Tribute to Ngyendo this Easter

Last year in February, my partner, his brother and I went home for a weekend of rest and family love. We found that my sister's dog had had puppies, and they looked so cute all huddled up together. She said we could have one.
I had never had a dog my entire life, my sister has had all the pets at home.

When we were leaving after the blissful weekend, we decided to choose and take one puppy. There was one brown one that kept circling around my feet, rubbing his belly on my foot. We decided on that one.

Our journey was long, stopping in Bushenyi and then moving on to Kampala. We had carried some milk for the puppy but still this was his first time to not be next to his mother and to travel anywhere. But he was a resilient little fella. He madeit  home alive. Mom kept asking about him and we were just super excited to care for another life. Our whole routine changed.

After soliciting for names on facebook and elsewhere and not really liking any, we decided to name him Ngyendo, which means one of many journeys, because he had made the longest journey as a little puppy and survived it. My family liked the name because it kept them connected to us and Ngyendo connected to them.

The last six months were different. We couldn't just make plans to travel without thinking about Ngyendo. When our friend Angel lived with us, she'd look after him when we'd be gone. When Landi joined us, she'd look after him when we were away. Even Simon, my partner's personal assistant, has had his fare share of bringing Ngyendo food when we're away. Our friends have been part of his journey.

We worried about people poisoning him when dead birds started showing up in our compound. But he survived them, that little guy. He didn't just eat anything, and luckily, we had kept him away from raw meat.

The kids were first scared of him when they found him home one weekend. But with time they got around and started asking me to play with them and Ngyendo. Levi especially liked petting Ngyendo. I remember the first time Nyendo kissed his hand and he jumped off thinking he was going to bite him. I told him he had never bitten anyone and that he was just showing him a little love. After that he just kept bringing his hand and jumping up in excitement when Ngyendo kissed him, saying "he has licked my hand again!"

When we got Ngyendo a kennel, he didn't really like it. He preferred to be near us, getting some attention every now and again. The challenge was also that we couldn't put the kennel in the back yard, and Ngyendo preferred the backyard to the front yard. I think he liked playing in our garden and listening around the kitchen window while we cooked. The only thing he liked in the front yard was the plastic bottles we re-used as planters. He played with them all day long, and sometimes all night long. I think he spent a total of not more than 5 days in his kennel. I often wonder why we even made it.

Watching Ngyendo die and not being able to prevent it has been one of the worst things to happen to me. I trusted the vet, I took his word for it that Ngyendo would be fine. But perhaps I should have found another vet because this one already had missed some of Ngyendo's vaccination days. I knew the health sector was broken but somehow I expected vets to be better. I should have known better. I am responsible for not finding better service and for being gullible enough to believe the word of a vet who's always on the phone while treating our dog. I hope Ngyendo will forgive me, wherever he is.

Ngyendo played! He didn't just run around, he took every chance he got to jump on whoever cared to receive his playfulness. Recently he had started eating so much that when he refused food I could tell right away that something was terribly wrong. Ngyendo never turned down a chance to eat, play or love. He did all three without reservation.

My dad tells me that according to African traditional beliefs, when a family dog or pet or other animal dies, he or she sacrifices themselves for someone in the family. "He died in your place, and kept away whatever was going to kill you," my dad says. Even if it makes me very sad, it makes me think of him more fondly, that Nyendo would die so I wouldn't have to, yet. It seems quite unfair. But my dad reminded me that "we're all headed to death, my child. We're all going to die. That's just what it is." It's a hard truth to wrap around one's head but it is what it is. We're all dying. Some just before others. So this Easter, I'm not thinking about Jesus and whatnot, and I don't care about resurrection and all the promises that come with it. I'm thinking about death. About how sad and meaningless life is and how death reminds us that we're not going to be here forever and we might as well just get on with it and live. Live whole and play hard like Ngyendo because one day, we'll be stiff as stone, all life gone. And nothing else will matter.


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