Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

A Doggerel for a Bitch

A Touch of Nokoko by Kofi Akumanyi

A dog is not called man's best friend for nothing. Throughout the ages, the whole world over, this animal has proved to be a creature whose devotion to man is total which is the reason why I suppose, some people are so sentimental about the four-legged domestic pet.

Take the recent much publicised case of Hattie and Honeybun, the mongrel bitch and rabbit belonging to the family of former British Ambassador in Libya, for instance. Only those of us who own pets can understand the pain, yes, the absolute torture of the soul we suffer in such circumstances under which the animals were abandoned.

For those who missed the scenario, this is what happened. In the middle of all the fire and fury over the shooting of PC Yvonne Fletcher by a Libyan gunman at St James Square, the nerve-racking diplomatic wranglings over the evacuation schedule of both the Libyans under siege and the British diplomatic staff in Tripoli, and the eventual relief of leaving that country without any untoward incidents that might have escalated the mounting confrontation, The Mail on Sunday published what is referred to as "a human story" in the whole unfortunate business about the abandoned pets.


The newspaper played up the feeling of the public about the two pets that had been abandoned by the Ambassador in Tripoli to their own devices in those horrible circumstances and after the public joined in the outcry, Honeybun the rabbit was flown back into Britain into quarantine, the cost having been borne by the paper.

Mrs Julia Miles, the Ambassador's wife, apparently didn't share the newspaper's enthusiasm and concern for Honeybun and put her foot into a nice rabbit stew when she said "if I had known the fuss over Honeybun I'd have eaten the damned thing". The public anger knew no bounds.

Now, according to the same paper, Hattie the mongrel bitch just last weekend got a new mistress in the person of Princess Antoinette of Monaco, the sister of Prince Rainier, the ruler of the principality. The Princess who happens to be vice-President of the British National Dog Owners' Association offered to give Hattie a home "if it is felt that Hattie would be safer out of Libya..." So ended the saga of Honey bun and Hattie, the last to evacuate the British Ambassador's premises.

Hattie's story brings to mind another incident that has a similar fairy tale ring. I once had a dog I named Bongas, a bitch pup I purchased many years ago. As it was my very first pet, I was determined to train it to become part of the family. From the very first day, Bongas and I did not appear to be on the same wavelength on training methods because whatever I did by way of correction he appeared to be determined to do what his forebears had done in the wilderness.

After employing a few traditional and rather unorthodox methods to teach him to do the right things at the right places, the puppy developed a certain attitude towards me which I can only describe as negative. My wife, always the one to bring sobering influences on explosive situations in the home, wisely grabbed the matter from my hands before it deteriorated beyond repair and took over the training of Bongas.

I did not need any persuasion. The arrangement remained that way for a couple of years without Bongas ever showing signs of having forgiven or forgotten. Many friends often remarked how Bongas got on with everybody - even strangers - but me.

Then Bongas fell sick. I first noticed, or was rather told that she had been refusing to eat her meals for two days so it became necessary to take her to the Vet. How do you entice someone who did not like you into your car? That tricky problem was solved with the help of a dog chain and a little persuasion from the children.

Now, the real showdown began at the Vet's where I had to join a queue of other dog owners holding all types of dogs without any problems whatsoever. Bongas refused to come out of the car, much to my embarrassment as the other dog owners around looked at me with suspicion as if to say 'these are the people who give dogs bad names and hang them".

One of them unable to bear the scene any longer approached me and asked: "Whose dog is this?"

"Mine of course, what did you think?" I asked, instantly annoyed.

"No offence meant, but I was wondering why he refuses to respond to you".

"Do you mind asking her? I've been talking to her for over a year but she doesn't seem to understand me"

"What did you do to her, then?" the man wanted to know.

"Do to her? What do you mean? You want to get me into trouble with the RSPCA or something? This bitch here is well trained, it's only probably because she is sick".

"O.K., let's see you bring her out of the car without a struggle", said the self-appointed RSPCA man. Bongas must have sensed what was going on because she flashed her teeth in what I thought to be a wide smile of approval. I swore silently.

"Come on Bongas", I said coaxingly. "Be a good girl, please, and show this man that you can wag your beautiful tail, would you?"


With that the dog looked left and right and with a frightening yell from the back seat of the car which surprised the on-lookers, leapt right over my head, whereupon the leash snapped free from her collar and she disappeared down the road in a cloud of dust.

Everybody said she would come back so I should just wait patiently, which statement coming from experienced dog owners, calmed me somewhat. However, after two hours of waiting I decided to look around fearing that she might get lost permanently. After a fruitless search, I left instructions with the Vet's attendants to keep her for me in case she returned later and paid them handsomely for the trouble. I checked daily, then weekly and then monthly but Bongas never returned.

That was eight years ago and I am still waiting for a newspaper to find her and return her to me. Better still if she has been adopted by a kind princess, all well and good. Bongas would then have moved up in life albeit through the back door.

Wherever she may be, this doggerel is in her memory:

My dear good old Bongas,
You, who never accepted rules,
Behaving like a doubting Thomas
Only to find that life is cruel

talking drums 1984-05-28 Cameroon executions - Buhari - Ghana's PDC-WDCs