Reaching Out 2 The World

I’m a Bit of a Dog Whisperer

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We woke up Saturday to the sound of rain which was consistent with the earlier IMG_4029days in the week. Only this morning the rain quit around 10 and the clouds began to part. In the distance we could see that almost all the surrounded mountains had a powdery covering of snow. The past couple of days have been chilly, and certainly rainy but I was not expecting to see snow covered mountains while in Africa. I know I’m close to the most southern part of the continent but still, this is Africa! Besides, the winter season here has ended and it’s supposed to be getting warmer!

DSC_3959Throughout the day I worked with kids on their bracelets and also started a new project. Dan and I printed ReachingOut2TheWorld shirts for each of the kids that would be going on the trip and we purchased some fabric paint for them to design with. I think they all had a lot of fun working on these shirts and I really appreciate all the additional help from the other volunteers for helping chaperone this process.

Since Avela had arrived and would be joining us on the trip I needed to visit with his mother so I could get the permission slip signed. I’m not sure if they are staying with family or if they just went back to their old shack, but walked through the township to where Avela’s mother was staying. A few of the kids joined us as we walked and just before arriving at his home we encountered an aggressive dog. Most of the dogs in Kayamandi are aggressive, but it’s for good reason. I see the dog situation as a bad cycle. Most of the kids tease the dogs, throw things at the dogs, and are just mean to the dogs. In return,IMG_4008 the dogs are generally mean to the kids. I don’t think neither the dogs nor the kids can distinguish the good from the bad and just assume that everything that moves is going to hurt them. So as we’re walking I saw this dog approaching. I know that if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you and it’s best to just leave them be. Most dogs prefer the bark over the bite. When this dog came running and barking all of the kids went running. Three of them hid behind me, and two of them took off up a nearby hill. Lupho aimed to run up the hill but due to all the rain the ground was fairly muddy and he slipped. The dog went for him but Lupho was able to kick and scramble to his feet. The kids were scared and all of them proceeded to give Lupho a hard time for falling down. After meeting with Avela’s mother, who is doing great, we headed back towards my flat. To get home we’d have to walk by the same dog and the kids wanted nothing to do with it. I told them not to run, and that running just encourages the dog to chase. They didn’t listen. When the rounded the corner and started the decent down the hill the dog looked up just in time to see the kids. I went a bit of a different way because I was looking to avoid the mud but in my route I passed right by the dog with no issues whatsoever. This made me pretty confident that the dog was only interested in going after something that he could chase. The dogs presence was making it nearly impossible for the kids to make it down the hill because every time the dog would start towards the kids, they’d turn and run which would just cause the dog to chase after them. I really didn’t want to touch the dog because it was a stray and I was worried that it probably carried fleas or some other sort of disease, but I was thinking the only way these kids are going to walk down this hill was if the dog was preoccupied. I took the chance and reached out to the dog. After he sniffed me I started scratching him behind the ears and just like that his entire demeanor changed. As I scratched his neck I thought two things. First, I hoped I wouldn’t regret touching this dog, and second, I thought about the last time this dog probably received positive attention. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s never had his ears scratched. I felt bad for the dog and after the kids tiptoed by I made sure to teach them a lesson. Kayamandi has a lot of strays and I am tired of seeing the kids mistreat them. I know they are intimidated by them but that doesn’t mean they need to mistreat them.

There’s a small dog next to Mama Zulu’s house that always goes after everyone.IMG_4012 Of course as the kids were playing soccer out front the ball flew into the neighbor’s fence. They were all scared to retrieve the ball because of the dog. I told them I’d get and walked over. When I entered the yard the dog came barking to protect his property. There isn’t anything wrong with the way the dog acted… I was in his territory. Unfortunately for the dog I wasn’t intimidated and proceeded to crouch down and again reach my hand out. My dog whispering skills have taught me that if you reach out your hand with your palm up and give the dog a chance to smell you, things generally go pretty smoothly. This dog was pretty rambunctious and nipped at my fingers a little but I could tell he didn’t really want to. He seemed mighty confused as to why I was just letting him nip away. His bites were lite and I knew he couldn’t hurt me. After realizing that I wasn’t scared of him he chilled out. It’s amazing how quick a dogs’ mindset can change when they don’t feel so dominant. Seeing me do this made all the kids want to try and one by one they all became associated with the mutt. I still had to talk to them about teasing the animals and that they probably wouldn’t like it if someone kicked them and threw things at them, but I think they are starting to get it. IMG_4006

We continued playing soccer for a few hours, and my hamstring has been feeling a lot better! While we were playing I looked over towards our house and saw Eric half way up a tree and he had his tablet in his mouth. This guy was determined to get some free WiFi! It must have worked though because he was up there for a lot longer than I thought he’d be.

DSC_3960Later in the night I also decided to put a design on my ReachingOut shirt but had to improvise a little since I didn’t have any white paint. Rather than using the puffy paint I used white nail polish and it kind of worked. We ended up having to use two different types of nail polish. In the end I was left with two mediocre flags. Thanks Mieke for all the help!

For dinner that night the Germans made chicken, potatoes, and veggies, but they prepared the potatoes like hash browns and made a sauce that went with everything. It was really great but I was in charge of washing the pots and pans afterwards. I have never in my life scrubbed so hard to get the potatoe crisp off the bottom of a pan. I should have just boiled some water or let it soak overnight but I was determined to get those dishes done!

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One thought on “I’m a Bit of a Dog Whisperer

  1. Good for you Chris! I adore dogs — better than many humans! xx

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