Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The poodle, the poison and the witch doctor.

Raoel - prior to his pink stint.
They started building a house on the corner opposite our residence in White River.
In those days, everybody's dogs were running loose, and could go wherever they pleased.
It pleased Raoel to pay the builders' cooking shed clandestine visits. This was evidenced by perfect circles of mascara running from below his chin, around his face and above his eyes. It was, in fact, not mascara but soot.
In those days paint still came in metal cans. It was custom that one of the labourers would be the designated cook-boy, preparing his stews and maize porridge in used paint cans over an open fire.
With the building site abandoned after working hours, Raoel apparently took it upon himself to polish the insides of the cans, hence the rings of soot with which he would proudly pitch up for dinner. 

One fateful weekend all three our children were home from university. On the Sunday we were having a barbecue with friends down the road: the boys accompanied us and Linda stayed home to study.
Shortly after eleven in the morning Linda phoned with panic in her voice: "There's something wrong with Raoel."
In about five minutes flat we had Raoel at my friend Philip Whitfield's animal hospital. Philip immediately induced vomiting, and sighed sadly on inspecting the product. "Temic," he said.
Temic is a deadly poison used by farmers to treat soil for certain pests. The granules are fatally toxic and by law should be stored under lock and key.
"Sorry," Philip said.
"No way," we all said in unison. Both Linda and my wife were in hysterics.
I still think Linda's tears, anguish and obvious panic saved the day, and Philip relented: "Look, trying to save an animal that ingested Temic is basically useless. The fact that you got him here within minutes... I don't know... the granules haven'r really dissolved yet..."
We all grasped at the straw. Philip would do everything possible, but we "should expect the worst..."
On the way home the car was full of dark mutterings about revenge.  I told everyone to rather hope and pray, and give it time.
I visited early the next morning: Raoel was looking haggard, with every piece of equipment in the hospital hooked, shoved into, and clamped onto him.  But his heart was still beating. Philip just shook his head dejectedly. "We'll just have to wait and see..."
So we waited.
And we saw a miracle.
After two weeks he came home. All three kids traveled down from the city to welcome him home on the Saturday morning. 
However, as we bathed, brushed and pampered him, those dark mutterings of revenge started bubbling to the surface again.
In my bar at home I had a considerable collection of wildlife memorabilia - skulls, rare bones and things. Among others, I had the intact pelvis of a baby giraffe. When held upside down over the face it looks like a grotesque horned mask of bone. Scary. The boys just had to have it, so I let them have it. 
For those readers not familiar with African customs and beliefs: To this day, Sangomas (witch doctors) are held in high esteem, and treated with awe and reverence. Not entities to be trifled with.

We wound copper wire around some parts of the pelvis, and blue and red wool around others. It was further adorned with the tail feathers of a lourie, some guineafowl feathers, porcupine quills and other strange bits and pieces scrounged from my bar. To top it off, we placed a photograph of Raoel in the birth canal of the pelvis.
That Sunday night, under cover of darkness, we sneaked over and placed our creation against the door of the cooking shack, which also doubled as tool shed. Then we strew a ring of uncooked sago (none of them would have a clue as to what these white granules were) around the pelvis.
Raoel then had another bath, to which we added red food colouring. He looked magnificent in pink.

The commotion at the building site started at the crack of dawn as the first workers arrived.
I let it build to a peak, and then sauntered over with the pink Raoel on a leash.

Everyone was standing in a wide circle at a respectful distance from the cooking shed, babbling at the top of their voices. At the first sight of the pink dog everyone seemed to freeze and you could hear a pin drop.
I waited for a while, but the scene remained frozen in silence.
"You gave my dog poison. You all know that a dog that eats Temic dies," I said loud and clear. I could not say if the murmurs were denial or affirmation.
"So my dog died." Louder murmurs.
"But I have a chommie (friend) who lives alone in the mountain. She is a white Sangoma."
Now the voices were were back to full volume, shouting in a variety of native tongues. Fear, panic and uncertainty reigned supreme.
"It cost a lot of time and a lot of cattle, but she brought my dog to life again. Very powerful woman. As you can see, the dog is not quite the same. Also, now the life of the dog is linked to your lives. If the dog get sick, you will get sick. If the dog dies, you will also die."
Pandemonium. Within minutes the site was deserted and as far as I know none of them ever came near the place (or the dog) ever again.
And I got my pelvis back.


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