The Price of a Dog

Yes. That is what this is all about. The price of a dog!

Tensions were running high in the country. The British Colonial Government was under pressure from groups seeking freedom from overseas control. Non-nationals, though they were in the country legally, were often singled out and abused by those groups. When the country was declared “FREE”, the political party set up overseers and dispute adjudicators in almost every village. Any person seeking a judgement against any other person had to go though that adjudicator.

The system worked fairly well but there were persons “out to get” every foreigner around for whatever they could. And how do I figure in this conundrum? A theiving stray dog.

Africans kept dogs mainly for protective purposes – to scare hyenas away from the cattle; to announce the presence of a stranger approaching the village. These dogs were rarely fed properly and scavenged wherever they could find something to eat. And they found our screened-in back porch sometimes good pickings and often we had to run them off – sometimes with rock or a stick across the back. Even the Sukuma had a proverb, which translated, means “a thieving dog is corrected on its back” recognized this action.

To my shame, I took that proverb too literally with one dog that broke through the porch screens to get at some food. I hit it so hard that I must have broken its back. To relieve it of its suffering, I got my rifle and shot it. It was buried in our back yard.

A week or so later, two men showed up at our house. It was the person who claimed to be owner of the dog and the village adjudicator. The owner stated that I had killed his dog and demanded a very high payment (about $30,000). He detailed how old the dog was, the value of the food he fed it each day and from that came up with the atrocious sum. Even the adjudicator laughed.

I asked, “Why, if the dog was well fed, did it come up to my house to steal my food? Should I deduct the value of my food that it ate?” On a better footing, then, I asked the man why he had not come up to talk to me previously on this matter. Why has he brought the adjudicator without first talking to me? Did he find me “hard and arrogant” in the matter?

With that, the adjudicator turned on the man and in anger said to him, “You lied to me. You told me that this foreigner had refused to hear you”. With that, the adjudicator turned around and walked away; the man sheepishly followed. His guile was now known and would be known by the whole village.

Sometime later I met that man out in the villages. We talked for a while and I gave him about $20 (almost a month’s pay for a laborer!) and he thanked me profusely for my “kindness”. I wish I could say that I later saw this man in church but can only pray that my interaction with him was a testimony to our Lord and Savior.

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