“This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top”- David Lynch
Growing up in rural eastern Free State was a treat for me. I was surrounded by breathtaking untouched landscapes and remnants of an even more impressive geological, botanical and zoological past. The Free State is known as the home of the Cheetahs and Leopards, and many other animals. There is a plethora of dog breeds throughout the province owned by the farmers and hunters who live in this exciting terrain.
In the lalis (a.k.a bundus/villages etc.) dogs take on a different representation. They are what black people were to the likes of Hegel and Konrad, i.e senseless savages that deserve the worst of treatment because they are not human. I grew up not knowing about animal distress and the need for the medical care of domestic animals because the dogs I grew up around weren’t even getting de-wormed, let alone visits to the vet; another thing I didn’t know existed. This affected my first few encounters with dogs in the mountains.
I generally used to fear dogs because my primary and high schools were across the road from a suburb with lots of big scary dogs and the quickest way anywhere was to cut through the suburb and be terrorised by these dogs, and I spent 8years running away from massive German Shepherds (#WhenWeWereBlack) . We’ve always had dogs at home, but they were always poisoned by the neighbors because dogs are so misunderstood in the rural areas and my grandfather never understood why so he kept getting us, really just me because only I fed them, a replacement for the latest dead dog. I currently claim two dogs as my siblings (please don’t traumatize me with questions!), Viper-a naughty corgi, and Gypsy- a gorgeous mix between a golden retriever and silken windhound, and I love them both to bits.
I’m definitely a dog person, but I have to consciously refrain from patting “Doggo” whenever I come across a new dog on a hiking trail because I used to be black(#!) and it’s South Africa and dogs here were raised differently. More so if it’s a German shepherd or any of the lesser documented breeds of “Apartheid Dogs”.
Animals, and humans too, are an extension of the natural environment and it sucks that some people have to police their interaction with Nature because historically they were never considered worthy of the leisurely experience of the natural environment. It sucks that although I’ve grown to love dogs, I can’t freely express that because I come from a province where Oom puts his rottweiler, appropriately named Bliksem, in the front seat of his bakkie and has trained him to see Tsepo and Jabu, who fry in the back of the bakkie, as a threat to the dog’s life – worse-than-animals savages. So I carry an invincible metal plate written “Pasop Vir Die Hond” as a gentle reminder to keep my black head down and keep walking, the next time I dare even look at that harmless Hout Bay-raised Siberian Huskey on Chapman’s Peak.
I found this board at a hotel in Helmeringhausen, a German dorpie in the many nowheres of Namibia, especially fascinating. We get the whole “No animals allowed” thing, but most importantly no “dogs” allowed. So much that the only “animal” there is a dog, as if we don’t know how a certain race has been proven to interact with cats more than Othered humans. Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to observe that outside of South Africa, dogs aren’t as feared by black people, and prioritized by (mostly) white people even in public spaces.