Surveillance Puppy

Words and Drawings by Matt Cotten

We adopted a dog that someone had abandoned. We first saw him cowering under some bushes and we tried to feed him. He seemed content to stay around and nobody ever came to claim him. After a while we decided to call him Buddy. He has now been with us for almost 2 years. When we upload his pictures to a dog breed identification app he comes back as a cross between a Border Collie, Japanese Spitz, and Italian Maremma Sheepdog and several others, depending on the photograph. He likes pasta and tofu so maybe he is part Maremma and Spitz. He is a modest size with a pleasant endearing face and very soft and expressive ears.

Early morning with Buddy. He wakes one of us around 6.30 am, usually by sticking his nose through the mosquito net. I get up and make coffee and watch the sun rise.

Late in the evenings we often go out for one last patrol. The are bats flying about and often one or two owls calling. The dog is very active, tracking the scents of small animals. He looks good in the moonlight.

Buddy has good manners and makes friends quickly. We try to teach him new activities, usually involving food.

We are trying to teach him to ride in the little auto because we would like to take him on road trips. Buddy was terrified on the first two rides, but by the third ride he was starting to relax. In late December he surprised us and jumped into the little auto without prompting.

My Phan says this drawing is not correct, Buddy was not with us when we went out on October 15 and he also isn’t confident enough to put his head out of the window. I am optimistic and I showed the drawing to Buddy to give him some idea about what we expect from him.

Mornings are nice. The sun is just coming up. I make a pot of coffee and we sit on the kitchen door stoop and study the light and birds and clouds and wind. The little dog dislikes the smell of coffee but still sits next to me and has his ears scratched as we start the day.

The little white dog lives in a canine paradise. Large green compound with plenty of space, multiple gaps in the fences (red arrows) that allow exit to the neighbors. Much to explore.

A typical return from work. The white dog sits on top of termite mound in the shade, where he can watch the gate. He stands up when he sees someone enter the compound but his eyesight is not great, so he won’t come until he hears the right whistle that says it is us. Once he is certain, he comes bounding across the field, leaping over the mounds and trenches to greet us.

One big change, I now find white dog hair everywhere…but it is a very small price to pay for such a wonderful companion.

It is a rough life for dogs here, the streets are filled with thin, hungry stray dogs, abandoned, tough and searching. Periodically the government announces a roundup and warns people to keep their pets inside…so basically a slaughter of unclaimed animals. The people either do not care or are poor and cannot afford vaccines or the costs of neutering their animals. Rabies is a serious threat. Fleas, ticks, worms, fungal infections. Hungry lonely dogs will follow you looking for food or a kind word. When I take the white dog to walk outside of the compound I am watchful for other dogs and the possibility of triggering a fight, which certainly our small timid friend would lose against the street-tough dogs.

Driving home for Christmas we find a herd of Ankole cattle blocking the road. Buddy ignores the cows but is very interested in the cattle herder’s dogs.

A few photographs. 2 years later, the white dog is still with us. He is a wonderful companion.

I am a virologist and biochemist with a long interest in painting and how ink and pigments  interact with paper and water. I have been lucky to have lived and worked in a variety of locations and I have kept a drawing diary of what I have seen through the years. See more at Ebolatent.

Categories: art, memoir

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