I recently moved to a small Canadian dog-loving town called Kelowna. The first house I visited in this city had a special sofa for dogs. It only took a few days for me to find out that people take their dogs to daycare and canine doctors are well off. In fact, arranging funeral services for dead dogs, adopting stray dogs, or financially rewarding lost dog seekers are not uncommon in Kelowna.
The day I arrived in town, I received a visit from a few Canadian friends and their dogs. The visit started off with a hint of awkwardness because of the way I drew back dramatically at the sight of these gentle, harmless dogs.
It surprised my Canadian friends that someone could be so terrified of dogs. But, as I realized, it only takes a minute to get acquainted with dogs in Kelowna (and much of Canada) because they – along with cats – are man’s best companions.
I haven’t always been uncomfortable with dogs. In fact, I grew up in their company. My grandmother had a lot of them, so many that our house was often jokingly called what in English would mean “doghouse” or “house of dogs”. Sometimes people suspected my grandmother of being a witch because she excessively and unusually anthropomorphized dogs.
As a child, I learned to love dogs from my grandmother; I have learned that dogs love to be petted and cuddled. I have learned that dogs have a keen sense of smell and that they can identify or remember a person by their smell. I have also found that dogs get comfortable with you when you gently rub them in the head or pat their back with love.
One dog in particular has lived with us for so many years. I don’t remember the name my grandmother gave it, but I’m sure there was “God” and “love” in it. I remember bathing her and carrying her in my arms. I remember she followed me everywhere I went. I remember always being upset whenever she got sick. My connection to her was obvious to everyone in our neighborhood.
And then I moved to the city of Ibadan in Nigeria to study. And my grandmother passed away. And the dogs in our house disappeared one after the other. It didn’t take long for me to discover that dogs were different in town. They were hostile and combative. They have been trained to hate foreigners and capture intruders.
I also noticed in the city that the dogs were almost always caged during the day and released behind fenced walls and barbed wire at night. I learned for the first time in town that people ate dogs.
I was amazed when I read in the news that hungry young city dwellers were specializing in hunting stray dogs for their meat. I learned in town that some dogs eat raw human feces and, even worse, that they eat human beings.
In Ibadan, I heard of a dog eating his master. The owner reportedly traveled for a few days and left the dog alone and without food. By the time he returned from his trip, the dog was so hungry and angry that he feasted on his owner’s bones.
It was also in Ibadan that I learned that people avoid dogs not only because they can be bitten but because they can get diseases. A friend of mine from Ibadan has been treated for rabies in the past because he was bitten by a dog after breaking into a fenced house unexpectedly.
While the high crime rate in many Nigerian cities might partly explain the exaggerated human-dog relationship, the country’s widespread hostility to pets also has a mythical side to it. To own a dog or a cat – especially a black one – is to issue an open invitation to bad omens or to become suspected of evil acts.
Then I moved to Johannesburg and encountered dogs trained to hate black people. While I had encountered cannibalistic dogs in Ibadan, I was unprepared for the world of racist dog subjects I was exposed to in Johannesburg.
The first place I lived in the city was a cottage in an Afrikaner white house. They had a boerboel named Lexi. Lexi was an ugly, overly muscular dog that scared me when I first saw him. Lexi barked at me all the time.
My landlady assured me that Lexi would get used to me over time and eventually stop barking at me. She was wrong. Lexi never stopped barking at me, but luckily there was a barricade between the main house and the cottage. So Lexi could only bark, there was no way he could jump the barricade and attack me.
After a few years in South Africa, it became clear to me that Lexi only barked at me and the other black people who visited the house. When a white man moved into the cottage next to mine, Lexi was not hostile to him. When the Whites visited the house, Lexi did not bark at them.
It was then that I realized that in South Africa even dogs are racist – or, to put it better, South African dogs often become socialized into anti-black racism. The Boerboels were known for their aggressive attacks on melancholy people.
This strained relationship between blacks and dogs in South Africa dates back to the apartheid era, when police dogs were specially trained to hunt and suppress blacks – especially protesters – who resisted the draconia of the apartheid.
Now, in the post-apartheid era, there is still anti-black residue among white-owned dogs. White South Africa, in general, has replaced its police force with its security dogs in order to protect its property, privileges and power.
Almost all the posh suburban homes (i.e. white houses) in South Africa have a security dog, some even put a photo of their dog in front of the house as a way to ward off and instill the fear in potential intruders who are always assumed to be black.
Historically, white South Africa is known to appreciate dogs more than black people. During the apartheid days, South African police held memorial services for dogs killed by black protesters. Today we hear and know of white families who put their dogs, but not their black maids, on medical insurance.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with canine humanitarianism, only that in South Africa there is an almost unconscious white attitude but “in your face” which suggests that they would rather humanize their dogs than to humanize their dogs. ‘honor black people.
It was after realizing this that it became less surprising to me that most black South Africans (especially men) are extremely cynophobic. Essentially, in post-apartheid South Africa, security dogs are more or less the unnoticed weapons of a racial cold war; they are the white armor shield and blacks worst enemy. After half a decade of being around black South Africans, this cynophobia has rubbed off on me as well.
However, my move to Kelowna, despite initial worries, rekindled my childhood affections for dogs and I am now thinking of adopting one.
At the same time, I realized that love for dogs in Canada (and much of the western world) often becomes a commodity.
It is not uncommon to see people with designer dogs as well as “purse” (toy) dogs on the streets of Toronto. While the acquisition of “teacup dogs” (as they are commonly referred to) is not inherently wrong, the increased demand for them is fueling upscale Western consumerism which is creating a proliferation of breeding dogs. commercial.
This is also not unrelated to the rise in unethical dog breeding, which often creates questionable genetic contortions in dogs. In light of this, Canada continues to grapple with “puppy mill problems ”.
There is still a darker side to dog love in Canada (and much of the Western world). The cynophilia sometimes becomes cynosexual. Even if bestiality illegal in Canada, 103 cases of human-animal sex were reported between 2011 and 2016.
And, as the report notes, most cases of bestiality in Canada or elsewhere go unreported because animals are obviously unable to report violations.
In addition, there are many loopholes in the law regarding human-animal sexual relations in Canada. For example, in 2013, a Canadian accused of bestiality had his conviction overturned after appealing on the grounds that there had been no “penetration” in the bestial act. In addition, of the 103 cases of bestiality reported between 2011 and 2016, only 47 resulted in charges. It was not until 2019 that Canadian law recognized “all sexual acts with animals” as illegal.
This is an edited version of an article first published by Africa is a country.