When we moved to Egypt we were given a female baladi dog in Alexandria. Pepsi was one of the smartest dogs I've ever seen. She was adult when she came to us, but she settled in right away and seemed to know that the children were her mandate. She was there to play whenever they wanted and was patient with the nonsense that a four and seven year old could come up with. If we went out for the evening, the babysitter had to understand that Pepsi slept outside the children's rooms and no one, but no one, was allowed in. When someone stole her shortly after we moved to a new house in Alexandria, we were all heartbroken.
A year later a lovely baladi dog called Lackie had a litter of pups at Smouha Sporting Club and I promised the children that we would take one of them. Someone took Lackie away to a farm when the pups were about 8 weeks old and it took us a couple of days to find the pups. We couldn't find the brown one that we'd decided we wanted so we collected a white one with a black face. Once she'd been cleaned up, Milligan was an adorable ball of cream fluff with a sooty face. When we found the sister that we'd originally planned on adopting a few days later, the difference between the two dogs was horrifying. Without her mother, the pups was thin and hungry. There was no way to leave her behind, and Stella came home with us.
Stella died last month of heart failure. She was over 15 years old and had helped to raise my children. She was unfailingly gentle with people and other dogs, although in her old age she did find the active terriers a bit annoying sometimes. Her sister Milligan died about 5 years earlier from cancer of the thyroid. These two dogs were amazing individuals and important members of our family. Whenever I had to have someone in our home to do any repair work, one or both of them would station themselves near the workers and simply watch them. As long as the men did their job in that place, the dogs simply watched, but if they wanted to move around the dogs would herd them to the kitchen door.
A couple of years ago my neighbour Morad had a litter of pups over at his place. My daughter saw a lovely auburn female and decided that this was destined to be Stella's understudy. Having had Pepsi and then Stella (the name of a local beer) the new dog was called Ganja, a name that is utterly meaningless to the local population. Ganja is not as patient as Stella was, but she is constantly on guard watching the house and garden, when she isn't catching a few rays on the picnic table.
Not all baladi dogs have such a good life. These are basically feral dogs. They may be descended from someone's family pet that was tossed out in the street and managed to survive. They might be descended from the wild dogs that have lived in Egypt for centuries. Virtually every farmhouse has one or two lying about in the yard ready to warn the family of a visitor or to drive off any marauding dog or fox that might show up. The farm families might give them a crust of bread every so often but usually the dogs fend for themselves entirely. They do not, however, prey on the livestock of their own house. For reasons best known to the dogs, they choose a family and then proceed to protect the members and belongings of that family, despite the fact that they get nothing, even affection, in return. Most of them are lucky to live to be two or three years old, considering that they are never vaccinated for anything and no one has the means or the money to take them to a vet if they get sick.
The feral baladi dogs of Egypt play an important role in the ecosystems of the country. In the cities where they live in the streets, they help to dispose of garbage if it is left around. They also are major predators of rats, mice and weasels. They are also a pool for the propagation of rabies, distemper, parvo and corona viruses. They also often suffer from some utterly brutal treatment at the hands of children who have never been taught to care for or understand animals.
Associations have been formed to help the animals of Egypt who have no else to help them. One of these associations is SPARE (the Society for the Protection of Animal Rights, Egypt) which has a shelter not far from where I live. They have a website at http://sparealife.org where it can even be arranged to adopt a dog from Egypt. Imagine, you too could have your own authentic Egyptian baladi dog. Some other groups such as Animal Haven specialise in cats, while the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends http://www.animalfriends.info) works with both dogs and cats. The Middle East Network for Animal Welfare has a site at http://www.menaw.net The Brooke Animal Hospital (http://www.thebrooke.org) is there for donkeys, mules, and horses in Egypt, many of whom lead lives that would make Black Beauty blush. But then the lives of their owners isn't exactly a picnic either.