After my cute little bush-kitty died, I taught a class about animals, eventually letting each class of students vote as to what they thought I should get next. My only requirements were that I needed to be able to take care of the animal, and that it be from Africa (I wasn’t looking for something that I could get just as easily in America). Even though we had already established it as being an extremely common American pet, most of my students felt I should get a dog. I insisted that dogs were prosaically American, and thusly the antithesis of the exotic pet I was looking for.
You can imagine my students’ confusion when- before the term had even ended- I had welcomed a doggie into my home. I truly had not wanted a dog (I am NOT a dog-person), but a PCV from the education group that preceded my own needed to find a new home for her puppy before she concluded her service, and knowing how Rwandans tended to treat dogs, I decided to adopt him when none of the other volunteers in my group stepped up. Remy- whose name I extended to “Remington Steele”- was about eight weeks old when I brought him back to my site, and the first thing he did when I let him out of his carry-case was throw up a viscous yellow sludge liberally accentuated with tiny fish that stared up at me with their dead eyes. He had only been home for a couple of minutes, and already I was having second thoughts- was I really ready for this much responsibility?
After cleaning up the mess, the next week went a lot smoother. Once I figured out the commands that Remington knew, I was able to minimize his bathroom accidents, and my house stopped smelling like a puppy’s litterbox. I also discovered that Rwandans are not as likely to ask you for money when you are walking around with a dog. Remington and I were an instant celebrity duo- everyone in the six closest villages know Remington’s name- unfortunately, that notoriety wasn’t entirely a good thing.
One day, Remington and I were on our way to the market when some bratty primary school students (currently enjoyinga short break from class) saw us passing. Immediately, we were the unwilling leaders of a parade of truants who had decided a muzungu and his dog were far more interesting than class. Our train consisted of about sixty primary students, but it felt more like a hundred as they discordantly rotated through an aggravating selection of inane gibbering: “Dog, dog, dog, dog, dog, this is a dog!”, “Arrr, arrr, arrr, arrr!” (sounding like sea lions, but certainly not Remy- which made me wonder if everything the youth of Rwanda knew about dogs was second or third-hand), and “it will eat you, run away!” This got tiresome very quickly. I told them to return to school (they must have been late for class at this point) but they did not listen. After about half an hour of this, someone threw a rock- whether at Remington or myself, I am not sure- and I turned to face the mob of children. Taking two giant strides towards them, Remington followed my lead and charged towards our stalkers, who panicked. The students pushed each other out of the way, and tripped over each others’ feet- many fell upon the mountain pass’s jagged gravel and scraped up their legs and hands; their harassing cries replaced by screams of terror and sobs as they retreated back toward the school- Then I noticed the adults sitting at the side of the road, laughing hysterically. A woman got up and came to greet me, and was nice enough to inform me that these children do this a lot- the day before, she had seen them pester a bicycle taxi. She gave Remy a pet and told me to come to her if they gave me any more trouble, but laughing, she said she doubted it would still be a problem.
Some of the teachers at my school were afraid of Remy, but my neighbor Marcel showed no fear, and would even bring over leftovers from dinner for Remy to snack on. It was really encouraging to find Rwandans who were nice to dogs, and Remington got excited whenever Marcel would come over, so I decided to ask if he would petsit for a weekend while I was at a Peace Corps meeting in Kigali. He said he would be happy to. It was such a relief that Remy had at least one friend!