An African Dog and His Balls

Kachi A. Ozumba

I remember the day when two boys came and carried us away from our mother's house. One of them had a nose that reminded me of a fowl's beak while the other had the biggest head I had ever seen on a man's shoulders; which were not many anyway considering that I was just about a year old then, as was my brother.

Beak-nose carried me, pressing me to his waist with his palm under my chest, while Big-head carried my brother in like manner. Then we began the journey to the unknown destination that was to become our new home.

I found the trip quite frightening. It was my first time on the road. I had never seen so many people of different shapes and sizes. So I was uneasy throughout the expedition. Beak-nose occasionally shifted me from one arm to the other showing that he too was not quite at ease.

Finally, we approached a red gate through which we passed into a small compound that bore a green bungalow. They carried us to the backyard and yelled out to some unseen others, then dropped us gently on the ground where we were quickly surrounded by several people.

I cowered before the imposing figures staring down at us. They kept turning us around for a better inspection. Then the big fair woman among them got my heart singing when she said, "Adim get them some food," and Beak-nose moved into the house to emerge shortly with a large bowl of rice which he placed before us.

Oooh, so that's his name, I thought, as I plunged into the bowl and ate with relish.

I was christened Whiskey, while my brother was called Bobby. However, Adim came up with other pet names for us. He called me Alli-key-dog because he said my snout looked somewhat broad like that of an alligator. While he called Bobby Croco-bee-dog because his snout, he said, was narrow like that of a crocodile. He seemed to like words very much, for he even went ahead to create special zoological names for us. Mine was Allikilus Whiskilus, while Bobby's was Crocobilus Bobbilus. In time, we began to enjoy the names for they showed his fondness for us. We soon learnt to distinguish each person in the house by name. There were seven in all: Daddy, Mummy, Adim, Etim, Misan, Tope, and Tuoyo. Life was very pleasant during these first days in our new home. Everyone fawned over us.

One morning as I lay on the lawn in front of the house, basking in the warm sunlight, I could hear Daddy and his friend chatting. The friend was talking to Daddy about something he called castration, which he said would do Bobby and I a lot of good. "That's the secret behind the looks of many of the dogs you see in the movies," he enthused. "Like capons, they're castrated."

Daddy promised to invite a doctor-friend of his over for our castration.

I immediately began to wonder what such a word could mean. Soon enough, I gleaned the answer from their talk when the man affirmed that the castration was going to make us grow bigger and fatter, and look finer.

Quickly I ran to the backyard with a wagging tail and pants of joy to yelp the good news to Bobby. He looked at me uncomprehendingly because the word castration was equally new to him. So I had to ask him what else he thought could make us grow bigger, fatter and look finer if not more and better food.

Bobby barked with joy and joined me in my tail dance. We waited eagerly for the castration, expecting to find a sudden improvement in the quantity and quality of our diet. But it remained the same old drab diet of rice, beans, garri, and other leftovers with little or no meat or fish. Yet we continued to wait.

One day we were called out of our new makeshift kennel in the car garage, "Whiskeey! Bobbeey!"

We ran out to meet Daddy, Adim, and Etim with a strange man who had a balding head. I stared at the man's shimmering scalp. It was the first of its kind that I'd seen.

The bald man was staring at us while he spoke. When Daddy called him doctor, it dawned on me that he was the doctor-friend whom Daddy had invited in connection with our castration. Instantly my tail began to wag. Etim smiled smugly thinking I was acknowledging his stroking of my head.

I listened as the doctor spoke, expecting to hear some dietary recommendations such as more meat and fish being added to our diet. Instead, he just kept on talking about testicles.

Testicles? Testicles? Of course, that would also be nutritious and tasty. I had never tasted any. But whose testicles? Goat's? Cow's? Pig's? Yes, pig's. That would be tastier, especially if slightly roasted My thoughts were interrupted when Adim pushed me onto my back. He held my hind limbs apart while the doctor fingered my sack. I looked on, wondering what else they could be up to. I had already learned that men had strange ways of doing things.

After a while, I was released and Bobby was subjected to the same fondling. Then the doctor told Daddy that he could not begin with our castration since, unlike Bobby, my second testicle was yet to descend into my sack. He decided to wait until it had descended.

Ooooh, why the delay? What do our testicles have to do with our castration, with our growing fatter? Do they not know that the sooner they started us on the castration-fattening diet the better the results would be?

"In," we were commanded. We scampered off towards our garage-kennel before a deft kick could be added to the command. We lay in our kennel while I wondered when our shiny-headed doctor would return.

In the meantime our training continued.
"In!" "Out!" "Shake! "Sit!" "Jump!" I guess I cannot credit myself with much by way of intelligence because out of the many commands we were being taught, the only ones I managed to master were "In!" "Out!" and "Jump!"

I mastered "In!" and "Out!" very quickly because they were often followed by kicks. So I had to learn to run before the words had left the mouth of whoever it was that was commanding.

I also mastered "Jump!" because they used to hold a juicy piece of meat high up in the air shouting "Jump!" "Jump!" while Bobby and I jumped and jumped in a bid to grab it. But this mode of training stopped after the day when I got so desperate and managed to get Etim, who was training us that morning, to lower the juicy morsel by shortening my leaps. Then suddenly and without warning, I jumped high and grabbed the morsel, my teeth grazing his fingers in the process and making him howl in pain while I bolted away with my prize.

I also began to see other ugly sides of life in our new home. My worst bug was neither the tick nor the flea but the little toddler boy called Tuoyo. It seemed he was glad to, at last, have someone smaller than him the house. He would always seek me out wherever I was lying peacefully, and either empty his plastic cup of water on me, step on my paw or pull hard on my tail until I got incensed and gave him a mild warning bite. Then, however, he would cry out in his loudest voice—as if it had been a real bite—and his brothers would descend on me with kicks and beatings. I would then have to scamper off very fast to escape the deluge of blows.

Bobby certainly fared better. He was more docile and meek, and never growled at anyone even when incensed. But I guess someone had to make them realize that we were entitled to more respect.

The day eventually arrived when we were called out to the lawn to meet the doctor again. Our limbs were held apart as he checked and discovered that I still had one testicle, while Bobby's two were still intact. Based on that, he concluded I was the younger dog. He decided to postpone my castration again while Bobby was to begin with his right away.

Does this doctor know what he is doing at all? I am the older dog. Bobby is the younger dog, and now he is to begin the castration before me. I sat fast and resisted all attempts to send me back to the garage, bearing all their kicks until a chain was fastened round my neck and I was dragged all the way and locked in.

I ran to the garage window overlooking the lawn and, using the wall, supported myself to a standing position. But I was still not high enough to look through. So I contented myself with pricking my ears and sniffing the air in the hope that I was in a good position to hear any sound of chewing or mastication by Bobby's jaws, or at least to smell whatever choice snout-watering delicacies he was to be given. But all I heard was a muffled whine of pain. Then a prolonged silence.

After a while, the bolt on the garage door clacked open. Bobby wobbled in looking miserable. He lay down and began to lick a spot between his legs. When I looked closely, I was shocked out of my hide by what I saw: All that was left of Bobby's sack was a flattened, testicle-less fold of skin, stitched, and colored brown-black by some pungent smelling ointment!

My! I was mad! Mad!! Mad!!! Cruelty! I shouted. Savagery! Dog-abuse! How could they hope to fatten us by feeding us with our own testicles? We may be carnivores but we were certainly going to show them we were no cannibals. Bobby and I decided to inspect our meals properly thenceforth lest we gobble up any testicle-chop. How could they be so mean?

The days rolled on. Adim occasionally came into the garage with a small bottle and some wool to apply more of that pungent-smelling ointment to Bobby's wound. It always made him howl in pain, and got me praying to remain a one-testicled dog for life.

Several weeks later I was led out to meet the doctor. He told Adim and Etim to prepare me for the castration. They muzzled me, and held my limbs down while he fingered my sack. He expressed surprise that at my size—I had grown quite big then—I still had only one testicle. He turned to Daddy, who had been watching all the while, and told him it would still be better to wait a bit for the second testicle in order to avoid a situation where it would descend after the first had been removed. Daddy agreed and I was released. I raced back to the garage grateful to still feel the weight of my testicle beneath me.

Now my mind was made up. The castration was no fattening diet after all. I would try to propagate my seed before it was removed.

That night, Bobby waited with me before the locked gates from where we stared, looking out for any passing dog. We growled belligerently at the male dogs that went by. While we howled and flung ourselves at the gates with excitement as the bitches passed by, wagging their behinds at us and spreading their aphrodisiac heat-scent in the air which really took me to a fever pitch. I managed to fix a rendezvous with one who said her name was Topsy. She agreed to leave a trail that would lead to her house, which I intended to visit at the earliest opportunity.

The next morning as Daddy got into his car and was about driving through the now opened gates, I dashed out and ran as fast as my legs could take me. I turned a deaf ear to their angry calls of "Whiskey come back here! WHISKEY! ALLI-KEY!"

Etim even began to run after me. He gave up when it became clear that his two-legged speed was no match for my four-legged one.

When I was a safe distance from our house, I stopped and began searching for Topsy's trail. I found it without much difficulty and followed it to her house. She was really glad to see me. I coaxed her into following me to a nearby bush where we found undisturbed delight.

Later I accompanied her back to her house then raced home ecstatically. I waited outside the shut gates until Misan saw me and shouted, "Whiskey is back!"

Immediately, Etim ran out from the backyard holding a big stick. He waited at the ready while Misan opened the gates. As I dashed past, he lashed out with the stick and caught me on the back. I let out a sharp whine and shot like an arrow to the garage which, fortunately, was open.

Well, no pain, no gain, I consoled myself as my elation began to arise anew. I turned to Bobby and gave him a full account of my exploit while he looked on in admiration.

The day finally came when I was led out to meet the doctor for the third time. I was muzzled and held down while he fingered my still lone testicle. He swore angrily and began to unpack his instruments. But Daddy stopped him:

"Like you said before, it's not wise castrating the dog now since the other testicle may descend later, rendering the operation useless."

"It's the only way to castrate him, I tell you. Have you ever heard of a man or a dog with only one testicle? This dog has been fooling us. He's a witch-dog. He swallows his second testicle, you know, retracts it into his stomach whenever we want to check him. But when this one is removed he'll be unable to swallow the second one again then we can remove it too. That's the only way to castrate this kind of a dog."

Daddy looked unconvinced. "I think we should spare him. It's his luck. Moreover, I've been hearing a lot about him from my children. They say he's smart and daring. In other words, that he's got balls. That's the kind of trait I like in a dog. I think it would be a good idea to cross him with an Alsatian."

I scampered in quickly after being released; glad to have escaped the doctor's butchering hands.

Several years later I was led out to meet the doctor again after I had forgotten all about him. I was shocked. Had he come to see if I still swallowed my testicle? Perhaps I had not escaped the castration after all.

While I was being held down, he explained to Daddy that he had been undergoing studies, and was now professionally curious about my condition. He fingered my now enlarged testicle and exclaimed:

"Ahaa! That lone testicle has hypertrophied." Then turning to face Daddy, he continued, "This is a good example of the condition which we call a unilateral cryptorchidism." He concluded, nodding slowly with an air of accomplishment.

Well, whatever the case, he can keep his big names and spare my dear testicle.

Kachi A. Ozumba

Kachi A. Ozumba was born in Nigeria in 1972. He holds a university degree in philosophy from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, and is currently pursuing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leeds, UK. He is the author of the travel memoir: Through the Eyes of an African: Impressions of the Danish Society and the Folk High Schools. He is also one of the founders of the Nigerian Amateur Writers' Network (NAW-Net).