October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and we here at HLAW love our pups! So much so that when we asked for submission from our Ambassadors on the subject we got more than enough. So from now until Tuesday, we are running a shelter dog story! Today we welcome Ambassador Kimberly to the blog who shows us what it’s like adopting a shelter in another country and culture.
In 2014, I was living in a small house with way too many people in northern Rwanda. Like all homes in that area, our home was behind a 6′ high brick wall with may less than a 1/4 acre of land. My husband and I ran the national cycling team of Rwanda, and we lived in that tiny four bedroom house with our mechanic, coach, English teacher and our 130 pound South African Boerboel, Zulu. Space was at a premium.
Luckily, that spring, the team received word we would be able to move to our new compound on 3 acres with 16 one bedroom bungalows. Word spreads quickly amongst the expatriate community and my friends, Dan and Frances, Canadians, who run an animal rescue organization in Rwanda called WAG, called and asked if my husband and I wanted another dog. The conversation was more like, “Could you PLEASE take a dog, any dog?”
I told Dan I would take a dog, but only after we had moved into the new center. I was facing moving two households (the staff house and the team house) 4 miles up the road with no help. The new compound did not have regular electricity and water and needed EVERYTHING repaired. My husband was with my mechanic racing in Algeria for the month, and the coach and teacher were transitioning out. There was no way I could take on a new puppy.
“Just pick out which one you want, and we’ll hold it for you,” begged Dan.
And so I reluctantly picked a lanky, multicolored eye dog and named him Shaka.
After all, I already had a Zulu!
Shaka had been picked up on the streets of Kigali, the capital city when he was just a puppy. Dog rescue in third world countries is an entirely different operation. Due to the culture, most dogs end up being abused, neglected or killed. During the genocide, the dogs went feral, and the military killed the majority of them. Rwanda does not have a positive history with the whole western domestic dog realm. WAG has taken in and rescued hundreds of dogs over the past five years.
The “plan” was to move, get settled, have Jock come home from Algeria, then take Shaka. WAG moved Shaka closer to my hometown which was 2 hours from Kigali. A former guard of Dan and Frances was taking care of Shaka. I asked the guard to come by the house so I could make sure Shaka was doing well in his car. He was not. Shaka never left. I needed a 6-week old puppy like I needed a hole in my head! I was not happy. Shaka did what puppies do, pooped and peed in the house, dug through the trash, ate toilet paper. Zulu just looked at him like, “Dude, what’s your problem?” Even my Rwandan assistant wondered if he had not received “proper education” after the third time I stepped in poop in the hallway.
It was not a promising start.
But we moved, and Shaka thrived. He loved all the room to run, he loved the riders, and they loved him. He was a “pet hound” and lived with 20+ people all the time who liked to honor his desire. Shaka became our outside guard dog, while Zulu remained inside the house. They got along fabulously.
In April 2017, Jock flew from Rwanda to Belgium to Washington Dulles airport with two large crates containing my two beautiful beasts. They had flown almost 20 hours, and we still had a 2 1/2 day drive back to Wyoming. My dream to move back to the US and have my dogs with me finally became a reality.
Sadly, in June 2017, Zulu passed away. He was eight years old and had been my bodyguard and protector those entire eight years. I was devastated. Shaka seemed confused, but he stayed near me.
Dogs have a way of just easing the pain. They know how to sit with you and love you with all their slobbery, shedding, energy.
Shaka does that for me today. Shaka saved me. My squiggly wiggly African sighthound with multi-colored freaky eyes, an easily anxious personality (like his mama) and his endless need for walks and attention, saved me.
Shaka is a Rwandan street dog now enjoying the life of a ranch dog in Wyoming. I cannot imagine my life without him. I think back to the days I almost didn’t take him because taking him would have made life a bit more inconvenient in that moment. How wrong he proved to be.