Hackles up

Years ago in southwestern Burkina Faso, I was walking down a path near some houses when a little puppy came out, having heard us passing by. He looked to be only 10-12 weeks old. At that age they are cute, and this one was no exception.

I was not taken by his cuteness, but rather by the fact that his hackles were up, his snout was twisted into a no-nonsense snarl accompanied by a genuine adult growls and snaps. It was really quite comical, except I did think that he might try to put those needle-like puppy teeth into me. Also, rabies is not uncommon in that area.

His owner came out and shooed him off. So I asked about the bizarre behavior. Strangeness was not limited to the puppy’s antics. I learned that a few weeks earlier, the puppy had run out to bark at a passing moped on that same path, become entangled in its chain and had his abdomen ripped open. His inventive owner scooped him up with this intestines protruding and took him down to the local shoe repairman (there was no veterinarian) who sowed him up. In a recovery worthy of the most outrageous come-from-behind win in sports, the little guy recovered.

But, explained the man whose scandalously inspired action had saved the puppy’s life, now it attacks anything that comes down that path. Understandable. I never returned which was probably a good thing. I did not want my passing by there to again raise those hackles when the canine features under them possessed full adult capabilities.

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