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This story was submitted to The LoveReading Very Short Story Award 2019
Digo’s short sand coloured coat, fang scarred, bumped with cysts, stretched over sinewy muscles, stood testimony to a hard life in the Africa bush. His curled tail, much longer at one time, ended with brown skin over a bone stub. One cankered ear up and pointed and the other flapped over with tattered ends. His obsidian black nose, on a long muzzle, twitched when checking the wind. He had an opaque moon for a right eye. The other, below a thick lid, circled a large amber iris, and in that, shone an intense black pupil.
Digo is my name for him, it seemed apt at the time, often scratching himself and rooting around rodent holes.
The day he trotted into camp, a tick hung bloated in-between forehead furrows. I remember that day, as hyenas had broken into my kitchen. My workers made aggressive japes at him. He ran a short distance, turned and sat down looking at us. I had to stop my workers throwing stones at him. He dodged the missiles and sat further off, his pink tongue pulsated out of the side of his mouth. Moth eaten, museum show case mane-less lions, looked in better condition, he being three hands shorter than a lion. Digo from there on, just hung around camp.
When Digo looked at me, that black eye seem to see more than a human face. Seeking out my thoughts, and communicating his lot in life, his damnation. The association of moth to a candle. Tied to that deep inbred attachment to humans, a longing surges up, what hope is there to be free. There is no freedom, as long as dogs are dogs. His fate with humans, as for most dogs, always precarious from human cruel impulses and bigotry.
There is always the danger, misreading communication, and perceiving more in his look, than I should try to interpret. I’m sure food and bitches in season occupied his mind, other than being imprinted on humans. However, he achieved to remain mobile, as a survivor.
If he had an owner, if a dog can be owned, I don’t know. Digo seemed feral, although, I got used to Digo being about camp.
Digo seldom barked. He growled into the dark and then I knew a hyena slinked near the kitchen. He became a self-appointed guard. At dinner time he would move forward, emerging from the shadows, until he could look up with that eye into my eyes. Tilt his head with a gentle whimper, poised, on the second, his tail wagged. Scrounged left overs, maize, beans would be vacuum up with his slapping pink tongue. Bones took longer, relished, as his teeth crunched on them in the dark.
The next morning, a hollow out pit for a sleeping curl, the only evidence of his visit, marked his vagabond billet. At times, he would turn up in the day, following me where he could, out of interest, as an escort, who know? Perimeters drawn, he would disappear before a village edge.
As the only foreign project manager on the construction site and considered a stranger, there’s something symbiotic, we needed each other, Digo and me being loners. I’m not being sentimental, but why have animals nearby, if there’s not a reciprocal arrangement.
Some village men killed Digo, they said he’s rabid, as he attacked a child. The truth is, a group of children teased Digo with sticks and a dead chicken. He managed to grab the chicken and in doing so, the hand of the five year old that held the chicken.
I’ve become more aware of roving local dogs. Some look to be younger and in better condition images of Digo. They all look alike. There is consolation. Digo the Dog had managed to multiply.