzles up. I pet him. He takes it all in. Much more welcoming of a hug than the store-bought crap. Loves it when I sit on the back porch step. He literally crawls up my body with his front paws (no, he didn’t wash them), tries to put his head against my body, blinks sleepily like he’s enjoying a great massage. I give him one. A little, anyway. Gonna have to wash the shirt, though. Steals a kiss. Gonna have to wash my face, too. He melts. Not a king, any more. A big wimp. A lover.
Fido, his best friend, sneaks around the corner. Barks. Wakes him from his reverie. Like the power company turning on the electric again, lights and laptops work again – Rover feels an electric charge. Forget snuggling anymore. The night is young! Let’s go!
They’re off. So much for making love. Think I’ll wash up.
I’ve attracted the affection of another lover, since I’ve arrived. Carin goes to pre-school or kindergarden during the day, during the week. She hangs around, during her non-working day-time hours. Initially curious about the white guy next door. Just stared. Returned a smile with the same. Accepted a ride on my shoulders around the house. Quiet the whole time. Except when we negotiated a step or drop off the pavers onto the dirt. A squeaky little whoop.
Since her initial ride, she’s made more noise. She talks a little. Points out the chickens as they scurry around. They try to escape my rampage. She messes my hair. Must think it really strange. Discovered a hen the other day sitting very still. Didn’t move. For days. Kind of buried into a bunch of banana tree leaves. Shaded. Towards a back corner of the chicken coop. “There!” she said. Didn’t see it, but could tell she pointed at the hen. Hand came out of my hair. Muscles told me it was a point. Might have barely seen a finger out of the corner of my eye.
Showed me her school papers the other day. Pictures with words beneath. Swahili and English. I might have learned something. Need more practice, though. Repetition.
Now she likes to cuddle. Like Rover. Buries her face between my legs. I pet her. Back of the neck, like Rover. Give her a hug. She eats it up. I pick her up. Carry her around, give her superiority over everything else stuck to the ground. Maybe another shoulder ride. Doesn’t matter, though. Just wants a hug, Wants to be held.
I buy cookies once and awhile. She accepts the offers. Every time. Bought ice cream the other day. Shared with Lota and Calvin. And Carin. Not sure she ever had it before. Surprise! I think she liked it. Not quite like Rover with the dog food. Not wild, like the dogs. Enjoys the same hugs, though.
I swing her around once and awhile. She smiles, peeps a little. Enjoys the air time. The flight. Twirl her. Dizzy? “No.” Do it again. The other way. That’s all. I get dizzy!
What is it about hugs that make wild dogs and little girls turn into lovers? Everybody needs a little love in their life. It seems. If I could catch a cat, probably the same.
Passed a puppy the other day, on the way to the waterfall. Stooped down to allow a sniff. It ran away. Not sure of the strange white guy. Maybe had all the love it needed. Or, didn’t know what love was all about.
I heard that God is love. May be the closest thing to understanding who God is than anything else. A dog seems to understand. So does a little girl.
Never saw God. Never saw a burning bush. Never saw a vision from heaven.
Have seen love. Lots of it, here in Arusha.
People here filled with love. Share when they hardly have anything. Might steal something, once in a while. Need to watch the grill. Survival instincts sometimes trump rules.
But love rules! Like dogs.
Maybe I have seen God!
Sometimes, I just sniff and walk away.