Dogs, or specifically pet dogs, are not common in Senegal. Our first surprising experience with a Senegalese was the reaction of the day guard at the bed & breakfast. I was shocked by his reaction to our two relatively small Cavalier Spaniels. When I finally (and by I, I should say Ian, Ian, and Gaucher) freed my dogs from the cargo hold of the Dakar airport, we loaded them, in their kennels still, up in Gaucher’s SUV and drove to the bed & breakfast.
They had been in those kennels for who knows how long, but I was guessing somewhere between the 5 hours they’d been in cargo after getting off the Delta flight, and 15 hours, when they were probably loaded in NYC. Those dogs needed OUT! I managed to get their leashes hooked on them while we were unloading them, and then led them through the gate into the courtyard. The day guard practically fell over himself trying to get away from the dogs. He knocked over a four-foot sculpture in his hurry to get himself as far away from the dogs as possible. They were wagging their tails, drooling, panting, and thrilled to be out. There was no barking or attempting to climb anyone’s leg. They were just bundles of happy fur.
It was a “wow” kind of moment for me. I knew pets were not common, but I had no idea that my little dogs would be scary to anyone. Other thoughts I had:
1. The day guard is really just a doorman. There is no ‘guarding’ so to speak. Good, since he was afraid of two little dogs. Knocking-over-furniture afraid!
2. When they told me pets weren’t common, I had no idea how Uncommon they were.
3. I also felt terrible that the dogs had scared him. Apologizing did not seem to go as far as just getting the dogs out of his sight!
Up to the fourth floor we went. The first of many staircases that the dogs and I are getting used to walking up and down.
Within the courtyard of the bed & breakfast, there were manicured gardens and little patches of lawn. Dogs are not welcome on any manicured gardens or lawn patches. We had to exit the courtyard, into the dirt road to let the dogs potty. When I asked about what we were to do with the dogs’ poo, we were told to leave it, just try not to let them go in the middle of a walking route. Since there are horses and goats pooping randomly, I guess it’s not such a big deal, but it did take some getting used to.
The ocean was less than two blocks away and you could see it when you exit the courtyard of the b & b. Sometimes the kids and I would walk the dogs down to the area overlooking the ocean (not a beach because there was a steep drop-off). It seemed nice, they enjoyed the breeze and new smells.
One morning I was out walking the dogs myself. We had crossed the road to the ocean side and were walking through the empty land before the beach that we had walked many other times when a stray dog showed up. I kept an eye on him, but we kept walking. My dogs ignored him.
Then another dog showed up and the two of them started barking at my dogs. I turned to back pedal, but my dogs had decided now would be a good time to try to act tough and bark back. Digging their heels in so I could not quick-time march them back to the b & b. At least five more dogs appeared over the crest of the hill.
Going as fast as I could while dragging two barking and resisting dogs, I was quite nervous about what would happen. Just as the dogs starting approaching us closer and barking, the day guard from a business across the street started over my way. Before he got there, a young boy (probably 13ish), dropped his heavy pack and started picking up rocks and throwing them at the pack of dogs as fast as he could. None of the rocks hit the dogs, but bounced off the dirt several feet in front of them. After he had thrown six or so rocks, the dogs turned and headed the other direction.
Holy cow! I felt like I had a Homer Simpson D’Oh! stamped on my forehead. First of all, I had never anticipated that walking the dogs would be a problem. Second of all, I had not thought through an exit strategy for a situation like I was in. Third, I had never even considered picking up a rock to throw at any animal in my entire life, but was really relieved that the boy had known what to do.
Dragging my dumb (still clueless that there had been a problem), barking dogs back down the road towards the bed and breakfast, I kept yelling “Merci beaucoup!” to the guard whom had gone back to his regular post and the boy, who stood and watched until I was at the entrance to the bed and breakfast before picking up his pack to continue his journey.
Since then I have found there are stray dogs in Dakar, but in the city itself, they don’t roam in packs, like I encountered on the beach (much more deserted). It’s not unusual to see two dogs traveling together, occasionally more, but not in a way that bothers humans who might be out walking or exercising.
The dogs all appear to be all offshoots from one breed. Your basic mutt, but with all the mutts looking kind of alike. The most common color is the yellowish color of a golden retriever, but with the hair length of a lab. They have tails like a lab as well. They are often scarred from living on the street, mango worms –some disgusting maggot that gets under the skin from some combination of mango flies and being out in the dirt all the time-not exactly sure how that all happens, but know I do not want to find out on my dogs! Removing the maggot, involves squeezing the skin like a bad zit. That makes my stomach turn, just typing it. Fortunately I already have friends that have volunteered to help me out if we do encounter one. I think my dogs’ long hair will actually help them, as will the fact that they are not outside unsupervised for any length of time.
Litters of street puppies can show up and one ISD employee has had the same mom and dad stray dog have multiple litters in front of her house over the past several years. The last litter was given to expat families who were interested in having a dog, one puppy didn’t make it, and the luckiest one got adopted by the family. The stray mom and dad dog are still seen outside on their street and nearby streets, walking in tandem. (If you want to see photos of street puppies of the scars mango worms can leave on a dog, you can click this link).