When I signed up for this gig I knew it might entail a little more danger than my previous life in Northern California. Indeed I kind of relished the idea of a little excitement to break the monotony. I didn’t know what form this new danger might take… maybe typhoid fever, angry Muslim anti-American nationalists, or the new hot death toll of international politics; The Bird Flu. Well I’ve figured out what my challenge will be. Being placed in one of the most advanced Peace Corps countries with little to no Muslim presence, my most pressing danger (save for the pretty consistent insurgency waged by my bowels) is undoubtedly the dogs. They are crazy here! Wandering around, many strays have learned the ropes of respecting the normal pedestrian, and keep their distance. But the house trained pets (if one can refer to these crazed beasts as such) have an overly developed sense of property and protection (guess the Soviet imposed socialist ideal of communalism didn’t filter down to the K-9 kingdom.) A foreigner need only walk within sniffing distance (my father swears Americans smell differently) of some dog’s house and furious comes the onslaught. I keep my Nalgene hooked always on my finger to wave about as the dog, or normally pack of dogs inevitably surrounds me and barks menacingly. Waving it in front of me like Indiana Jones and his flaming torch in Raiders of the Lost Ark usually does the trick and I can safely back out of the pack surrounding me. This has proven to be kind of a quaint game that gives a certain life and vitality to my otherwise monotonous walk home.
But the real fun starts when get I back to my house, or near it should I say. Specifically when I approach the outskirts of my group of buildings where the first whiff of my American-ness catches the proficient nose of my neighbors dog. Steven King’s Kujo was not necessarily so frightening merely because of his size, but more so due to the unpredictability and aggressiveness of his actions. I can only compare this dog as such. The initial week of my visit we had a great relationship. That is to say he didn’t bark or even snarl at me as I walked past him in the tiny pathway that leads to my home. But the last two weeks he has been like a dog possessed. Maybe as is so often the case, he initially thought me a friendly and harmless Canadian traveler (I’d guess we smell similar even with our government’s differing foreign policies) but upon finding out that I was American became incensed. Whatever it was, leaving or returning to my home has now become quite an interesting process.
He first attacked me unexpectedly and I was able to fend him off with a smarting blow to his snout from my trusty Nalgene bottle. As I left the next morning he and a friend of his, a mangy looking mongrel of a thing, waiting for me around a corner, caught me by surprise. Surrounding me, I was able to reach down for a rock and raise my arm to throw it and they scattered. This strategy worked for a few days, until they got hip to the fact that I really didn’t want to throw the rock, only pass safely by. The next day the dog lunged at me and I drilled him with a rock in the face again (a one in a million shot if I do say so myself.) This kept him at bay for a good 3 days as he nursed his wounds. Becoming afraid that I may have really pissed this thing off, I returned home yesterday to find that the dog had brought even more friends with him, a motley crew of neighborhood K-9 riff-raff. They blocked any chance I had to pass. I, having gone through many a painful Peace Corps’ trainings on resiliency decided to take a new approach. Tossing a rock over their heads past my door I rushed by them as they turned to see the commotion behind. I figure that ticket is only good for one ride. So on to today….
I’m currently gathering a group of other volunteers from the area to come to my house and face these dogs. I figure with a few sturdy Americans and a whole lotta rocks we can convince these beasts that there’s a new top dog on the block. Maybe teach them a thing or two about the righteous wrath of the good ole’ U.S. of A! Or at the very least sacrifice one of the other less-fleet-of-foot volunteers to the dogs and hope to satiate them until I move out of my host family’s home and find some safer lodging.