Something ridiculous happened to me last week. I had gone to town by myself to run some errands, and when I returned to the school, I found it was empty; everyone had gone. I started walking to the house when, to my complete and utter horror, I saw one of the dogs roaming the playground. I bolted to the staff common room and locked myself inside, not wanting to think about what would happen to me if the dog got a hold of me again.
I peeked out the window. The dog was still there. I realized I had two choices: spend the night in the staff common room, where I would miss dinner and surely be eaten alive by malaria-bearing mosquitos; or make a run for the house and surely be eaten alive by the wickedly vicious dogs.
I spotted a stack of broomsticks leaning against the wall and decided to make up a third choice: leave the school, walk around the corner to the house gate, which was a shorter distance to the house door, and sneak past the dogs, hoping and praying that they didn’t see and attack me, and fight them off with the broomstick if they did.
I grabbed a broomstick and stepped boldly into the hall. The dog was just walking down the corridor at the end of the hall. I froze, terrified, praying that it wouldn’t see me. The dog walked past without noticing me. That was the scariest moment... I honestly felt like I was in a horror film, trying to escape before the dinosaurs or zombies or monsters or whatever horrible creatures of the film found me. In my life’s horror story, those monstrous creatures are the dogs.
I cautiously crept forward and peeked around the corner where the dog had just gone. I didn’t see it anywhere. I made a run for the gate in the opposite direction, and let out a sigh of relief when the school’s gate clanged shut behind me. But I wasn’t in the clear yet. I still needed to get into the house somehow.
There were no dogs to be seen outside the school gate, so I set off on the five-minute walk to the front of the house, zigzagging through dirt roads, jumping across gutters, dodging the chickens and goats that wander freely in my neighborhood... carrying the broomstick the whole time! I held it horizontally at my side, and the the people I passed stared at me. I know what they were thinking; There goes the village witch!
Great! Not only am I the village witch, but I’m also the white village witch... in Ghana, how many stares does that merit? In my experience, quite a lot!
Carrying the broomstick, I really did feel like a witch! The only difference was that, if I were a real witch, I could use my broomstick to fly, and I’d fly right over those nasty dogs straight to the house, landing on the doorstep without a scratch. Actually, if I were a real witch, I could do better. I’m sure I’d know some pretty good spells and potions. Maybe I could brew a potion to poison the dogs in their sleep? Or better yet, maybe I could turn them into nice, lovable creatures, like butterflies or kittens, who would never bite me. Alas! As convenient as that would be... I’m not actually a witch. I still needed to get past the dogs without dying.
When I finally reached the house gate, I pushed it open just a crack and peeked my head inside. There were no dogs between me and the garage... but there was a dog around the corner, at the other end of the house. Oh, shit. My horror story wasn’t over yet. I calculated how fast I’d have to run to get to the garage to escape the dog if it chased me, and decided in a split second that it was now or never. I ran as fast as I could, broomstick in hand, and threw myself into the garage, slamming the door behind me. I panted heavily as I staggered to the door to the house, weak with relief. When I came to my room, I collapsed on my bed, loathing the dogs with all my being.
The dogs have kind of been ruining my life. My leg still hasn’t healed all the way from where they bit me last month. I’m starting to despair that it will never heal, that I’ll have a hole in my leg my entire life and no man will ever love me or want to marry me. Worst of all, I’m afraid to go out of the house alone when they’re around. I hate them!
And those horrible nuns always take the dogs’ side! They seem to think it’s my fault that the dogs hate me. The dogs really do hate me. They always bark at me and chase me. I think they’re racist dogs and they don’t like me because I’m white. The nuns think it’s because they can sense how scared of them I am.
When I wanted to go out today, little Sister Germaine gave me the most brilliant piece of advice: carry a big stick. The dogs are afraid of the cane, she said, so if I carry a cane, they won’t bother me. She handed me a big stick. I decided to give it a shot.
To my delight... her idea worked! Beautifully!
Two of the puppies and their mother were lounging in the school playground, and barked at me when I entered the compound... but I whipped the stick on the ground, and they stopped barking. (To be safe, I didn’t walk near them; I passed on the other side.) Later in the day, Sister Anne accompanied me to the back of the house, the dogs’ domain, but when the dogs saw the stick, they ran away. The barked at me from a comfortable distance. Oh, I was still terrified of them, but I felt so powerful with my weapon!
One of my friends in America, who has also been attacked by dogs, gave me this advice: if I don’t want to befriend them, I should make them scared of me, become the “alpha-dog.” Of course, for all this time, I had no clue how to do this... bark at them? Bite them? They have sharp teeth and I don’t... I’m scared of them. Some people have suggested I carry pepper-spray, but the problem is I don’t have a very good aim, and I have no clue where I would find pepper-spray in Ghana. But with the cane... muah-ha-ha! They’re scared of me, now! I could never cane a child, but I would have no problems whatsoever with lashing these dogs if they tried to attack me.
However... it will only work during the day. If the dogs saw me sneaking up to the house with a stick in my hand at night, they would think I was an intruder, and that would really be the end of me. So... I still hate puppies, and I’m still terrified of dogs.