It is my sad duty to inform you that my beloved five-month-old puppy, Juma, has passed away. He died on the evening of March 14th after just a two-day battle with an unknown illness. I suspect that he ate something toxic (since he basically ate everything he found) but I suppose we will never know for sure. What we do know is that he was a fantastic companion and confidant for the five months we spent together and that I will miss him greatly. What follows is a eulogy that “Jumes” most certainly deserves:
He was the nicest dog around: Juma was friendlier than any other dog I have seen here. Whenever a dog would walk or run by (even off in the distance) he would lose his mind, run up to it, and try to befriend it. This usually ended in him being snarled at or at times bitten. It was how he learned but he was never the dog to initiate any form of aggression. In addition, he loved people, particularly other volunteers because they knew how to play with him.
He was a born destroyer: In his short five months, he put rips in every pair of my pants, broke the gate to my courtyard, ate twelve jalapeño plants, ate my six-foot-tall moringa tree down to nothing, broke my screen door, chewed holes in my only pair of jeans, chewed the bindings off of one of my chairs, and put holes in my mosquito net. There’s probably a lot more but those are what come to mind at this point in time.
He was smart: By the time of his death, he knew his name along with “sit,” “shake,” “lie down,” “settle,” and we were working on “roll over.” Not bad at all.
He loved tô more than anything: I have no idea why. He tolerated his dog food that I would lovingly bring back from Ouaga (an incredible pain in the ass, I might add) but for some reason, he would go crazy for tô and could eat maybe three times more than me in one sitting. And I can eat a lot of tô.
He made me glad I had cement floors: He was impossible to housebreak! Well not really, I almost had it at the end. However, before you go and say that it was probably because he was a quasi-wild African dog, Brook (the volunteer in Yo) was able to housebreak her dog in one week. This could also mean I’m bad at housebreaking dogs…
He turned my house into a bone yard: No dog loved bones more than Juma. And no dog loved sharing those bones with me more than Juma. One night he brought in a horse tail. How did he get that? We will never know.
He lived fast and hard: Juma played hard and many dogs didn’t like that, but he was always crouched down with his but in the air and tail wagging. He would run and jump and play with anything he could get his paws on. Often when the sun was going down he would hit what I called his “second wind.” This is when he would be so uncontrollably full of energy that he would run in circles in full sprint, slamming into walls and anything else. It was truly a sight to behold.
When living in a village in Burkina Faso, it’s important to be able to carve off a special section of your brain for any animals that you care about. It’s important to love them but to be able to let them go about their lives and to keep a small emotional distance between them and you. Although Juma would follow me whenever I left the house and spent every night of his life sleeping inside (oftentimes next to my cot), he was free to run and play and dig and chew outside all day. I realized early on that to deny him these basics of dog life in order to fit him into an Americanized mould was to strip from him what he was born to do. When I first brought him home, I had quiet intentions to bring him back to the States with me at the end of my service. I thought: “What a better life he will have.” I then began to think about what this meant. In the US, he would need a leash; he would need to have his life structured around my schedule of work or school; he would be cooped up in an apartment; he would not be able to dig at will; he would not be able to go to the bathroom where and when he wanted. The list went on and I quickly realized that his life in village was leaps and bounds more fulfilling than his life would have been in the US. And when one has a dog in this environment, he or she must be aware of the reality that although animals have great freedom, their situation is never stable. Things happen and unfortunately a dog dying like this is not uncommon. In taking on an animal as a companion here, I had to mentally prepare myself for an event like this and although it was still difficult, I’m glad that I did. To borrow a very popular expression used here: c’est comme-ça ici.
So with that, little Jumes, you were a great friend and you will be sorely missed up here in the Sourou Valley.
I hope all is well back home. I am currently in Ouaga prepared to leave for a beach vacation in Ghana on Monday the 26th! I will try to put up a less depressing post before heading out. Take care for now!
Jason, even I feel the loss of Juma so very far away. Thank you for writing such a wonderful remembrance. Mom
Dear Jason, Juma was lucky to have a human friend like you–it sounds like you understood him so well. I grew up in rural MA and our dogs always ran free–no leashes, no restraints. They often got into trouble (my dad, brothers, and I drove to NH to pick him up after Lucky went on one very adventurous carousing wilderness hike) and we lost a few to car accidents and other mysterious illnesses. I’ve never wanted a dog since then for the reasons you state. Juma had a great life. I am sorry for your loss. Carole R.