Shaka, the skinny mutt, looks at me with her kind, hazel eyes. She’s starving, but she never begs.
She sleeps on the step in front of my rondavel, trying to grab some warmth from the gap under my door.
When I’m ready for my sunrise walk, Shaka, clings to my heels. I don’t want her to follow me. I want to be alone, in my own thoughts as I take a brisk walk downhill, to the village clinic, and push myself on the uphill trek home.
This is my time to meditate and enjoy the cool, crisp morning air.
“Stop!” I command, palm facing her.
Shaka stops and sits down. I’m impressed. She obeys, and a few minutes later, she’s back at my heel.
“I don’t want Shaka, despite my love of dogs. She’s not my dog, and I made the “mistake” of feeding her dry bread soaked in sour milk, the only leftovers I had from last week’s grocery shopping in Maseru. Shaka eats anything. I wonder how many meals before her skeleton no longer pokes through her skin.
“Go home!” I repeat.
I hurry down the hill, no longer enjoying the peace and quiet I was longing for. Stress sets in as I pray that we do not pass any blanket-clad Ntates.
Shaka has chosen to protect me, and believes that any man wearing the traditional blanket, has evil intentions. Last time, Shaka charged towards Ntate covered from neck to toe, in his traditional Basotho blanket. She snarled, and I thought she would bite his hand as he bent over to grab a rock. In Lesotho, people pick up stones when they fear a dog approaching. I could not stand the thought of her being injured.
Shaka is not my dog. She is Mary’s dog.
An expat friend warned me, “If the dog walks with you, everyone assumes she’s your dog, and you are responsible for any medical bills.”
I don’t want that responsibility. I already take care of the orphans at my school, and do not want to adopt a dog at this time.
I told Mary about the incident. She laughed, and said she would feed Shaka.
“I only make enough papa for myself. When my family comes, there will be enough to feed her,” she says.
“What are we going to do about Shaka now?”
“Don’t worry,” she replies.
The following morning, I find Shaka on my doorstep again.
I am torn between wanting to exercise, and having Shaka follow me, yet again.
I cannot stand the stress.
I decide to risk it, and go for a walk keeping my fingers crossed that no Ntates will be walking close by.
We make it home, and I ask Mary to either feed Shaka, or find someone else who wants to keep Shaka.
She knows that in America, people love dogs, and keep them indoors.
Mary fills Shaka’s bowl and says, “She will be a good guard dog.” I just hope she continues feeding her, and that Shaka will see Mary as her rightful owner.