About a year ago, I was home one morning. It was an average morning. Normal clear blue African sky, with a scattering of clouds, and the early morning chill that usually lifts shortly after sunrise. But being South Africa, and being Johannesburg, this is all enjoyed within the confines of high walls, electric fence and burglar alarm systems. The perimeter wall around my yard is no exception.
I have electric fence all around, coupled with palisade spikes set in panels between solid brick pillars on the front wall, and for good measure, another security gate halfway down the driveway to separate the front of the yard from the back of the yard, also with palisade spikes forming the security gate. So it was particularly surprising on this ordinary morning that I found a pristinely clean husky dog in my backyard.
As can be seen from my above description, the only way into this section of the yard would have been to jump over the electric fence, which would have triggered the alarm, or creep through the gap between the electric fence and the palisade spikes, which would have seriously injured the dog given the sharp metal spikes at the top of the palisade. But this dog was without injury, and without collar. I walked towards it, and instead of it reacting in a defensive or threatening manner, it simply rolled onto its side and looked at me with those piercing blue eyes. As I approached it even closer, it remained calm, tilted its head to the side and continued looking straight at me without even a hint of threatening to attack me. In return, I didn’t feel the slightest bit threatened or in danger.
After a while I stood up and walked back into the house and continued watching him from my window. He calmly walked over to the flower bed under the tree in the backyard, went specifically to a spot where I had recently caught my maid burying some muti* from her sangoma**, urinated on that spot and then quite literally disappeared. I never saw that dog again.
* muti is the African word for medicine, but is often used to refer to that of the dark arts. It is a common practice amongst the black population in South Africa
** sangoma is the African word for witch doctor, or traditional healer. There are good ones, and there are bad ones. And the bad ones are often visited by house maids who are generally from the black communities in South Africa (legacy of apartheid). They tend to get their muti in the hope that it will help them keep their job, especially when they know they’re at risk of losing it because of poor performance. Again, a common practice in South Africa.