Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Tuesday, November 26, 2002
    Here is Chuen-Yen's latest dispatch from Malawi. If you like dogs, you won't like this post:

    Greetings! Here is some Houseboy Wisdom:

    �Dogs, cats and chickens can go on the bus.But if you want to take a goat some place, you must hire a taxi.�
    -- On transportation of animals

    �I cannot wash it in your bathtub. It is a dog and you are a person.�
    -- When asked to wash Molly and Notti in the bathroom with human shampoo, instead of outside with laundry detergent

    It�s hard to be a dog in Malawi. When I took Molly and Notti for a stroll, unarmed people avoided us by crossing to the opposite side of the street. Several tentative machete-wielding field workers braved passing on the same side, though safely out of reach. A few people pointed to the dogs and mimed bites to their extremities.

    Later in the day, Gift informed me that burglars had killed a neighbor�s dog. His friend, their gardener, found the dead dog with three bloody gashes on its shoulder. Gift demonstrated the locations of the wounds and how they were most likely inflicted. He also noted that the neighbor�s two other dogs were still alive, but would probably be poisoned by thieves in the future.

    Unlike obsessive-compulsive dog pampering Americans, few Malawans understand the concept of dogs as pets. Dogs protect property and are universally mean to strangers. A few crazy foreigners are known to let them in the house, feed them table scraps and take them into town on leashes.

    With the help of several little Adventists, I bathed Molly, Notti and three unclaimed puppies yesterday. This event consumed nearly two hours, an entire bar or soap and countless liters of tepid water. To Gift�s dismay, it all occurred in the bathtub. I have never heard Gift laugh so heartily. Incredulous that anyone would share space with an animal, his response was to thoroughly disinfect the bathroom. I wonder if it�s harder to be a person or a dog in Malawi.



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