Celebrating East African Writing!
On the day I was leaving my former high school after sitting my KCSE exams, I took a pup with me. The decision to separate this pup from its mother’s warm breast trickled downward like a tributary does along its path. It was common sense. The Traditional Village Dog (TVD) after all did not have much to offer this pup. It did not have an owner; how would the pups survive the pavvo virus? Who would ensure they are safe, warm and fed? I was making a wise decision which would pay off in the pup surviving besides, the mother would have less pups to ‘worry’ about. I committed myself to the pup from day one. It was my baby. During that time, an awesome movie was featured and one of its characters depicted the nature I desired for my pup, Mufasa became its name.
A year later Mufasa had had all her shots and did amazing dog tricks. She was obedient but fierce, playful yet loyal, powerful but amazingly gentle. I was so proud to have watched Mufasa grow from vulnerability like you read about to an independent dog. A time came and I had to move away from home and stay in school on a permanent basis, “becoming an undergraduate resident shall help you do better in school, summa cum laude, ehh!” On that night, it is reported to me that Mufasa howled for most of the night. If those were the days of mobile phones, I would have had my family put the phone next to her ear, that would have brought comfort her. If only!
At the beginning, this separation weighed heavily on me and thus it was effortless for me to leave school for home every Thursday, spend time with Mufasa then on Monday morning I would take the 0630hrs bus to school. In time, I opened myself up to the activities that took place from Thursday evening culminating in Soul at the Simba Salon on Sunday. The days I had previously dedicated to Mufasa narrowed. I was not too negligent though, I made sure that the she was taken care of. With time it became obvious that my vision for Mufasa was just that, mine. I came home one day after a long spell in campus, ‘summa cum laude’, remember! Lo and behold Mufasa was in the family way. I could not find anyone to explain to me how this ‘exposure’ had occurred. Now that I think about it, how was finding which mongrel’s seed was responsible going to help my cause? It is not like I would have it or the owner pay for ‘pup support’!
I took it all in stride, after all, I would be fully involved once the pups were born. On that day, I vividly remember, it was raining. Mufasa had been jittery all evening, howling and pacing all over. Something told me that it was time; I prepared a warm and dry place for her at the deepest point of her kennel. It was in the dead on night when she gave birth to the pups, they were six in total and soooo beautiful. They ranged from black, brown, white and a mixture of all in others. They started to suckle immediately they birthed, they crept steadily over her belly till they reached her breasts and begun to suckle noisily. I looked over to Mufasa and she appeared to doze off. I decided it was time I called it a night too. The following morning, I woke up with a lot of enthusiasm to see how my expanded family was doing. Whistling towards the kennel, I had with me a sufuria containing warm milk and on the other hand some water. As I turned the corner to face the kennel, I caught sight of what looked like a furry creature. I smiled to myself and thought it was wonderful that the pups had begun to explore barely 12 hours after their birth.
I cannot quite put into words exactly how I felt let alone account for what was going through my mind when I absorbed the mutilated image of the pup lying on the ground. Shock, confusion, pain, tears, fear all seemed to be squeezed by time in one small space that did not allow me time to know what to do or what to think. After what seemed like forever yet split second, I gained my composure. What was the meaning of this? Had someone come to check on the new family then when they were leaving the pup followed and was accidentally caught and squeezed in between. How could the person not see after all, to lock the door, one must face it and one cannot fail to see the pup because they are facing the door. That could not have been it. It made no sense.
Okay, maybe whoever came to check on them closed the door using the leg and was facing away from the kennel so there was no way they could have seen the pup. Yes, yes, yes, this was beginning to make sense. But why leave the pup like this? Why not come and alert me maybe there is some swift action I could have taken to save the life of this poor creature. Maybe, whoever it was felt guilty and they feared my wrath because my attachment to Mufasa and by extension, her young ones. Yes, that made sense. But I would turn that whole household upside down to get the confession of whoever was responsible. But wait! Were the others okay, Mufasa and her pups? I peered closer cringing as I lifted my leg over the mutilated body of the dead pup so I could bend and access the kennel.
The image that met with my eyes was an assault. I wanted to retch. I wanted to let out a loud shriek. I was deeply horrified. Right there, laid out across the floor of kennel were bits and pieces of the pups. I muffled a cry as I tried to make sense of what I was looking at. The air was filled with the smell of raw blood. It was a slaughter! Who had done this? What was the motive of such a heinous act? What would one benefit from doing this? No no no!!! Whoever committed this atrocity must have scaled the wall in the wee hours of the morning after I had gone to bed. Mufasa, oh my God, how was she? I now crunched down and squeezed myself through the door of the kennel and right inside. Mufasa was lying with her face away from me. I reached out and touched her, she was warm, she was breathing. She was alive, thank God.
How could she let this happen? Why did she react to this attack? How come she never howled and barked for assistance? I could not make sense of it all. Or maybe she did and she is badly wounded and that is why she was not making any movements. “Mufasa?” I called out in what sounded like a whisper. “Mufasa” I called again. She jerked and begun to turn her head and face to the sound of my voice. I needed to find that she was unharmed. As she turned, the hope of her being alright begun to dwindle as a I spotted a patch of red on her jaw. It appeared to be blood. Finally, she was fully facing me. From jaw to jaw, cheek to cheek, her nose, her mouth and dripping from her mouth was red blood.
I felt as though my heart was grinding to a halt as it became so audible in the insides of my ears. Heat was spreading throughout my body like a fierce fire and in its wake annihilating all that made sense to me. I could feel the numbness taking over my mind, wrapping around my lips, tears were welling down my cheeks and I could hear myself making sounds, sounds because I could not make sense of what I was saying.
Finally, I bolted out of the kennel, I do not know how I came to that decision, if I had stayed any longer, I fear something bad would have happened. Mufasa, my sweet Mufasa, my baby, my Mufasa that I held like a baby and fed with a bottle, my Mufasa that I shared my bed with, my Mufasa that I taught me to care, my Mufasa the times and moments cannot be put into words, my Mufasa. My Mufasa turned out to be a murderer.
When I read the story of Banda from Malawi, I am shocked back to the memory of this day. Would the outcome have been the same had I left Mufasa with the TVD of a mother? Does this incident apply to the post-partum psychosis where new mothers hit their kids’ heads against the walls, or throw them down the well, or snuff the life out of them by suffocation? Many years later, I have become a mother. I do not want blood on my hands.
© Wairimu Mukuria 2009
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