It’s not a dogs life in Mozambique

You know you’ve screwed up something serious in your past life if you come back as an animal in Mozambique. Being Diwali this week, I thought the quote by Mahatma Ghandi would fit today’s blog. ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’

I can get my head around a lot of things here in Mozambique, but the one area I completely stall at is cruelty to animals. I have zero tolerance for it. Having lived in Mozambique for a while now, my senses have been somewhat dulled and I am more tolerant of the ‘rough handling’ of animals and I also realise they are an important source of protein. When I hear my neighbour slaughtering a goat or a pig next door (on a monthly basis) I can now handle it. One time out of morbid curiosity, I poked my head over the wall and almost fainted as I saw the blood squirting out of the neck of a squealing, gurgling pig; my neighbour repeatedly ‘sawing’ through the flesh of its throat with a blunt kitchen knife. I won’t do that again! But I accept it. And I ignore it, as difficult as it is for me to hear.

However, when they terrorise a skeletal stray dog that enters their yard, corner it, beat it with a thick stick and throw rocks at it – it’s another story altogether! I become the raging lunatic we all have nightmares about! My neighbours no longer terrorise stray dogs, nuff said!

Last week we had the annual dog slaughter in Mafambisse. As I mentioned in a previous blog, expat life in Mozambique is not all ‘peaches and cream.’  But I will give the dog slaughter credit. For one, it is absolutely necessary and two, it was done in a civilised and humane way for the first time this year. For the first time, stray dogs were not chased by gangs of so-called veterinary thugs on tractor trailers and beaten to death with clubs in a blood thirsty frenzy. This year, they were euthanized via injection. My husband was asked by the company to arrange for a deep pit to be dug for all the dead dogs. Knowing me, he approached the vets and enquired about their methods prior to the event. He was shown a packet of syringes and some liquid which I can only hope is ‘proper.’(I have heard of vets here euthanising animals with rattex, an incredibly painful death.) Had it been the ‘regular’ way of curbing the numbers of strays, I don’t think we would have a job here anymore because of how I would have reacted to that kind of animal abuse!

But let’s get real. There is absolutely no control over breeding or disease here. Most female dogs in Mozambique are either one or the other; bulging boobs, puppies fighting for a nipple and skinny as hell OR in ‘Top and Lock’ position; male on top, shlong hooked with 10 other male dogs sniffing and howling, waiting for their turn. Their owners can barely feed their families, let alone feed or control their wandering pets. And then of course, not to forget the dreaded RABIES, a real and frightening threat in Africa. There is no cure for rabies. If you get rabies, it’s 99,9% sure that you will die a very painful and traumatic death if not vaccinated within a couple days of contracting the disease.  It is also important to know that there are 2 types of rabid dogs; the aggressive type and the docile type.  Most of us know of the aggressive dog, but not the docile type. The docile rabid dog, otherwise known as Dumb Rabies, is weak and lethargic. My brother’s friend recently died of rabies due to being licked by a rabid dog he was attempting to help. He had a very small cut on his hand and most unfortunately this dog licked that small cut – a few weeks later Graham was dead for an act of kindness. Rabies is rife in Africa and the annual culling of dogs in Mozambique IS necessary to prevent traumatic experiences like this and the outbreak of rabies and other diseases.

While I was contemplating writing a blog about the treatment of animals in Mozambique, I had two significant experiences. The first one was not good. While driving in Beira, I saw 2 kids picking up a stunned crow (obviously been hit by a car) and were tossing it, hanging it upside down and throwing it into the air. I screeched on my car breaks, wound down my window and started shouting ‘deixar’ which means ‘leave it,’ at which they packed up laughing. Unfortunately I was on the other side of the road from where this was taking place and there was oncoming traffic. Crossing the road to get to them and the stunned crow was not an option. Next thing a man approached the kids, scolded them and chased them off. He proceeded to run up to the injured crow in the middle of the street and kick it hard with his ‘construction boot’ towards the oncoming traffic, his mates all in fits of laughter. He got a ‘hero’s’ applaud, the idiot. An oncoming bus drove directly over the bird but thankfully the bus driver did not attempt to kill it with its wheels – a regular thing in Mozambique. Cars will often aim for an animal instead of avoiding it. Miraculously, the crow survived the drama and woke from being stunned, flying off to safety. The only thing I could think of here is the relevance of Ghandi’s quote in this situation, about the moral progression of a nation. This man got positive attention from most of the audience by being cruel to an injured animal. When really, it was an outright display of human weakness, a bully in its true sense.

Just when I started to believe everything involving animals in Mozambique was doom and gloom, I came across two children and their pet dogs on the estate going for an afternoon walk. I was so happy to witness this simple act of ‘friendship’ between man and beast, especially since I had almost written off the Mozambicans capacity for compassion when it comes to animals. I suppose it’s easy to focus on the negative, the drama and to forget those simple, seemingly insignificant moments like these. The moments that give depth and diversity to the big picture and most importantly, those small moments that give us hope.

“When I look into the eyes of an animal I do not see an animal. I see a living being. I see a friend. I feel a soul.”  By Anthony Douglas Williams