The best day of my life last year was the day Mufasa came into my life. He was sent by the universe, the very universe, to break my heart three times.
I’d gone to the back of the shared apartment complex I lived in to take my dry clothes off the wash line when I saw him. He was chained around a tree, lying prone on the grass. He did not acknowledge me. His face resting forlornly between his paws, his eyes devoid of any life, stared blankly ahead.
I walked toward him and sat by his side. He did not register my presence.
This was a dog who had given up on humans utterly. This is when my heart broke for him for the first time.
Humans make the common mistake of thinking heart breaks are reserved for losing someone. How wrong we are. Our hearts break when we meet people too. My heart broke for Mufasa and that heartbreak pulled me towards him.
I stroked his head, his back, his tail, his snout for more than half an hour without him registering me at all. Finally, he wagged his tail faintly. It was enough. I returned to my house.
He was a street dog who the apartment askari wanted to train as a guard dog, which for Mufasa, is as natural to him as breathing on one condition: he has to love you body, heart and soul. This I learned the hard way, and I betrayed him for it, may the Universe forgive me.
I listened all day as the askari beat Mufasa up, his screams echoing through the complex. The man and I already had a hostile history so life was as it should be when I finally waked down to where Mufasa was cowering, trapped against a corner of a wall, with the askari raising a short thick wooden stick to raise more blows on him.
I stood between him, Mufasa and his stupid bullying stick.
“Don’t touch my dog again,”, I told him.
“Eh?, he said, confused.
“I said, don’t touch my fucking dog again”.
He pointed the stick at me. “I’m going to beat you”, he said.
“Ha!”, I laughed. “Then at least you’ll beat someone who can fight back. Now walk away from us”.
I then dragged Mufasa out of the complex. I opened the gate and locked him out. I did not know that sometimes his brain forgot to function and that day it went away again.
I had barely settled on my sofa when I heard screaming. Mufasa’s screaming. Rushing downstairs, I was met with a sight that made me laugh. The askari was trying to beat Mufasa and get him out of the compound, and Mufasa was dodging him with the agility of a leopard.
He was looking for me.
Again, I locked him out of the gate, where neighborhood children (and the askari) started to do what Ugandans do best. Make a dog’s life miserable for fun. They threw stones at him, they surrounded him in packs pocking and beating him but he would not leave. He would run away from them and come back. He sat outside that gate and nothing would make him leave his position.
I always tell people that when they go to a shelter to adopt an animal, they should not choose the animal. They should let the animal choose them. You will know when it happens. Your heart will break.
Mufasa had chosen me. He was just waiting for me to choose him too.
Instead, I called the Uganda Society For The Protection and Care of Animals (USPCA) to rescue him, which they did. I was then ordered by my landlady to vacate the premises, which I was happy to do so seeing as Mr.Askari and I were one day going to kill each other or die trying.
I adopted Mufasa to punish him for getting me evicted. I called him Mufasa because he had the aura of a royal personage. He was a formidable looking animal and I named him as was befitting a King above dogs. He looked scary as hell, but was really a sweet giant bear.
We moved into another shared complex, and became inseparable. Mufasa would not leave my side. However much space he had to run in the public lot, he preferred to remain at the very most, three feet away from me. I became used to him leaning against me as I worked on my laptop. He always leaned against me when I was working.
Then I begun to notice some disturbing traits. He hated children. He lunged at them. He was a lot of muscle and controlling him was difficult. He knew to obey me because I’d trained him thoroughly but like I said, sometimes his brain went to Keynjojo.
One day during a walk, he blocked a child’s path and was barking at him furiously. I resolved the situation but was deeply shaken. I’d been distracting him with treats during walks when kids passed by but his hatred of them would not diminish.
Another day, I was in the house when Mufasa woke from what seemed like a dead sleep with a rough bark, a rush out of the door and my worst nightmare-the screams of children who’d entered the compound.
Soon, the steps to my house became his job to control. A milkman who used to deliver milk in peace was being refused to advance the steps with warning barks.
And then I begun to fear for myself when he one day breezed into my bedroom, which he knows is equivalent to suicide. He left the room only when he decided he’d made his point about territory being his now.
I’m not going to have territorial battles with 4 year olds whose histories I don’t know, thank you very much.
The beginning of the end was when I went to the bathroom at 1:00 am and came out to find him standing at the end of the living room. He was usually snoring, whether I was awake or not. But today he stood, very still, and stared at me. He just stared at me.
I locked myself in the bedroom, certain I was a goner. The next day I called a vet who advised that he be put down for my and other’s safety, with his unknown history and sudden aggressive and unpredictable behavior.
I called another vet to put him down. He examined Mufasa, seemed to pay close attention to how he and I related, and closed his bag up. He started laughing.
“I’m not putting this dog down. He is a happy, well trained animal. He has become over protective with you, so this is the worse place for him. If he thinks his job is to protect you from people, every tenant’s visitor is a potential enemy. He is a guard dog and all this foot traffic is driving him mad because his instinct is to chase strangers away”.
And suddenly I understood. When he entered my bedroom, he wanted to be close to me as he was when I worked in the living room. When he stared at me that time I went to the bathroom, he was begging me:
”What’s wrong? Why are you withdrawing from me and starting to keep me locked in the house? What do I need to do to get you back?”
I found Mufasa a new owner in an enclosed compound that he could control. I’ve been informed that no amount of money will convince his new owner to return him to me if I move into an enclosed house.
I don’t mind. He came into my life to get me away from that horrid askari and I came into his life to rescue him for the streets.
The world may think that I saved Mufasa, but really, Mufasa saved me with his unconditional love and fierce protection of his Mistress.
It’s been real, King, and I will love you for ever.