Friday, 28 October 2011

dog days are over

Sometimes when I feel that my posture is slacking and my brain is overstimulated and I have too much on my mind I will go for a walk around the neighbourhood. Now I live in suburbia, where families with 2.4 children live behind tall fences, park their two cars in the garage, go to church on Sundays, have at least one largish dog and spend their weekends braaing at their house or other friends' houses while the children swim and jump on the trampoline.

My house is situated at the foot of a slight hill, so my walking route starts by conquering the hill. After that, my thighs have worked enough and I just stroll through the neighbourhood, peering though their fences and observing what other people do. A bit like a stalker or person planning on breaking in, except that I am not a criminal.

So while I was walking around and admiring the blooming Jakarandas, a woman with two Jack Russells ran past me. She would run for 200m and then stop to catch her breath and then run for a short distance again. Basically every time I would catch up to her, she would start running again. Since every one here has a dog, my whole walk was accompanied by barking dogs.

One house had left their gate open and as soon as the lady with her Jack Russells had passed, one of the resident Jack Russells shot out from the gate in hot pursuit. Luckily its owner shouted at the thing and it ran back to the gate.

However, that was the moment I strolled past their yard and the dog ran out again to bark and growl at me. I bent down and spoke nicely to it, and it was friendlier, but then its owner came out of the yard. She was a white lady in her late 40s, with a small frame, curly blond hair and reddish lipstick. She was wearing shorts and a shirt and looked like a decent person. Then she said: "Jammer, die hond is heeltemal kleurblind." ( "Sorry, this dog is entirely colourblind")

I don't think she intended on giving me a biology lesson. I mean, I think we've all heard that most animals cannot see colour the way we can. Something to do with the rods and cones on the retina?

If I consider the woman's age and my general life experience, I have encountered a few people who trained their dogs to be overtly aggressive to black people. Don't know how one would train an animal to distinguish between people or why one would want to spend time on this racist non-sense, but then again, my dogs are deaf and sexually frustrated and welcome anyone into the house.

I can somehow still see how white people from the older generation would tell themselves that all criminals are black and that therefore their dogs will need to bark when seeing "the enemy", because that is the way they were indoctrinated to think and it is hard to change a mindset. But one of the guys that tried to break into our house once was white. Or what if the criminal is of some nondescript  origin? Crime does not choose skin colour.

I think by training your dog to hate one person, you are training it to be aggressive to all people, which could end disastrously ( for instance, what if your dog attacks your child? ).

I walked on. The jogging Jack Russells had turned somewhere. The neighbourhood's dogs kept barking. There was a black man in overalls walking in front of me, and the dogs in that street would bark when I passed, but not when he walked by.

At some house with green fencing a little black boy was playing with a little white boy.

Women were sitting on the second floor patio enjoying a glass of wine while the men were downstairs, sitting on a large log and looking at a baby in a stroller.

Two ladies were lounging on the grass on a street corner.

My old substitute headmistress walked past me. We both avoided saying hello.

An elderly man went jogging in shorts that were not appropriate for his age or his legs.

Another man on a bike was being pulled by two Huskys in tandem.

This woman is wrong. Dogs and people and children and gardens and swimming pools and friends and family and barbecues and running and walking and talking and greeting... We are all colourblind. Life here has moved past the past.

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