Sunday, April 24, 2011
Of dogs and men
Away from the dogs of war in Libya, Cote dâ€Ivoire, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq – I suppose the list would comprise a whole, dispiriting blog without any further content but this is holiday time as those atheists and agnostics among us piggyback on the Christian calendar. There are a number of churches within earshot of our half acre compound and Easter Sunday sees them in full flood, vaguely Anglican hymns melding with ululations that sound as if they came off that Paul Simon African-inspired album. In case you think that that must be wonderfully exotic, it is not. It is loud and intrusive. There have been a number of cases of complaint around Accra at the pain caused to neighbours by these open air concrete hangars (not agnostic or atheist neighbours but Christians of a quieter, indoors, enclosed hue.) Complainants have then been threatened and victimised by the proponents of the ecclesiastical loud speaker systems. Recently I have come across a new dialogue here. There are (admittedly academic) those who see the evangelical mission in Africa as a form of imperialism. Since Ghana had an all-seeing, non-gendered, abstract notion of God before the missionaries arrived to infuse souls into pagan black bodies and promulgate Jesus-worship with its own pagan communion rituals, there is a harking back to what this colonialism has meant for indigenous culture. What is being lost? Whose god is it anyway?
Anyway, Easter Sunday is no different from any other day in the compound. The three dogs play out their strange relationships and are an unceasing source of wonder and debate. If you remember there is the old dog, a bit like Tommy, deaf, and blind but loudly not dumb and once about to die. His two mutt friends for ten years or more both gave up on life, not raging into the night but happily sleeping under the bougainvillea and so we bought two pups, a Caruso bass Doberman called Sirius and a female, eye-lash flickering Alsatian called Andromeda, the daughter of Ghanaâ€™s leading drug-sniffer dog. Andromeda goes in the pool every half an hour for a swim, a half-length at a time. She is also likely to swim out to you as you do your lengths in meditative silence and try to get on board, nearly drowning you. The Doberman is very big and excels in ball chasing, fending off the other two. Heracles, the old boy is now frisky and excitable, enjoying his two young companions who seem to treat him with respect and canâ€™t sleep unless he is nearby to reassure them. Each wants to be the favourite of their human owners. They bat each other away, Andromeda hangs on to Siriusâ€™ collar and tries to drag him to the ground and Heracles cunningly waits and eases in for a stroke while the other two squabble. They play tag with a tennis ball, the rule being that the one who has it wanders around, nonchalantly, chest puffed out and the others run in circles and wait for it to drop. Sometimes they can be seen careering up and down the half acre, making up new rules for the contest.
If, as many have pointed out, dog is god spelled backwards, then our three anagrammatic deities have shown that differences can be assimilated in fun and peace for the pleasure of all.