The island has an interesting problem that it is quickly trying to remedy. There are wild dogs here and they are everywhere. Apparently, there was a large-scale campaign a few years back to eliminate quite a few of these dogs by means of mass euthanasia and I guess it made quite an impact at the time. But, from what I experience every day, it’s still an on-going challenge to bring balance to the situation.
Today, there is another campaign underway with advertisements on billboards asking people to sterilize their dogs. These wild dogs keep coming into existence by people who have dogs as pets. The pet dog is let outside to roam about, do his or her doggy duty and ends up mixing with the locals on the outside.
Later, when a litter of puppies is born, people are unable to support all of them and release the puppies at the seaside or in the farmlands. These wild dogs survive on garbage and other tasty morsels that they can easily access in the larger towns and villages. They then breed with each other which keeps the population growing.
At first, you really don’t notice them or at least I didn’t have any recognition about packs of wild dogs roaming about the island when I first arrived. It’s not as if it’s commonly advertised in any information about the island, “Hey, come to the beautiful island of Mauritius for your next exotic tropical vacation, but watch out for our wild dogs and be certain to keep your picnic baskets close at hand.”
Shortly after settling into our house and during the stillness of one night, I was awoken by the howls of dogs. Off in the distance it sounded as if a sacrificial ceremony was taking place with dogs acting as cruel executioners. What the heck was going on and who knew that dogs could make such scary sounds?
I don’t know what happened that night, but I am pretty certain that the dogs decided to take down one of their own. After a few on-and-off nights of this and then hearing the barking and howling occasionally during the day, I began to think that the dogs come together to form local packs. They elect leaders and become sort of a Lord of the Flies meets Dogs of War, African-island style, gangs.
You see them roaming in packs of usually three to four dogs and one is always clearly leading. Our neighbors across the street have many dogs as pets and you can always tell when one of the local dogs of war gangs passes by the gate. There is crazy growling and snarling and the sound of dogs jumping up on the locked gates trying to get in and attack.
In the beginning and before I knew any better, I would come home from work and have to get out of my car to unlock the front gate. I would very cautiously listen for rustling brush or for any type of hoofs on dirt movement. I would then make a mad dash from the car and quickly open the gate.
But after living and working here for a few months, I don’t even hear the far-off distance howls any more. Just like riding the bus, there are simply a few rules that I learned need to be followed.
If you see a dog of war or a pack of them out and about doing whatever it is they will most certainly do, do not make eye contact. Go about your business. This seems to work and they will not pay you any attention.
If you hear the sounds of dogs fighting, whether it be against another dog or human or cat or any other creature, do not approach. The dogs of war are easily agitated when they’ve got serious business to attend to…don’t disturb the ‘icemen’ when they are working.
Do not feed them. If you think that feeding wild dogs will result in a marvelously sunny moment of goodwill, you need to re-think your ideals. And finally, when you are driving your car, you will notice that they will not move out of the road for you. They are dogs of war, after all, and they have seen scarier things than your little Asian car. Use your horn and swerve as necessary.
I have been following these tips for the past few months, and have not been attacked nor have I hit any dogs on the road. And so, to all the dogs of war out there (because I know some of you have evolved and are most certainly staying hip at the internet café down the road), you respect me and I will respect you. You can keep the garbage, but stay out of my picnic basket.