Chewbacca is really growing on me. Aside from the fact that he is triple the size of all the dogs from his litter, or even those a little older (I have a high protein and carb diet, he has a high protein and carb diet; I eat a lot of veggies, he eats a lot of veggies), I’m really starting to get attached to this dog that I said I wasn’t going to get attached to. I just wanted a dog while I’m here for protection, but he’s turning into so much more than that.
He is now such a sweetheart; when he was little the village kids would hit him, trip him and pull his tail, making him bite and snap a lot, which isn’t how I wanted him raised. Zambians do not treat dogs, or any animal for that matter, in the same way as we care for them in America. And I don’t mean as far as dressing them up, letting them into the house, on the furniture, or even in our beds. I tell them that you can train dogs to be good, and they can be really loyal, protective, useful, and lifelong pets. I understand that they don’t keep dogs because it’s another mouth to feed if you want to keep them healthy, and that’s tough when you’re already scrounging for food for yourself and family. Plus, most Zambians are terrified when a dog runs up to them, because most dogs are wild and feral from being beaten their entire lives and never fed. I’m glad that I get a chance to show Zambians how to treat a dog, because it’s hard to constantly see dogs being kicked, hit, and having rocks thrown at them as well as always hearing their yelps and whimpers.
Chewbacca is such a mama’s boy (because he has no dad?). He’s always climbing onto my lap and loves to cuddle, which is the opposite of all the other dogs around here. He follows me everywhere: to the garden to weed (he even helped me dig up all of my onions! Too bad he was a few months too early, as they had just sprouted), to fetch water at the well, and wherever I go on walks. He’s just started running after my bike, so now the kids have to hold him back when I leave because if I’m biking, it means I’m going on a far journey and will be gone a significant amount of time. Plus he’s still so tiny and always walking between my legs and tripping me, that I wouldn’t want him running between my tires while I’m going downhill or anything! When I talk to town he trots alongside me; when I go teach at the school he comes and sleeps under my desk or by the children’s feet. The school kids love him and think it’s hilarious that my dog goes everywhere with me. He comes to meetings, which distracts all the kids that would usually be staring at me and making a meeting difficult. I’ve even taken him swimming down in the river. The first time he jumped right in and swam across, now he won’t go near the water whenever we come to a river we have to cross to get to a nearby village. He makes me carry him; he’ll sit there and wine from the other side until I come back and get him, and then the whole time I’m wading through the water with him safely in my arms, he’s paddling his little legs along with his nose stuck up in the air, like he’s doing all the work and is drowning! He cracks me up, but I hope he starts really crossing by himself soon, since I won’t be able to pick him up much longer at the rate that he’s growing.
When I’m out all day at the clinic, he plays with all of the kids in the village. It’s really cool to see how much they all love him; I think growing up with a good dog as a child is a great thing. He looks out for the little babies, he lets the kids put clothes on him, and he’s pretty good about how rough they are. He lets me hold him upside-down in my arms like a baby, in fact it’s his favorite sleeping position. Point is, I’ve never had a dog like this, where I know he’s going to be such an asset to me staying sane and protected and happy during the rough times of my service here. And I know the kids have never had a dog like this, or gotten to love an animal like this. It’s definitely going to be tough to leave him in 2 (or 3) years from now. At this moment, he’s asleep at the foot of my bed where I have a little (contained) fire going to keep me warm during cold and rainy season.
Chewbacca is a 10 week old Rhodesian Ridgeback, and I can already tell he’s going to be huge, which I’m excited for. I hope he’s like a horse, so I wouldn’t have to bike everywhere and Zambians would truly think I’m crazy ;)