Meet our new friend, Mama Mango, or Mango for short. She has been living with us for about 4 months now. In March, our other dog, Glo, died of what we believe was a pituitary tumor. He was probably ten or eleven years old and was beginning to show his age, but once signs of the tumor began his decline was rapid. We had adopted Glo when another family moved upcountry and couldn’t take a dog. He’d been with us three years. We had all become quite attached to him, even our guards, who had grown very accustom to him, so his death was sad for all of us.
In general, Burundians are afraid of dogs. Perhaps due to not having many dogs in the country. The only dogs are guard dogs of one type or another, who bark loudly and look like they will bite you if you approach. People who don’t have enough to eat don’t have a dog. Any animals owned–goats, cows, pigs, chickens—are a source of food or income for food. So, the idea of a “pet” is not part of this culture. For the most part, it’s only ex-pats who have dogs here.
No one who knows us, would describe us as “animal-lovers” or “pet owners”. The only other time we had a dog was our seven years in the inner-city of St. Louis where, having experienced one robbery we decided a large dog was the best deterrent to further intruders. That dog, Charlie, was both a watch dog and a companion to me during the many nights Randy had to stay at the hospital. But after that, even when our children lobbied often for a pet dog, we knew the expense, effort and commitment of dog ownership, coupled with being an “on the go” family, we never entertained the idea of having another dog.
Living cross-culturally brings many new things into one’s life, like night guards and owning a dog. Thankfully, we live in a warm climate, so any dog is an outside dog. An added bonus is our house worker, makes her food, feeds her twice a day and takes her on a run (as he did with Glo). Really it’s little work on our part to have a dog but with all the benefits of a watch dog. After Glo died we knew we needed another dog to help guard our house. To our surprise our guards also favored we get another dog, another indication they too had softened their view of dogs or pets. Our only requirement was it had to be a nice dog because we have so many visitors and children staying with us. And so, the search was on.
Unlike Glo, Mango was really nobody’s dog. She lived around one of the missionary-church compounds where she seemed to scrounge for food and hang out. Some short-termers who came with their own dog from the U.S. started taking care of her. She played with their dog, went for runs with them and stayed by their door. They were real animal lovers. They even took her to a vet when they saw she had an infection from a recent delivery of puppies. The infection caused her to have a hysterectomy, which they paid for, and watched over her as she recovered. They got quite attached to her but then it was time for them to leave. Although they wanted to take her back to the U.S., they knew that would be prohibited. A mutual friend put us in contact with them as we were looking to find another dog after Glo’s passing. That’s how Mango came to live with us.
Mango was acclaimed for her sweet disposition. An unexpected surprise from what you’d expect for a dog who seems to have been essentially a street dog. I’ve witnessed her run across the yard, leaping up into the air to grab a bird taking flight and eat it. To stay alive she’s had to be a survivor. Yet, she wants to be loved and craves attention (not unlike most humans). She wags her tail, lays down to have her tummy rubbed and eagerly runs to us whenever we return home or come outside the house. She’s gentle with children and has quickly learned to “sit” for cookies. While it’s taken about three months for her to begin to act protective about our property, barking at night when someone passes outside the gate, it seems at last she senses or accepts “belonging” here. We are thankful for our new friend, Mango, for the deterrent she is to thieves but also that she is a really nice dog with a sweet disposition, even after her disadvantaged beginnings. As did Glo, she is growing on us all, causing us to become more pro pet-ownership, at least for now.