I was sound asleep on a bamboo bed rubbing my muzzle into Nico’s belly and half submerged in a cotton blanket wrapped around his feet, when I heard commotion outside of the hut. It was still too cold, 3000m in the Gamo Gofa mountains in Southern Ethiopia, and I couldn’t be bothered to investigate. But I had felt a corazonado. It was going to be a bizarre day.
On the dirt road in front of our hut, hundreds of people were making their way towards the center of the village. We jumped into the stream of Dorze men, women and horses walking down the mountain. There were no dogs. I was on my own, the sole representative of my species. But I knew how to act because I’ve been in this situation before.
As we approached the village center, the tangy stench of human was suppressed by a sudden waft of the good stuff: fresh animal meat with a bitter trace of blood. Soon it became clear that we were walking into an open air slaughterhouse, and every human in a 30 miles radius was there to get their fill on beef. My canine proboscis delighted and immediately sent signals of pleasure to my doggy brain. I was no longer interested in inferior odors competing for attention. A dog’s nose is like a transistor radio and smells are stations. The dial always stops at a fresh kill site.
As I approached the first mound of flesh lying motionless on the grass, a man wielding an axe violently attacked the bull’s rib cage with contempt. I looked at Nico and Colin and perceived horror and fascination in their faces. I inhaled and exhaled the ambrosia, over and over. If a dog could overdose on the smell of raw, juicy meat, I’d have died on the spot. I felt a joyful disorder and sinful desire at the same time.
We continued. I stepped through puddles of blood and gastric juices. Hundreds of bulls and heifers dotted the landscape. The sap of life leaked from their orifices and some still twitched with hopelessness. I watched these humans wrestle a heifer to the ground, battling with her until achieving total submission. I looked at the cow and saw shock in her eye. A deep breath of resignation puffed out through her snout. They hadn’t cut her throat but she was already dead, given over to the violent greed of man. We shared an animal moment of instinct right before her throat was separated by a large knife. The smell of the butchery soon made me forget any emotion I had for the creature.
Within this large crowd of bipeds, a group of spectators followed me everywhere I went. This very annoying traveling fan club continuously blocked my views of the sweet carnage. They tried to touch me, to pull my tail, but mostly they stared at me. None of it made any sense to me. Everywhere, bloodthirsty humans wrestled with hoofed monsters using only a rope, then massacred the beasts with only a knife, and then promptly reduced the cow to a pile of steamy flesh and bone laid out on eucalyptus leaves for show. Such a spectacle is seldom seen! And still, dozens of dumb humans erroneously gazed at me, 12 kilos of black and white fur and a long tail. These morons took more photos of me than of the blood and carnage. I am not a kangaroo. I am dog.
Now and then humans sent a piece of flesh my way. I ate everything I could, nice bloody cuts of muscle, a slice of rib, or a warm piece of liver. I picked up on the scent of cow intestines, stomach, brain. Every organ in the cow was meticulously categorized and laid out for sale to the passing humans. And then a woman with enough blood on her hands to perform a transfusion threw me a chewy chunk of lung.
The humans continued with the slaughter. These poor animals. Busloads of people arrived and went straight for the piles of meat. A man picked up a hindquarter, then picked up another. Negotiating the weight of the sacrifice. Blood, debate & money.
As far as I could tell, most of the humans in Dorze were inebriated. The pungent stench of fermented honey wafted out of the shacks on the edge of the plaza. These odors fought a battle in the thin air of high altitude. I stopped to the smell the artisanal tobacco being smoked from a communal gourd. A half dozen wrinkled humans hunched over the pipe and laughed as another cow was decapitated and its blood squirted into the soil.
I followed my human companions across the killing fields into a large hall on the other side of the main road. Inside, meat eaters huddled around piles of raw meat served on metal trays. High on honey wine, they howled and cackled as they gnashed the raw meat between their ravenous jaws. The humans held knifes in their thumbed-hands and carefully sliced bite-sized pieces of meat from the pink mound of meat mountain. They dipped the morsels in hot pepper sauce before chewing them down, turning a dream into a nightmare.
I admit for once in my life, I was jealous of this hideous species, this strange way of hunting such passive beasts and the resulting feast! I know that I may never kill a bull, but I will continue to chase them and annoy them. And I know that because of my friendship with man, a small piece of the prey will always fall into my dish.