There’s a small grey mouse making himself at home in my apartment. The crumbs on the floor are sufficient to sustain him. If I brought our cat from the children’s home to spend the night she would have a present for me in the morning. I remember to feed her, so she loves me.
We shop at a supermarket here that has almost everything that I could find at home. Well, the basics anyway. So while shopping with Robert I went looking for mouse traps. The section is full of rat poison and glue traps. I told Robert, “the rat poison is too dangerous to use when pets and children are around.” He said, “yes a while ago my 15 year old brother was living in the village with relatives and he ate rat poison not knowing and he died.”
This is a good reminder of why we employ animals at our children’s home to work for us! Pretty is a good hunter. Auntie Julie hates cats, but she welcomes Pretty to come and do her work by keeping the rats out of her sacks of food. And Samson, our german shepherd, is the reason we have not had a single robbery during the night. There are incidences of many houses around us who have had thieves come in and steal valuable things. But no one will come close to our home because at night Samson roams the compound freely and he is trained to guard.
Pets are quite uncommon here. It is difficult enough to feed and care for the numerous children that come to a home, let alone animals. But for our children’s home I insisted that pets are good for learning responsibility, compassion, and they are also good for the aching heart.
Samson wasn’t trained to be able to mingle around everyone during the day. He stays in his house. This makes me sad because I know his breeding and intelligence was wasted by this arrangement. He’s a great dog. There’s no one to teach anyone how to effectively train a dog to be a good companion. One time Robert and I took him for a walk in the neighborhood on the leash. He was great! But there are neighborhood dogs that are wild and a pack of them came to confront him. I was terrified of a dog fight with rabid dogs so we never did that again!
For Christmas last month Craig gave me a puppy! His name is Arthur Fonzarelli, we call him The Fonz, and he is a chocolate English Labrador. We have spent much of our attention and effort training him to be our best companion. I really miss him now as I am losing a big chunk of his puppyhood. I am an incurable animal lover.
We have two cats now at the children’s home! Pretty is older and no longer plays with the children. So Robert bought them a new kitten, and they named him Coco after my cat that ran away. This little kitten looks like her. This is the teeny tiniest cat I have ever seen. He makes himself at home among the children and is comfortable being carried, handled and loved.
We have two ragdoll cats at home. Last week while I was here in Uganda my cat Indy was diagnosed with FIP, a fatal illness. He stopped eating and so Craig had to take him and have him put to sleep. I wailed here alone all night at the loss of my friend. And I couldn’t share with the people here how much it hurt my heart because I would be laughed at for crying over the loss of an animal. Our cultures are so very different.
There are bunnies everywhere. Last July we got two pet rabbits, a boy and a girl. And since then they have been giving birth to countless litters. The children let the rabbits roam on the compound all day long and then at night they chase and catch them to return them to the hutch. If one is not caught Samson is surely to have a meal of fresh rabbit, and we have learned this the hard way.
The bigger boys go out to the pasture by the well and collect greens to feed the rabbits. It’s fun to see the rabbits chasing and leaping in the yard among the children. Sometimes a rabbit lingers in front of Samson’s house, and it drives him crazy.
I am convinced that learning to care for animals helps to create a less selfish person, and we aim to raise compassionate, sensitive, responsible children.