Saturday, April 23, 2005

A Dog's Life

Yeah I'm gorgeous.JPG
Yeah I'm gorgeous.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
I guess that I could say that I know dogs. I've been breeding American Rat Terriers for over ten years now for rat hunting. Rat Terriers are more or less the American version of the Egyptian baladi dog. They were bred from a variety of working terrier breeds to produce a hardy, intelligent, loyal dog who could be trusted to guard the farm, livestock, and family of the farmer. Any dog who was too stupid not to learn to leave the chickens or sheep alone was shot, as was any one who bit a human. Veterinarians were in short supply so only the strongest survived. My working terriers are great dogs.

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 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 works with both dogs and cats. The Middle East Network for Animal Welfare has a site at The Brooke Animal Hospital ( 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.

Friday, April 22, 2005

An Interesting Egyptian News Source

Egypt Election

Every so often I Google the word "egypt" just to see what comes up and I usually like to use the Google news to get a broad view of what the world thinks is happening here. In the course of checking information on the bombing in Cairo, I ran across a site called Egypt Election Daily News. I emailed the people running it and got an answer after a day or so. Turns out to be the brainchild of an Egyptian living in London who felt that it was too hard for people to get information on Egypt that was relatively unbiassed. So he set up his own website that compiles news stories on Egypt and our neighbours and the range of articles is quite fun. You can read about our movie stars, our sports, the impact of technology on the region, all sorts of things.

I check Egypt Election every day as part of my news routine and find all varieties of interesting stories. For example, did you know that you can now email the new pope? Now that is a fascinating concept. There is something utterly unpopely about emailing the pontiff, but on the other hand, I believe that it is a healthy sign.

When my daughter was here in January she bought me a television set and arranged for me to get BBC World on cable so that I could watch the news if I wanted. Once in a while I do, but I'm much more likely to sit down for an old X-Files episode. I can get much better news coverage from the net, frankly. I mean, where else can you get the Chinese angle on events in Cairo? The old intro to the X-Files used to say "The truth is out there" and I suspect that it is somewhere. Now there is another way to look for it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A Doggone Tough Week

The Daemon Meets Margarita
The Daemon Meets Margarita, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Keeping a puppy quiet with an IV canula in her arm is not a job for the faint of heart. My current houseguest Tracy and I have spent a rough four days and nights adjusting needles, replacing Ringers Lactate and Glucose bags, and injecting antibiotics into canulas. So this morning when a suddenly recovered and starving Morgana bounded into the kitchen for the third time asking for yet another breakfast, we were delighted. As she's felt increasingly better over the day, a number of plastic bags, a pair of rubber sandals, a rope and about four plastic dog toys have fallen prey to the galumph of a newly bouncy Great Dane puppy.

We arrived home from a ride at sunset last week to hear a hideous racket from the corner of the garden just as the Dalmation and one of the rat terriers decided to take a stroll through the fields. We broke up the altercation but had to wait for the terrier to decide to come home, which he did eventually. When he finally showed up, he was stiff and not at all willing to be picked up. One of the other dogs had picked up a couple of nasty bites that needed stitching. When we called around to collect supplies and aid, we discovered that one neighbour had driven a mother and son to nearby hospitals after a pickup truck driven at ridiculous speed (we'd seen it flash past my driveway earlier) plowed into them as they sat outside their door. Another neighbour came over with some sutures and we had a quilting party with poor Harpo as the quilt.

It's pretty hard to pay attention to three gimpy dogs at once. The slightly banged-up wanderer probably got the least attention. Morgana got the most attention until this morning when Harpo's stitches had to come out and we realised that one of the wounds had gotten infected despite the antibiotic he's been taking. Off to the vet office for yet another visit. They really do think that I'm going to rent a room now.

Veterinarians are not the most highly revered doctors in Egypt on the whole. Traditionally being a doctor, lawyer, or engineer is of higher status than being a vet, which is a problem for people needing veterinary services. I have many young friends who are recently graduated veterinarians. Most of them are not in the career to make a million dollars, but the likelihood of them even making a decent living isn't always so great. A few young vets have been fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Adel Amer, an Egyptian vet who worked for almost thirty years in the United States and then opened a clinic in Maadi after retiring in Egypt. Many Egyptian vets are more concerned with protecting their client lists than they are in providing training for successors. Today one of Dr. Amer's young doctors spent a couple of hours cleaning out Harpo's infected bite.

About four hours and ten stitches later Harpo is asleep on the dog couch while Morgana has asked for an additional five meals. The rest of the pack, most of whom had been avoiding Harpo prior to the cleaning out operation, are scattered around the invalid. Both Tracy and I had noticed the change in attitude of the pack after the fight and tonight's change surprised both of us. All we could guess was that somehow the other dogs were noting and avoiding the smell of the infection. Now that it is gone, Harpo is lovable again.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Florence Nightingale Canid-style

Morgana.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
A week ago a friend of mine asked me to check out a litter of Great Dane pups to evaluate them for another friend who was looking at buying one. I went to an engineer's apartment in Heliopolis where I met an utterly lovely and charming black Dane female who was the mother of the litter. The pups were staying in an apartment nearby and when I saw Morgana I knew that it was a lost cause. I grew up with Great Danes and they are probably my favourite dogs.

I brought her home to the lunatic asylum and the poor thing was utterly flabbergasted. After living indoors all her life, she could run around in a garden, there were flowers, tortoises and other dogs to investigate. The world was amazing! But unfortunately it also included a virus that attacked her intestines and the first sign that I had to tell me I had a problem was a loss of appetite. That worried me, but when she began vomiting and got diarrhea I was really worried, despite the fact that the first thing she got when she arrived was a puppy shot against distemper, parvo and so on.

So now I have a baby Great Dane on an IV drip who has to be monitored constantly. She sleeps next to me at night and on an armchair during the day. The vets tell me that it could be okay in anywhere from 2 to 14 days. We try to feed her a bit of honey-sweetened soup every hour to help keep her strength up. It's heartbreaking work and all we can do is hope. Send healing energy for Morgana everyone.