Monday, January 07, 2008

« My daughter doesn’t have a dog.” I told the woman at the park entrance. The Burkinabé tend to be patient and to enjoy a good story, so segued into my request gradually -gave her some back story. “She would have liked a dog, but we got her this goat instead. It’s a nice goat and she has it all trained. It even takes walks on a leash. I wonder if it would be possible for her to bring her goat? Here to the park? To walk? Like a dog?” My weird question got a laugh out of her and she said “Sure! Bring him!” I think she would have said the same even if I had proposed bringing in a pet grizzly bear. She just wanted to see what would happen. ( I later told JP: “I like to think that the entertainment our outlandish antics provide for the locals is our way of ‘giving back’”)
That was Saturday. And Sunday afternoon found me again at the park, with the goat in the back of the station wagon. Aslan travels pretty well, though he’s never quite sure how things are going to end up. Usually, a car trip ends in a play date with his little goat friends, but occasionally it ends in a session at the veterinarian. And as the last time he went to the vet, there was a painful incident involving his privates and a pair of pliers, a person wouldn’t blame him for being a tad skittish. But when we pulled up I front of the park, I think he realized that fun was in store, because he scrambled out quite willingly and trotted along right behind Mal.

Now, JP had promised the twins that they could visit the small menagerie at the park. So, we went up to the woman that had helped us yesterday. She was still in the same spot, a small table set up in the dirt in a shaded corner. She’s in charge of selling the park entrance tickets: 100 cfa for adults and half that for kids. (100cfa is about 20 cents US). It’s a bit more to see the animals. The guide in charge of the menagerie told us not to bring the goat on our visit, as it might excite the jackals and hyenas in a “Yay! Lunch is early!” kind of way. So, Mal tied up Aslan in a shady spot with lots of dried leaves to munch on. But when she tried to leave, he started to cry. And by the time she was out of sight beyond the gate, he was screaming his head off. We kind of figured that he would eventually get distracted by the tasty food and calm down. But here’s my theory: Aslan is so well fed and pampered, that his mind is elevated to a higher plane that that of his brethren, who are concerned about where their next meal is coming from. As a result, our goat has an unusually rich emotional life. Dried leaves are as nothing to him compared to his beloved Mal, light of his goat life.
In the end, I had to go back for him. When he saw me, the intensity of his cries died down a bit, but didn’t stop. I untied him and then he quieted right down. He was a now a Goat with a Mission: Find Mal! He took off trotting towards the gate. He didn’t exactly drag on the leash, but made his wishes known. We quickly found JP and the girls, who were checking out a monkey and her funny little baby. Mom Monkey didn’t mind us humans looking at her little one, but Aslan kind of creeped her out. So, we cut our visit short and went on our walk through the park. It’s a small wilderness area that is the only untouched green space in Ouagadougou. (If you are interested in more description, check out this blog entry about the place.) It is a very popular site on the weekends, lots of people showing up to exercise pets, kids and/or themselves.
Before we arrived, JP had been sceptical, suspecting that the goat would idle, lollygag and just generally be a goat-type slacker. Instead, he cast all those other, more banal pets in the shade! He walked tirelessly right alongside Mal, completely undistracted by leaves , grasses and any other items of potential interest to goats. He was happy just to be out in the fresh air, having a nice walk with the Goddess of his little goat existence. Most people we passed mistook him for a dog and the few that did realise did double takes. He'll definitely get to go on lots more outings to the park!


david santos said...

Good text and nice photo, thank you,

Happy New Year, BurkinaMom! And best wishes for a healthy and successful 2008

babzee said...

Peanut the Mighty Maltipoo is getting his final vaccinations tomorrow, which means he'll be able to go to the Dog Park. Ah, how he would LOVE to see a goat there! We will keep our eyes peeled for anything so delightful, and lament never having known such a lovely Artiodactylum.