So it was a dank and dour regular holiday afternoon in the mid 90’s when my dad’s friend and banter ally Mr Collins Ihekwoaba arrived our house with a black restful and demure puppy. Kwaba as my dad would call him was the perfect visitor in my childhood; he joked about just everything and relentlessly teased you to laughter with each remark. Yet, the funny man’s outflow and radiation of glee isn’t his most remarkable potentiality. His oracular taste for surprises made a chance of him boring you with his presence an inconceivable affair. One of those epic moments was showing up in our Egbu farm house bearing a little black mongrel who would eventually force her way in as a piece in our heart’s portrait of beautiful memories.
She was called Ebony, true to her name; she was a thoroughly black bitch with a white abdomen, collar stripe and limbs. The beautiful combination of the dominant black color and lower white patch afforded her some elegance which endeared her to many. I can’t exactly recall if it was indeed my father or Dee Kwaba who named her Ebony with excitement, but I assure you the name wasn’t an accident of excitement and its corresponding animation. My dad excelled and still excel in the uncelebrated craft of naming, and ebony though seemed simple and so obvious a name is to me a straightforward masterpiece.
So we grew fond of our dear ebony, even mum who was initially weary of pets soon became fond of our new canine responsibility. Ebony was what many people today describe as ekuke in a way to make it seem disapproving. Our society today grew the habit of keeping exceedingly big and unnecessarily aggressive dogs for the purpose of striking fright and alarm unto visitors and onlookers. But you see, Ebony and dogs of similar breed that in the past were used by hunters as hunting mates are little dogs with beautiful souls. I volunteer to break to you the news that they equally serve the same purpose for which you keep your dangerous lion; alarm you when an intruder or unknown visitor makes an attempt. But this not a story about your giant Alsatian, write that yourself.
Ebony was equally as friendly as she was aggressive, those who didn’t know her feared her, and those who she didn’t know received her snarling censure upon sight. She had a good eye and smell for friends, if you are one, she would smell you from a distance and won’t offer a bark. On the other, if you are new, you could hear her rage even without seeing you, her nose did the magic and it sometimes resulted in a chase. A chase which she will retreat from upon hearing “Ebony” in a familiar voice. I need not remind you that she is actually very quicker than your obese pet, which lends credence to her dangerousness and capacity to cause real damage if that’s what she wants. But like I said, I am not making an essay about your fat dog, in your leisure , you should do that .
Our dog was a delight to be with when happy; wagging of her tail in approval of whatever gesture you were offering or a face that will make you realize that in fact dogs do smile. Of course dogs smile but unlike their best friend man, their smiles have no hidden meanings sometimes and never pretentious, their smile means only one thing, happiness. A habit man would have considered learning had they not considered dogs simply dogs! A pity I must confess. As kids, remember Ebony hopping along when we were off for errands , she would follow in grand dedication and utter respect to the new territory. You wouldn’t have to worry about your tag along friend attacking passers -by for her intelligence afford s her the luxury to know when she has strayed beyond where her attack would be tolerated . That is why owners of this type of dog seldom own a dog chain and if they do, it is to restrain her from noising her presence around when you really desire peace and quiet . In most days when she follows you out , the curious behavior is that she abandons you at some point to pursue some important business which I presume would only be explainable by dogs , yet when you return home , you will be greeted with her presence . Have you ever walked your bulldog without a chain ? I know you haven’t tried it yet because you are not really prepared to compensate people for your dog’s bite and let’s face it , people are not interested in apologies in matters of this nature . I almost forgot , this story isn’t about your savage Pitbull, you can write that whenever you fancy .
Now let’s continue of beautiful Ebony . If you have ever owned this type of dog, you would know they come alive in the night. No matter how far their type lives, they will find her and strike a formidable friendship. And they usually entertain these visitors from distant places in the death of the night. That particular time of poor visibility for humans of which the powers of their own sights are exalted. It is commonplace to be woken up by dog noises and find 6 other unfamiliar and unexplainable dogs playing outside with yours in those darkest hours. Those fascinating rendezvous usually ended in a fight just before dawn and I have always wondered what in god’s name they disagreed about. However, it is also possible to be woken by same or similar noise only to meet the eerie sight of your dog barking or playing with nothing in particular. Legends say dogs can see spirits as an explanation for this; I believe legends only when it is about dogs. Back then, it seemed our dog and other dogs operated on complex schedules, for sometimes you would hear her visitors, sometimes you wouldn’t. And on such days that you don’t hear them, if you find yourself awake early enough, you could be on time to catch her returning from wherever it is their conference held. Even though she returns happy, she arrives with her white parts all stained and hairs showing multiple evidences of dog struggle. Even though you didn’t know where she went or what she did, you could tell it ended in the usual manner; a dog fight.
This is a fascinating habit free mongrels have, the only worry is the same worry the mother of a teenage girl who sneaks out in the night has ; one day she will return pregnant. To the dismay of my mum, ebony was knocked up a couple of times. Her puppies didn’t have so much economic value and so were not sold for fortunes; most were used as beautiful gifts to people who showed affection to them. However, Ebony having a graceful presence ensured she always beget beautiful puppies with either white, black or the crosser dominating their colors. Then we would have beautiful little blind things littered all over the house, and then they start seeing, running around , treat you with the cutest little tenor barks when visitors arrive, then they are gone. You miss then till Ebony delivers a new set and the circle repeats. We would beg mum to let us keep the puppies just because their cuteness isn’t something to let go, it would be crazy not to love them. How could she not see that ?
Yet, my mum let every one of them go every other time save for one time. Apparently my parents were getting disillusioned with the increasing regularity of Ebony’s pregnancies, they decided to keep a male puppy and move Ebony on; something had to give. The next time Ebony gave us gifts of seven puppies, all were sold to a breeder along with their mother save for two contrasting characters, the affable, good-looking Mr. Brown and the prickly Morgan. Recall I already informed you of my dad’s remarkable excellence is name giving, in Mr. Brown and Morgan was a remarkable showoff of that singular gift. Mr. Brown was an instant favorite, completely brown jolly good puppy while Morgan was the mother’s replica in appearance but with a vile temper. Mr. Brown’s geniality meant everyone wanted him, Morgan’s aggression saved and kept him with us longer, for he was supposed to be gone with the mother and others leaving only Mr.Brown behind.
On that fateful cold Saturday morning , Ebony’s soon to be new owner arrived with arrogance in his full element. Like a little black kid in the 18th century upon the sight of a notorious white captain in a slave ship, like a Biafran teenager upon the sight of Biafran soldiers searching for adolescents to beef up their regiment, Ebony retreated in tremble, her puppies following with a cacophony of tiny barks and then switched to puppy cries . According to legends, dogs have this uncanny ability to spot dog eaters and usually bark at them in fear. Again, as you would recall, I already told you I don’t believe in legends, unless it is about dogs. On that very day I felt the tremble in Ebony’s eyes, her barks and snarls sounded more like a cry than an attack, her eyes spoke more sadness than any tongue could utter, she could tell she was going. The beloved Morgan was already somewhere safe from the buyers as arranged by the sellers while the remaining little soldiers hoped relentlessly on their mother. Once Ebony was in the cage, the little ones were cake , even though their anger grew and their cries louder. One by one they were captured , but not before one last show of defiance by the brave Morgan, Morgan wasn’t crying , he was barking on top of his voice . As other puppies were being taken , he marched forward barking , he was too little a thing to be taken seriously but it was such a brave act from a one month old puppy . They ignored the little show by my dear friend, he kept barking and moving forward, until he found a space and ran inside a waiting farm bush and never came back till his adversaries were gone. And that was how we ended up with Mr. brown and Morgan, instead of Just cute little brownie Brown .
Weeks passed and they grew, the lovable Mr Brown was let go, dad gave him away to a bosom friend. Although not exactly the original blueprint, my parent’s plans inadvertently came to fruition , we got rid of all the dogs and kept a male one. And what a male dog he is, his aggression and bravery made everyone fond of him since that postponed day of reckoning and we were to live happily ever after.
But that isn’t the end of the story, Morgan was to spring one final surprise which tampered with my psyche forever . Morgan came under the attack of bugs. During that time and even now, dogs usually had one or two bugs which we picked off their skin. Morgan’s case was severe, he had a lot of them at the same time and no one knew how. Morgan became visibly sick , quiet, not energetic and sad unlike him. Mum got so worried over the little poor thing; she consulted a friend who offered her an ointment for the healing of Morgan. It was said to be so harsh that it would wipe all the bugs dead in one swoop, we were amazed at its rumored efficacy that we couldn’t wait to try it. We simply couldn’t wait to have the old Morgan back.
That night before bedtime, mum applied the healing liquid generously on Morgan’s body while we all watched with recognizable interest. We were told it would be painful to the dog but Morgan showed little or no sign of discomfort. Or may he was weak, for even if it was water being applied, he was too submissive to be alright. But we were consoled by the fact that he would be free by morning, so I went to bed already planning on how to play with Morgan in the morning. As the cock crowed in the morning, I sprang off my bed and headed outside . Called for Morgan and got no response , I was disappointed by the feeling creeping in on me , the feeling that Morgan was still sick and weak. So I searched for him while still calling his name, yet no answer. At last, I found him, under my dad’s blue 504 saloon Peugeot . Oh he is still sleeping , I thought to myself, I reached to grab and wake him, what I felt passed a shudder through me, a still lifeless Caracas. Morgan was dead! Either he died from the bug attack or the harsh remedy was too strong, he was just a 2months old puppy after all .
It was a black morning for me , it was an emotional affair for me to bury him yet it was my self given responsibility . I have over time as a kid perfected my special act of interment for we had a poultry and I always volunteered to bury any lost fowl . But Morgan’s was different , it was emotional and slow , I could have given him a mass was it within my 8 year old liberties . Yet I paid every last respect I could afford . I selected the finest of my play cartons , placed Morgan comfortably inside , lowered him into his 6 inch shallow grave , replaced the sand on it and placed a cute little cross I made from young cassava stem . Yes , I marked his grave , so long !
by Ebubechukwu Ibecheozor