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By Ahumuza Muhumuza

“Dogs are man’s best friend.” That cliche is often used and abused, as are our canine best friends. Today is International Dog Day, a day when we celebrate our close historical relationship with them. Dogs are inconspicuously all around, keeping us safe, sniffing out crime, and most importantly being our most loyal companion.

From time immemorial, dogs have been by our side. Village dogs used to be treasured by our hunter-gather ancestors. They were valuable for sniffing out hunted animals like antelopes that were a prized delicacy on the menu. Now that wild game is protected and hunters hunted and arrested as poachers, hunting dogs have become obsolete.

The availability of cheap labor provided by guards who use bows and arrows has made guard dogs less required.

What have dogs got in return for being by our side for millennia? Unfortunately, people who treat their dogs as a best friend should are often seen as enigmatic, even eccentric, in our society. The late Kasirye Gwanga always insisted his dog ride in the codrivers seat, and shared his bedroom with it. He always gave his Boerboel thick prime cuts whenever he was having a meal. Ask yourself, what have you done to make life better for your best friend. Are you really treating them like a best friend should? Do you share your last piece of meat with them, or do you toss them bones? Would you give your best friend bones? Are they at your feet as you work all day, or do you lock them up in solitary confinement in a penitentiary kennel? In fact, do your dogs even know what the sun looks like?

Ours is a tale of two dogs, sometimes in the same town, but living in different worlds. City dog and village dog. You have seen city dog, shiny coat and all, brimming with confidence. Riding shotgun, furry head bobbing out the window, tongue lolling out. Saturdays are spent at Entebbe Botanical Gardens frolicking at the beach, Thursday evenings at dog get togethers with other canines in Kololo. When city dog gets home, a warm bath awaits her, scented shampoo, bubbles frothing in the tub. City dog was once a rarity in Uganda, but as the middle class grows, more people are learning to value our best friend for the physical and emotional benefits they bring.

You have seen village dog as well, even here in the city. Ribs poking out both sides, scrappy skin eaten by mange, scouring the rubbish heaps for a morsel. Village dog knows well the darkest side of human beings, that is mostly what she experiences – pain and suffering. She is often limping from a broken rib, a kick for coming too close. Children throw stones at village dog for sport. Village dog’s life is short a brutal, ending up as road kill at the hands of some crazy taxi driver, or a slow painful death brought about by disease and starvation.

There is need in Uganda to train and deploy dogs to carry out functions like assisting the blind and therapy for those who are depressed. More middle class Ugandans should take on the culture of adopting dogs from places like Uganda Society for the Protection and Care of animals, instead of buying from breeders when there are dogs on the street that need a loving home.

As we celebrate International Dog Day, make it a point to improve the life of at least one dog around you – whether a city dog, or a village dog. Buy a random dog on the street a sausage, pamper your dog at home with half a kilo of meat, see their reaction and thank me later for the warm glow that brings to your heart.

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