I love my dog. Her name is Lucifer; I call her Loolies for short. Every morning I get up naked and shout out the window: “Lucifer! Stop crapping on the grass!” It’s guaranteed to freak the Catholic neighbours out.
Loolies and I are a lucky couple to be living in this, one of the older suburbs of Jo’burg, where we can walk together from the house to the main road and visit sidewalk cafés, bars and pizzerias together. The area has what some people call a “village mentality”. There are many locals and they mostly all know each other, including Loolies and myself, quite well. It’s true what they say about a dog being a man’s best friend — but please don’t get the wrong picture: I don’t wear tight shorts when I walk her, we don’t look like Gerard and Fiffy together. She’s a big dog, a pavement special, and I’m a big man, pedigreed Scotts-Irish: we look more like John Wayne and his horse.
Anyway, that’s the background. Let’s get down to the story …
It was a dark and stormy night, some time last November. Zeus was on top form, banging about in his heavens with previously unwitnessed anger. Thunder and lightning abounded, and the rain was falling like Satan in the New Testament. Loolies had later told me that she had thought that it was the end of the world (Armageddon)! It was just another lovely, God-given Highveld storm, I replied. But she’s a girl, and hard to argue with.
Loolies, even though she’s a big dog, is shit-scared of sharp, loud noises (gun shots, police sirens, construction sites, Chinese fireworks, cars backfiring … and, of course, thunder), as I understand most dogs are. Did you know that dogs can hear noises up to 60 times louder than humans do (it depends on their breed, and ours too — everything’s relative)?
I was sleeping. Loolies was outside. She sometimes chooses to sleep there, especially when it’s full moon. Perchance I had left the lounge window open, which is barred to keep the burglars at bay. She tried to find her way inside through it, and that’s when the action started.
I awoke upon hearing her cry, dashed to the lounge and found the situation desperate. She’s got a big ribcage; it was stuck on the inside end of the bars. She’s got a big arse; it was sticking outside the bars. She was stuck in between the bars. She was breathing so heavily that I couldn’t push her chest backwards, and there was no way that her arse was coming forward.
My girlfriend flipped: “She’s going to die in the window! She’s going to die in the window!” she screamed at the top of her voice. I’ve never investigated how the Catholics reacted to that.
We tried everything. I blunted all the garden tools, hacksaws, tenor-saws, pliers and even a jigsaw on those bars — to no avail. The devil was out to get us for her name-sake, and my girlfriend was behaving as though she already was possessed.
Eventually, and out of total desperation, I called that most evil (if you’re on the wrong side of course) of telephone numbers: 10 111. It was just the first number that came to mind. After some communication problems on the phone, although I did have an odd story to tell them, they directed me to the fire department.
“The fire department cannot help,” they said. What happened to those old images of firemen rescuing household tabby cats out of treetops? (They don’t do that any more!) They directed me to the emergency services.
The emergency services told me that they used to provide that sort of service; however, they don’t do it any more either. They suggested that I call the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The SPCA has a 24-hour emergency number, but on the other end of the line you’ll find the Roodepoort branch (I don’t live in Roodepoort). There they told me that they do travel to sites, “only when there is an animal that is traumatised”.
“This animal is traumatised.”
“Sorry, it’s too far away. Try to call the emergency services.”
There was a notable evil circle of mischief in the air, and I was running around it, like a fool. Subsequently my girlfriend had broken out the scotch: we downed a couple of those while soothing Loolies (still stuck in the window) with a massage.
How could it be that there are no public services in Jo’burg (Africa’s most advanced city, I’m told) that can assist an animal in distress 24/7?
I finally did it: I dialled “011 666”. There was no reply, only an eerie “beep, beep, beep”.
I thought then that maybe Satan was actually not a South African, and that I should try a more universal number. I dialled “666” straight up with no mix. To my surprise, Satan is a South African: there was a middle-aged lady with a lovely South African accent on the other end who said: “The number you have dialled does not exorcist.”
I am making some fun of this experience now, because that’s how Loolies and I deal with things: we laugh. However, at the time, it wasn’t funny.
Now please don’t get me completely wrong. All of the above, I agree, do a sterling job: the cops (I wouldn’t want to be one myself), firemen (who really are heroes, not only in America), the emergency services we could not live without; and without the SPCA many of our best friends could not live.
However, I was in need, and my dog was in need, and none of them would assist. I was somewhat surprised!
Eventually I called on the other neighbour, on the other side of us (not the Catholics). He’s a nice Dutchman from the NG Kerk with thick forearms and the mind of an engineer, and a “CA” numberplate — a capable, hands-on, classy sort of oke.
He was more than happy to help out. He stuck a car jack in between the bars and delicately wedged them open, boere-style! While he was spreading the bars, I was pulling at Lucifer. Finally, she popped out — or rather into — the house. The girlfriend commented that it was “like giving birth: pushing something so big out of something so tight”.
The one thing that I learned was that experience is that community, and participation within community, is important, because those are the people on whom you have the best chance of counting when needed. And maybe I’ll stop picking on the Catholics next door … although, maybe not.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” — Gandhi
Thanks for your time.