“I could’ve had a dog.” Mike had said when Chelsi first told him of her plans to keep a dog during her service. As her predecessor in Kamijiji, Mike’s opinion on the topic felt rather important. Even before coming to Zambia, even before she knew she was coming to Africa she had resolved to have a dog. But as time passed on she found there were compelling reasons volunteers did not keep dogs other than lack of desire.
“I really wanted a dog before I got to my village,” one volunteer had said. “But then when I arrived I found there were two really nasty dogs living across the road from me and I was afraid they would have ripped apart any new dog I brought in.”
Another volunteer offered, “Rabies is really prevalent in my village. Even if I had it vaccinated… villagers don’t always understand that a vaccinated dog is one that can’t spread the disease. So, if I had been out of the village on a day a rabid dog happen to run through, chances are my dog would have been killed anyway.”
Even if you are in the village in the day the rabid dog runs through; “A woman brought her daughter to my house one morning with a really bad dog bite.” Started a volunteer who had come in to the capital while Chelsi’s intake was still in training to share information about projects going on in his village. “She said that it was been one of my dogs that had bitten her daughter so I should be the one to pay her the 80 kwacha to go get rabies shots. I told her my dogs are vaccinated, even if it had been one of my dogs that bit her daughter, which was doubtful, she didn’t need the money. She said ‘Give me money for the shots.’ I said ‘No,’ and even showed her the rabies certificates I had for the dogs. I told her she can stand around waiting but I wasn’t giving her any money. Turns out it had been a rabid dog that bit her daughter, so obviously not one of mine.”
“You have more than one dog?” It had never occurred to Chelsi that she could have more than one.
“I had two… One of them was poisoned along with the school’s Headmaster’s dog.”
“Why, what happened?” She had heard that some dogs were just in the wrong place at the wrong time, having had eaten poison in a garden meant for rats. But this, this sounded more like targeted killings.
“Sometimes people in the village just get jealous. The Headmaster and I work a lot together, trying to get a library going at the school. Or it’s that we’re two of the better off people living in the village. Someone, or group of people just didn’t like something, and this is one of the ways people deal with their dissatisfaction. We went to the Headman, the Headmaster and I. We want the person who did it caught and punished. But when we complained to the Headman, he offered that maybe it wasn’t malicious. ‘Sometimes people test out new medicines on dogs, and if it doesn’t kill the dog it must be safe to give people. Your dogs may have just been targeted because they were two of the healthiest dogs in the village.’”
All of this loomed in the back of Chelsi’s mind as she mounted her bike.
“Where are you going?” one of her host brothers asked. It was still early, just past 8 hours.
“I’m biking down to the tarmac to see another volunteer.” She did not want to mention it was to pick up a puppy. She didn’t want to give him the opportunity to say something that would spoil her excitement.
“You are going to be able to bike all the way to the tarmac?” It was only her second day in the village and many of the men there still did not understand there was difference between being female and being cripple.
“Yeah. It’s only like 15 km.”
“When will you be back?” She had no doubt in her ability to make the trip, there and back, but how long it would take…. All she knew is that this conversation had to end because she had to be on the tarmac before 9:15 otherwise she would miss her friend who was hitching down from the north of the district.
“I don’t know, later.” She started riding away. “Tusakumonangana!” The road was dirt and did not see much car traffic, maybe three to five cars on a busy day, and so was in better condition than many of the paved roads she had traveled on in the States. She did know that on her way to the tarmac she would three sections where the road has fallen in a little. She peddled furiously and kept a close eye on her watch.
8:10 am, she passed the Kamijiji Community School and well. The road started to slowly climb towards the sky.
8:19 am, panting she crossed over the first dip in the road. She had heard Africa referred to as the land of a thousand hills but these were really something different.
8:33 am, her uphill climb was being rewarded with a slow, downhill coast. She rolled over the second dip in the road, passed the Mitukutuku Health Clinic and could see the lake in the distance through the trees. She thought that the lake was about halfway between her and the tarmac.
8:40 am, more incline. The trees started to disappear in favor of tall grass and fifteen foot high stands of African Daisies.
8:42 am, crossing over the third dip in the road, dust began to fill the corridor through the grass. There was a quarry she knew, not too far from the tarmac. She was getting close, but the dust was an unwelcome battle. It was being kicked up on the road by large trucks carrying stone into the city.
8:45 am, she persevered through the dust, passed the quarry. “I have to be getting close,” she hoped.
8:52 am, loping round a large curve she heard the sounds of traffic. As the grass cleared the tarmac was in view.
8:53 am, “Not bad.” Forty-five minutes and still time to spare. A couple of teenage boys sitting on the side of the road started talking to her. She did her best to keep up the conversation, but it quickly slipped in to silence. She waited
9:17 am, she had no idea what kind of vehicle she should be looking for when on the opposite side of the road a white flatbed filled with people pulled over to the side of the road. Chelsi looked, spying another white woman crouched in the bed of the truck. “Dick!” she smiled and waved to her friend.
“Chelsi, how are you!?” said Dick as she reached into her jacket. “It took a while for us to get a ride. But we made it, she is terrified though. She was snuggled up against me the entire way. She was her happy, spunky self before we left though.” From her jacket she produced a puppy and presented it to Chelsi.
She looked at it: pointy ears flopped over just a bit on the top, black muzzle with a white spot on its nose, dark eyes and white feet. This was the puppy she had picked out five weeks ago, it was still the same size too; half the size it should be at nine weeks. She took the puppy in to her arms. “Have you settled on a name for her? I’ve been coming around to the name Flower.”
“I think I’ll call her Daisy. It’s just as nice and more tolerable to those who couldn’t stand the name Flower.” Daisy trembled a bit. She was covered in dirt. No, no, that dirty was moving. She was covered in fleas. Chelsi squeezed her a little closer.
“How are you going to get her home?”
“I was thinking the same way all the other women carry their children around. Would you give me a hand?” She passed Daisy back to Dick and tied a chitenge into a sling over one shoulder. In the pouch that was created in the front Dick placed the puppy. Some of the bystanders started to laugh.
“Oh my god,” Dick said taking a step back. “Give me your phone. This is hilarious, I have to take a picture.” Chelsi passed over her phone.
“Thanks Dick for saving her for me.”
“It was a close one, she almost didn’t make it. But I know now she’ll be well looked after.”
“Safe travels to Lusaka, and have fun at Lake Tang.” Chelsi righted her bicycle.
“Thanks!” Dick started walking back towards the road. “Have fun with that little one and good luck with community entry.”
“See you soon!”
Now two started back towards home.