Elizabeth Ohene: Why I don’t love dogs
In our series of letters from African writers, veteran Ghanaian journalist Elizabeth Ohene reflects on her lack of passion for “man’s best friend”.
I note that a Nigerian court recently cleared a man who had been charged with conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace for naming his dog after President Muhammadu Buhari.
The man said he did it out of love: “I named my beloved pet dog, Buhari, who is my hero… My admiration for Buhari started far back when he was a military head of state.”
Regardless of my love or otherwise for a head of state I am unlikely to ever face the kind of problem that led to this man’s entanglement with the law.
‘Cuddled and kissed’
I do not own a dog, have never owned one, have never been tempted to own one, and will never own a dog. Dogs just do not feature in my world.
My story, or to be accurate, my non-story about dogs has to do with the place I call my hometown, Abutia, which is a little village in the Volta Region of Ghana.
I lived with my grandmother in Abutia, between the ages of five and nine, and I never saw a dog.
I suspect that the first time was after I left Abutia as dogs are not allowed in the village, neither at that time or now.
And it was only when I left Abutia that it dawned on me that dogs can play a major role in people’s lives.
I went to San Francisco and was taken to a pet cemetery which was far, far more beautiful than any cemetery I had seen for human beings.
I met someone laying a bunch of beautiful flowers on the grave of his dog which had died five years previously. I decided I would let people have their dogs and I will keep out of their way.
Then I went to live in the United Kingdom and I discovered dogs occupied an elevated place in the lives of the natives there.
I saw dogs being cuddled and being kissed, I saw dogs licking the faces and mouths of their owners. I saw dogs lying on sofas and beds and I saw dogs being groomed in very fancy and expensive salons.
I noted that every news report about famine and unrest anywhere contained a line about a hungry dog.
I noted the frequency with which Queen Elizabeth’s corgis got mentioned.
I came close to changing my position on dogs when I got mesmerised by the guide dog of visually-impaired cabinet minister David Blunkett.
I decided I should make an effort to learn the ways of my hosts and learn about dogs.
I went to the greyhound races in Oxford with friends. It was a great outing but it did nothing for me in raising the status of dogs in my estimation.
In 1987, I became very excited when the dog belonging to someone with a Ghanaian sounding name – Chris Amoo – won the top prize at Britain’s premier canine show, Crufts, with his Afghan hound.
The next year I surreptitiously went to the Crufts show and saw dogs at their most exotic.
I tried, but I am afraid after living in the UK for 19 years I stuck firmly to my Abutia upbringing: No dogs.
Dogs just do not feature in my world.
I should state that my position and the attitude in Abutia is not universal in Ghana.
Increasingly, we have ferocious guard dogs. And there are some people here who do have pet dogs; we once had a first lady who attested to having dogs that she named Candy and Sweetie Pie.
Indeed, there are parts of Ghana where dogs are a delicacy. I make no comments about that.
But in the place where I come from, no-one has to think about a name for a dog as they do not exist there. So there is no danger I will be caught naming a dog after friend or foe.
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