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February 21, 2019

A friend in deed: Dog is man's best pal

TENDER CARE: A boy pats the puppy keeping him company.
TENDER CARE: A boy pats the puppy keeping him company.

The phrase that a dog is the man’s best friend holds true. Stories have been told of how dogs have literally put their lives on the line, and some have even died while trying to save their masters.

I am not talking about the sniffer dogs, that are trained to, and work using their senses to detect substances such as explosives, and other contraband goods at the airports. Neither am I referring to police service dogs used to enforce the law and apprehend criminals.

I am talking about village dogs – free-ranging indigenous dogs, which leave and come back to their owner's home at their own pleasure. They are treated as part and parcel of the family.

These dogs are said to be of inferior breed that grow to normal size, but do not have the privileges enjoyed by pedigrees, believed to be a mix of modern breeds.

Around Lake Nakuru, at Nakuru National Park, a boy was looking after his parents' livestock. He had his small dog with him to safeguard the animals. It was during a dry season, and he had to find pastureland where he could graze.

The only place with green vegetation fit for fodder was along Njoro River. The river flows into the lake. The electric fence, which keeps animals from invading residents' farms, has not fully covered the point where the river enters the park.

There is an opening through which straying animals such as baboons and leopards find their way into farms. If they are lucky enough not to encounter farmers' wrath, they usually find their way back into the park.

As the boy was pasturing, in the company of his best friend, he received a rare visitor from the park. It was not a leopard, not a baboon and neither was it a monkey.

The visitor was the largest snake in Africa, and the second largest snake in the world – the African rock python. The serpent had slithered across the park, along the river bed, and stopped at the place where the boy had his herd grazing. The snake was looking for food. Usually, snakes do not attack unless they are defending themselves.

Upon seeing the boy, the snake went straight for him, as his choice of food. This is despite the fact that there were plenty of goats to feed on. Maybe it chose the boy because he was sitting down, which made him look like an easy target. It happened within a flash of a second and the boy didn't know what hit him.

Pythons are constrictors. They coil around their prey. They have no poison glands and do not kill by biting. They suffocate their victims to death, and then swallow them whole.

While the snake was at it, his best friend - small dog – came to the boy's rescue. It barked incessantly, and when it realised the python was not moved, it started biting its tail. After several attempts, the snake gave up, left the boy and went for the dog.

It took seconds for the poor dog to die after the angry snake coiled itself around it. The boy was helpless, and could not save his best friend. Mmmh... I highly doubt he could have endangered his life for the sake of his dog.

The dog died, so that his friend could live. A friend in deed. The incident was reported. I witnessed an almost similar incident in the plains of Kajiado county.

We were busy looking for respondents for the surveys we are carrying out on behalf of Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. We had to drive through thickets, literally flattening the bushes to gain access to people's homes.

When we arrived, it was evident the residents had not seen a car for a long time. Only children were in the homesteads. The parents had gone to look for pastures for their livestock.

A puppy saw us first, and ran away into the manyatta. The older children came to meet us, leaving behind a toddler in the compound. When the puppy realised the child was alone, and saw our car approaching the gate, he came out in full force and started barking constantly. All this time, the it was beside the toddler.

When we stopped the car, the puppy was the winner! As if the toddler knew what was happening, he allowed the puppy to feed from a cup, which he held out for it. It is like he was thanking the puppy for being there for him. A friend in deed.

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