I don’t like cats and dogs. It is not as though I hate them, I just don’t like them. When I was a little boy, I had birds as pets. That was it. Birds were really easy to keep, very low maintenance. All you needed was a cage made of bamboo, some grains and some water.
It wasn’t until we moved to another part of Lagos did I see people having dogs and cats as pets. It was also the first time I saw dogs as big as some 7-year old. These were well-fed dogs. While boys and girls in Mushin and Ajegunle didn’t have access to medical care, these dogs had access to quality healthcare.
In my old neighborhood it used to be a source of amusement when area-boys stoned dogs to death especially when they see dogs doing the nasty. One thing I couldn’t understand was why it took dogs so damn long to do the nasty. Why can’t they be like humans — two to three minutes and it is over. For humans it was easy: bang, bang, bang — you roll over to sleep. You didn’t have to tell your partner “thank you,” “I love you,” or “honey that was great…how was it for you?” No, no, no; none of that. You simply roll over and go to sleep. But not dogs; they just have to show off their size and staying power.
For all I care, cats and dogs belong in the open or in the cage. If the weather is really bad, put them in a cage in the terrace, or some off-spot location. Bringing dogs and cats into the bedroom, kitchen, or the living room just don’t sit well with me. Common, they are nothing but animals! After all these years, I still don’t understand why some people treat dogs and cats as though they are humans. Dogs and cats are better fed than most humans in Africa. Not only are they well taken care of, they are loved as though they are humans.
Not too long ago I read a story on the BBC website of dog meat being in great demand in Abuja and Lagos. When I called a contact in Abuja to confirm the BBC report, he simply said: “Nna, dog meat na wa…the thing get as he be.” He wouldn’t say more. He wouldn’t deny or confirm anything. So I called another acquaintance. She feigned ignorance but then said, “One man’s dog is another man’s beef.” And so I called a friend who lives in an oil-producing state. He wasn’t home. His wife said “My husband is on his way to Abuja to deliver some exotic meat.” Kai, Nigerians have no respect for dogs.
A few days later I relayed this story to my ex-girlfriend. She threw up, not once but three times. I wasn’t sure which was worse: throwing up or eating dog meat. Not long after that I started romancing someone from Minneapolis. She had three dogs and three cats. To be honest those dogs and cats were the biggest impediment to the growth and progress of our relationship. She was this and that and everything in-between. She could do this and that and whatever was asked of her. She doesn’t complain about anything. Not only was she beautiful and brilliant and just plain nice and benevolent, she was a screamer in bed.
But those damn dogs and cats. Gee, they just had to interfere in our human relationship.
Those damn dogs and cats: they reminded me of the very first time I was dumped years and years ago. That was in 1985 when I lived in Oregon. It happened when I suggested to my then girlfriend to give her dogs and cats away. Better still, I suggested she sell the dogs and cats to an underground enterprise that specialized in hawking animal delicacies.
My goodness, she came down hard on me. Before she finally dumped and let me go, she put me through four lecture series: she lectured me about the utility of animals; lectured me about loving the environment and all of God’s creations; lectured me about how dogs and cats are more useful and dependable than men; and also told me that her animals love her unconditionally, are submissive and would do whatever is asked of them.
I am telling you: dogs and cats have been my source of misery and much heartbreak. Way back in Oregon I didn’t understand what dogs and cats meant to their owners. In my many years in Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Jos and Port Harcourt, I knew what some dogs went through in the hands of some youths (and even some grownups). If dogs were allowed into some homes, I knew of no one who allowed cats into their homes. Cats? Ha, otio! Especially black cats. Most people associated black cats with witchcraft, magic and voodoo. Black cats were reputed to have injurious powers; carriers of evil and capable of doing untold acts to people — especially to children and pregnant women.
Wherever one heard of witches and wizards confessing their supposed supernatural power and dastardly acts, one would most likely hear about cats and humans alternating form. Every community had stories of human turning into cats and vice versa. In many societies cats were likened to the Tasmanian devil or the hobgoblin of the unknown world raiding human of their internal organs and snuffing life out of babies and the unborn. If dogs were hated; cats were despised a dozen times more. If you think cats are hated in Nigeria, well, you need to read up on their fate in a time long gone in Europe and the Americas where they were the bastards and orphans of the animal world. Somehow, times have changed, and human attitude towards them have also changed significantly.
I recently fell in love. It was intense. It was powerful. It was commanding. It was the kind of feeling and emotion that makes one’s world giddy and ones knees wobbly. It subjected one’s heart and one’s mind to all sorts of variables. It was a good-nasty-shaking feeling. Just recently, a friend who lives in the United Kingdom was telling me about her lover who made love to her mind before making love to her body. In order words, he possessed her mind before possessing her body. For me it was that intense, that good, and that joyous. Life was going well. We were looking to the future, looking forward to several decades of happiness. And just when I thought “this is it!” damn, what do you know. Here come those spoilers, here comes those dogs and cats again. Can you believe this?
Penultimate weekend — unannounced, without consulting me, without prior warning — she brought home two dogs and two cats. Last weekend — unannounced, without consulting her, without prior warning — I packed my bags and left for New York where I now live. Somewhere in South Dakota are my woman and her dogs and cats waiting for me, waiting for me to come home. Love or no love there will be no dogs and cats for me. I don’t hate them, I just don’t like them. I am not going back.
About Sabella Ogbobode Abidde
Please, do not ask me about religion. I get the evil look every time I tell people I am an agnostic who teeters on atheism. My world resolves around ethics and the rule of law. That’s it. I have no use for religion: religious convictions are not part of my existence -- the laws of man are good enough for me.
I have lived in several cities: Seattle, Miami, Norman, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Saint Cloud, the District of Columbia, Houston, and Mankato. I am not sure where I am going to live next. And I have never really had a profession, only jobs: been a cook, a dishwasher, a civil servant, house cleaner, university instructor and researcher and so on and so forth.
Every so often I get questions concerning the role and place of the African woman. Well, I don’t know; at least not with any certainty. What seems to work best is when both partners work as a team: cooperate, coordinate and collaborate their marital efforts. And they should be mindful of the insidious effect of modernization on the African family.