Well it finally happened. I swore it wouldn’t, but now like many other Peace Corps Volunteer bloggers, we have devolved into posting photos of cute animals.
Just as some background, animals are not treated the same in Namibia as in the United States or other developed countries. Our first exposure to this was at our host family’s house in Okahandja where the family dogs never seemed to have access to food or water. Somehow they survived, but the tiny puppies that one of the dogs had did not, probably due to the fact that the mother was not getting enough food or water to be able to nurse them. In every town, you will see starving stray dogs roaming the streets. 50% of the population in Namibia lives on under USD$2 per day so you can see how feeding animals would be a lower priority when people barely have enough money to feed themselves. Other cultural issues also come into play, such as a reluctance to neuter male dogs even in the rare case where income is high enough and access to such a service is available. Hopefully this will change in the future as the country develops, but there are still many unwanted dogs and cats who are not cared for, especially in a large town such as Rundu. These are some stories of luckier animals.
This is the only Peace Corps pet we really “wanted.” Ocho, named for the color pattern on her side that looks like an ‘8’, has been passed down from volunteer to volunteer ever since Group 26 (we are Group 38). We took over the tradition of Ocho from Gio (Group 34) who preceded us in Rundu. She was spayed at some point so she can’t have kittens, but she does go into heat regularly. Ocho also enjoys sleeping, disappearing for days at a time, meowing for wet cat food that she rarely gets, and hissing at the puppy we now care for. Without exception, Ocho is not a fan of any other animal shown below. We hope to pass Ocho onto another Peace Corps Volunteer when we leave to continue the tradition!
In March 2014, We heard some noise outside and thought it was a bird at first, but it turned out it was a tiny black kitten in distress. She was sniffing around our trash pit and was a little small to be on her own but in pretty good shape otherwise. We finally got her to eat some food and the image above is her sleeping on Lisa’s backpack on her first night in our flat. Learn the rest of the Adwoa story here from our Peace Corps daughter, Mary Grace.
Pavarotti was another kitten rescue. Our friend Thania, who is a true animal rescuer and operates the Rundu SPCA, heard Pavarotti outside and brought him in. We didn’t really want to take on another kitten at that point, and once it was clear that Pavarotti could not digest cat food, he was placed with a wet nurse cat at the SPCA. The last we heard, he is doing well and still enjoys meowing loudly.
We can’t take credit for this last rescue. We left for our trip back to the U.S. last May for Lisa’s brother’s wedding for about two weeks. On our way back to Namibia, our Peace Corps daughter informed us that Adowa, who was always on the lookout for new friends, must have met this kitten and invited her over for all you can eat cat food buffets. Burglar was half-feral at that time so we had to get her out from behind furniture which caused her to run outside, and then we lured her back in with a bowl of food. We fostered Burglar for about a month before another Peace Corps Volunteer adopted her. Now known as “Burger”, she is happily living on a homestead about 15km west of Rundu.
In November, when I came home from a weekend away to find a very small puppy greeting me, I thought “oh no.” Sure enough, our neighbor had picked up a puppy from its mother much too young and was not really caring for it. Due to the time requirements (and drool), we never really wanted a puppy. This adoption was not intended from the start, but sometimes animals literally just show up on your doorstep. We didn’t even feed Deanna at first, she just kept coming around us for the attention.
She was named Deanna by our neighbor and so that is the name that stuck. She followed us all over, and we even took her to the vet to get treatment when she was very sick. We had seen enough puppies die in Namibia so we couldn’t just let this one remain neglected. When we traveled in December, we left food with the neighbor to feed her, but we could tell she was still very underfed when we got back.
Since then, Deanna has been around everyday and it has been fun to have an enthusiastic greeter when I get home home from work. Due to our planned trip after we leave Namibia, we can’t take Deanna back to the U.S., but we think we have located a nice Namibian family who will take her in. She is good at basic commands such as Sit and Come, but I need to work with her more over the next couple of months to make sure she is calm with small kids.
***Animals of Rundu, please note that we are leaving Namibia in three months as our Peace Corps service is nearly complete. The Shusko Adoption Center is not accepting any new applicants at this time.***