In Uganda, the surest way to crack people up is to start talking about how people treat their dogs in North America.
This is what a dog looks like in Uganda.
She lives at the house and has puppies every year, because no one knows it’s possible to spay a bitch. She doesn’t have a name — people in Uganda think that’s an absurd idea.
“Did you know that in Canada, people pay other people to go to their houses and walk their dogs for them?”
“But a dog walks by itself! And when it’s hungry, it comes back!”
I tell them about shops that sell clothes and treats and toys for dogs, doggie daycares, places where dogs can go just to bark or exercise because they’re too lonely at home. They howl with the ridiculousness of it.
“So if I came to Canada and I got cold, I could just steal a coat from a dog,” laughs Walter, the safe boda-boda driver.
A woman I work with tells me about building a little stairway for her elderly dog so it could get up into their bed. “Beds are so high now, she can’t jump up,” she explained. “But she never uses it. I have to lift her up every night.”
I know my friends love their dogs, and even though I joke that I pretend to like dogs so people won’t think I have no soul, I understand companion animals. I love Finch’s lovely, slinky bengal kitties, and lure them into the bed at every opportunity, allergies damned. I lure them to dinner with fresh prawns. And I understand that someone has to let the dogs out when we can’t get home between work and school, or to keep a pack animal company during a long lonely day.
This is our kitchen at Nikibasika.
I keep thinking that the fact that people in Uganda laugh at the notion of “posh pets” is a sign of some serious resilience. Or maybe it just seems so far-fetched that they don’t think it can really be true.