She calls me ‘spoiled.’ ‘Spoiled’ is for smell eggs and mushy tomatoes. I’m not spoiled, I’m just loved, Daisy thought to herself from her sitting place on the porch. Oh! My friends! Daisy sprang up and ran over to the two dogs just entering the yard.
So many dogs… If they were not so poorly cared for and unruly, Chelsi would have pleased with the addition of two new dogs to the family. Bingo and Trouble where easily sister and brother. The only way to tell them apart, aside from the shape of their genitals was that Bingo had a ridge of hair standing straight along her back. Otherwise they were both tan with black backs, floppy ears and long tails that curled just at the end. Additionally they both had dull brittle coats, bleeding ears at the creases and no manners or obedience to speak of.
“My brother-in-law has brought them from town.” Chelsi host brother Maurice responded when she inquired about the new arrivals.
“But why? Wasn’t two dogs enough already? And when that one has puppies this place is going to be crawling with dogs. The village is already crawling with dogs now. Why go bringing more from town?!” there was nothing more than a shrug as a response. When Chelsi first arrived in May she remembered feeling relieved that she had made arrangement elsewhere to acquire her dog because there were no more than a handful in and around the village and only one she noticed was female. Yet, over the course of the last four month dogs started to appear where they weren’t before. Puppies not bigger than the size of Chelsi’s fist would bark at her and Daisy as they road through the village and more than once she saw people dragging dogs by ropes away from town and towards the village. How are people feeding these things?
Trigger, a tan, pointy-eared boxy dog, follow closely behind Bingo. ‘Play with me, Play with me!’ Daisy said jumping at his face. Daisy was half his size, weighing in at maybe fifteen pounds. Trigger growled and snapped at her.
“Come on Daisy, he doesn’t want to be your friend anymore.” Daisy trotted back over to Chelsi at the sound of her name. “And it’s such a shame,” she continued rubbing Daisy soft sides. “Because you two were such good friends. And I think he was better tempered then.” Daisy turned her head back round to look at him. Trigger had his nose wedged between Bingos hind legs.
Chelsi was up all that night. Bingo and Trouble had taken to sleeping on Chelsi’s front porch where they were protected from the light drizzle that had started falling most nights. This location also perfectly positioned them to be ready to break into her house the moment she opened her door in the morning. If Chelsi opened her door without her six foot stick to push them back, they would B line it to the basin of grey water Chelsi kept for washing, just to have a drink. If she left the door propped open for Daisy when she made her morning visit to her chim, she would be sure to find Bingo in the house with her face in the bag of dog food upon her return. Now though Bingo was in heat and Trigger refused to let her out of his sight. And even though Trouble would already be curled up cowering Trigger would still attack him. All through the night, on Chelsi’s porch. Daisy slept none the wiser.
Before she opened the door that morning she prepared herself to see a beaten, bloody Trouble. She hardened her heart. She hated hearing the dogs whine as she nudge them with the stick, but being as they were not vaccinated she was not supposed to get anywhere near them. Daisy started to cry ‘Open the door! Open the door! I want to go out!’ Chelsi let out a deep breath.
Just through the doorway Trigger was thrusting himself into Bingo. “Great…” Daisy sniffed at them before running out between their legs. Chelsi gave them a few more seconds to finish and while still stuck together she used her stick like a lever and pried them away from her door. Bingo made and effort to chew through Trigger so that she could get away. Trigger looked up at Chelsi. Barely three of his legs were touching the ground in his compromised position. “You wanted this.” Chelsi replied.
With Bingo clearly taken by Trigger, Trouble set his sights on Daisy. Though she had come to an age where she was ready to accept a mate, she was clearly turned off by Trouble’s pathetic-ness. He followed Daisy insistently around the yard. Whenever Daisy would stop to chew on a corn cob, dig up a termite nest or even just lie down and sun herself, Trouble would stand just behind her whimpering and whining. When he tried to make a move Daisy would growl, snap and move away. Tomorrow, Chelsi hoped, it would be all over and my puppy can have some peace. Bright and early the next morning the two would be headed to town, to the veterinary office where Daisy would be spayed.
When Chelsi first brought Daisy home she was hesitant as to whether or not she would have her fixed. She had heard horror stories of volunteers animals being operated on in dish pans or bleeding for weeks after surgery. Not to mention the cost of surgery and coordinating transport. Maybe a pile of puppies wouldn’t be so bad. But now with four dogs, including a bitch on the compound and an ever increasing number of puppies in the village, it was time someone exercised some responsibility, whatever the risks.
“But she won’t survive,” one of the villagers insisted when Chelsi explain why she would not be able to make any meetings the following week.
“She’ll be okay. Pretty much all the dogs in the States go through it. She’ll get some medicine so she falls asleep. Then it’s just a little cut, and the doctor will sew her up and give her some medicine.”
“But she’s already sterile because you have her vaccinated.” Another man claimed.
“No, vaccines don’t make you sterile.”
“So, she won’t be having puppies until further notice,” the agricultural extension agent tried to clarify.
“No, no further notice. It’s permanent. Once the doctor removes her puppy making parts, he can’t put them back in.”
“But won’t she feel lost, or that her life is meaningless because she won’t have babies?” This concern coming from the least likely of people in Chelsi’s mind.
“What about your dog?” Chelsi countered without trying to take it too personally. “She’s never had any puppies and she seems to be doing just fine. Happy as ever.” Mr. Lungu’s dog licked Daisy’s nose through the loose wall made of sticks. Daisy returned the affection, and the retired school headmaster chuckled. “I think Daisy will be just fine. I think, just the two of us. She likes being the center of attention.”
The next morning came and Chelsi strapped her rolling duffle bag to the back of her bike, just in case we can’t find a taxi.
“I am coming to ask for your bicycle pump.” Maurice came wondering into her yard. “I want to go visit my father.”
“I’m not lending out my bicycle pump right now. Like I told Gil and Bataata. Not until I can get some help taking care of the dogs.”
“But they are not my dogs.”
“It doesn’t matter. I can’t have them constantly hanging around my house like they are. They’re fighting, and harassing Daisy, and always trying to get in the house. When it was just Trigger it wasn’t a problem, but now with so many.”
“But here in Zambia we do not try and tell our in-laws what to do. We do not try and control them.”
“I’m not asking you to control him. I’m asking for you to all find a way to work together, so that the dogs get taken care of so they are not hanging around my house.”
“I told you, if the dogs are taking your water, stealing your food, coming into your house. You need to beat them with a cane.”
“I’m not going to beat the dogs.” Chelsi said, finally looking up at him from her task at hand.
“But here in Zambia we beat the dogs. You are supposed to be learning about how we are in Zambia.”
“But I’m not Zambian and I’m not going to beat the dogs. All I want is for some water to be put out for them on that side, so they are not always hanging out here.”
“Zambians, we are shy around our in-laws, we do not try and control them. You are supposed to be learning about Zambian culture.” The tone of his voice became hard with frustration. “Mike he was always over here, asking about the way things were. And we’d go around together and he was always learning Zambian culture. You are not, you are not respecting Zambian culture!”
“Part of Peace Corps is for you to learn about American culture.”
“No! you are here to learn about Zambia.”
“I didn’t talk over you, are you going to talk over me?”
“I am not done,”
“Okay, but when you are then don’t be talking over me.”
But he kept on going, “You are here to learn about Zambia, and act Zambian. And Mike, he was not always helping out. And you, You are stingy!” Chelsi mostly stopped listening at this point. She thought about her college communication instructor, Oh Pat, where are those lessons in verbal judo you were always talking about? But Chelsi could remember one thing from class; ’If people are angry and yelling, just let them go. They just want to be heard; they’ll wear themselves out.’
Then there was a pause, “are you done?” Chelsi asked coolly. Normally she wouldn’t have a problem waiting around all day but looking at her watch she had an appointment with the Vet.
“Yes,” Maurice’s voice was cold and dry.
“Think of this as a cross-cultural experience.” Cross-cultural experience that had been a buzz word during training, but Chelsi wished there were more positive experiences in which she got to use it. “In America,”
“But you are in Zambia!”
“Oh, I patiently waited for you to finish, now it’s my turn to talk.”
“Okay, We need to work together to accomplish common goals. In this case I need the dogs to be taken care of so they are not creating a ruckus around my house. I’m not asking you to control anyone, just to work together.” Chelsi started to switch from calm and cool to dry and quick seeing that already his patients was wearing thin. “There is no requirement that I let any of you use any of my things, but I have been because I am generous. Now I need some focus on this problem before I can start lending out my things again.”
He could not control himself, “but Mike!”
But Mike, but Mike “Aaa, aaa, let me finish. I waited for you.” He started to walk off. “I am not Mike, and I don’t think what I’m asking for is too much,” but he was gone by then, all huffed up. So I get to be the bad guy again. At least maybe this way they won’t send one of the kids to ask. She told herself that him being upset was not her problem; she was not going to be turning into a 20-something, white male from Wisconsin and that’s what really what he was upset about. “Daisy, come here.” She scooped up her puppy and tussled her into the bag now strapped to her bike. “And they wonder why I don’t want any more dogs running around,” she said softly nuzzling Daisy. Daisy was clearly annoyed over being stuffed in the bag, but none the less kissed Chelsi’s ear.