Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Things We Love

I live on a family compound in a little pink house next to the landlords’ larger pink house. The landlords have two kids and a dog and a cat and a million chickens. The dog is my favorite. I love to come home after a long day and sit in the sand, rubbing Molly’s belly. She’s started to anticipate it and will chase after me and lie down in front of my feet until I consent. She has giant sad eyes which I find soothing and compassionate in a way I can’t explain.

Molly has had three litters since I arrived. 23 puppies all together. In this last litter the puppies lived for three months and then one by one began dying. Earlier this week the last one died.

Molly died today.

The landlord came over to check on me tonight. I stood in my doorframe (as I always do) and he stood on my stoop facing the horizon (as he always does) and we chit chatted about work and the weather. And I said “What happened to all the dogs?” and he said “Well, we don’t really know.” And I said “But it was so sudden—all at once like that.” And he said, “They may have been poisoned. But did you see the chicks? My God we are so fortunate with all these new chickens!”

My best friend in the village can’t understand Americans and pets. She talks about it all the time—genuinely fascinated by our attachment to animals and confused at how we can build such fondness for dirty cats that exist to catch mice and mangy dogs that exist to protect the house.

Sometimes I theorize that it’s our individualistic culture that tends towards solitude and yet finds that privacy can be enhanced by a connection with a silent, soft and affectionate being. Sometimes I think it’s evolution past the strict hierarchical culture that sees animals as merely functional and disposable. Sometimes I just think it’s excess money and time that has made us develop new interests and hobbies beyond survival tasks. Sometimes I think we’ve got it all wrong and we’d be better off ignoring them like the Batswana.


Molly crawled under the banana tree at the edge of our yard and died there today. The kids told me but I wouldn’t look. She laid there for seven long hours before the landlord finally removed her.

There have been moments here that I’ve wanted desperately to be invisible. There have been days I’ve nearly begged my skin to turn black.

But I’ve never so badly wanted to be Motswana, as I did today.

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