Tuesday, February 15, 2011

War Stories: A Tale of Two Dogs

This story starts in the month of October in 1996 and i had just returned to Freetown after two years in Belgium. I wasn’t too happy about it, the country was in the middle of a Civil War and i was leaving comfortable, safe surroundings. I didn’t want to move yet again and have to re-establish friends yet again. It was in this state of confusion, anger and fear that i met Milo( prounounced Meelo) the new dog in our house. 

Our old dog Tiger had died the year before much to everyone’s sadness, Tiger was well liked by all and was a great dog. He was a loyal, great with people but could be tough with outsiders too.....We used to walk around the neighborhood with Tiger as kids just to see him beat up other dogs, made me so proud...

Anyways so its safe to say that Milo had a lot of work to do to win me over. Its been so long but i remember he was around the size of a german shepherd(dont know what breed he was) and light coloured. After a few months living with him Milo was turning out to be an alright dog, not too aggressive and quite friendly but very easily alarmed. Stamping your foot on the ground was enough to get him scrambling for cover.....

Of course he wasn’t helped by the fact that our house is about 200 to 300 metres away from an army base. So when the 1997 coup happened, the poor thing was going nuts. Every gun shot would have Milo running for cover, behind the trees in the compound, under the cars, in the kitchen....everywhere!!!

During the initial hours of the coup, everyone locked themselves indoors as soldiers went on a rampage trying to commandeer vehicles and steal whatever they could. The early hours of coups are always uncertain and rife with violence. Everyone knew it was best to keep away from windows, crawl instead of walk upright to avoid stray bullets etc...the usual.. after all we’d had a coup only 5 years before.Everyone was safely indoors except..... Milo...running around the compound like a dog on a mission frantically trying to enter the front door, kitchen door, any door!!! but they were all shut.

Nobody wanted to open the front door because it was so dangerous outside and i remember someone saying “Someone let the dog in!”. I cant remember what brave soul did let him in but i could never forget the sound of him running around, panicked and terrified beyond imagination. He was panting like he always did when he was scared, and behaving like a dog on steroids. I remember how absurd the situation felt like with everyone too scared to help the dog out. 

After the first day of Junta rule, plans were being made for us to leave the country as it was too uncertain and dangerous to stay. We left on June 6th 1997(what can i say, i remember things!!!!) , 11 days after the coup, and drove to neighbouring Guinea. We stayed in Guinea for a year during which Milo only came to mind when i thought his antics during the gunfire. The Military rulers were eventually kicked out of office by a Nigerian led peacekeeping force in 1998. In July of the same year we finally returned home after a year of exile.

When we got back to our House, Milo wasn’t there permanently anymore. He came by once in a while but he was mostly out on the streets, the Old boy had snapped. God knows what had happened to him in the year we were away. Who knows? perhaps he didn’t feel safe anymore. To those who might suggest that we should have crossed borders with him...in time of war the last thing you think about is a dog... The base next to us was now occupied by the Nigerians, having kicked out the rebels.

As the months went by and Freetown was invaded once again in January 1999 ii hadn’t seen Milo much but in my mind he may have just ran away, couldn’t cope with the stress anymore...I really did not think much of his disappearance and life went on. A few weeks after the fighting in the city subsided one of our neighbors approached us about giving away puppies...my brother and i readily accepted...i took the dark brown one for myself and my bro took the light colored one ( I’m much darker than my brother so it was only natural lol). We found out from the lady that Milo had been making conjugal visits to her dog and the puppies were the offspring...so thats where he was all the time!!!!

I found it amusing that that was how he coped with war lol...I wondered again where he was, deadbeat dad running away from responsibility....I found out later to my utter amazement what had happened to dear old Milo....

Some kid in the neighborhood reportedly saw him going towards the barracks where the Nigerians were staying. Thats the last time anyone saw Milo.There were persistent rumours that Nigerians were quite fond of Dog “Pepper Soup”.This made me certain that he had met an untimely end and i had to reconcile with the possibility that he was probably in a pot somewhere, the key ingredient in someone’s “Pepper Soup”. Rumour had it his girlfriend met the same end.......

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