There were varying reactions from passersby toward Emeka as he walked his dog in the neighbourhood. The dog was a female bull-mastiff, tan coloured, bulky in stature, with a powerful, long snout through which a long tongue lolled and snarling teeth were bared. She was a very scary-looking dog, and had a fierceness to match; Emeka had appropriately named her ‘Beast’. But Beast was only a menace to strangers, and she reserved that maniacal bark and bared dentition for those faces she wasn’t familiar with. Otherwise, she was a sweetheart, to Emeka, his siblings and parents, all who lived under the same roof. She wagged her tail exuberantly and licked at their faces with her tongue and jumped about playfully like the little pup that she no longer was.
But none of these pedestrians knew that. All they saw was a monstrous animal that looked like it could snap them into two with its powerful teeth if untethered from the leash Emeka had on it. So many of them gave the man-and-dog duo a wide berth as they walked past. Some others gawked with admiration or astonishment at the dog’s impressive build. While a few others stopped Emeka to enquire about the dog’s breed and compliment its beauty; such causerie was carried out with the individual maintaining a safe distance, of course.
Emeka enjoyed the attention – the terror-filled expressions, the startled cries, the fleeting stares of appreciation and the offers to buy any puppies Beast may give birth to; he lapped it all up. That was why he opted to take Beast out on his evening walks. He didn’t mind the monotony of the exercise. And today was no different. Beast tugged at the leash, pulling him from here to there, her large, moist stub of a nose sniffing vigorously at the ground, her great paws padding the ground in a trot that could easily become a sprint if Emeka didn’t have such a tight grip on the leash. Beast led him to a cluster of bushes where she hunkered down on her behind and peed; then she darted to another corner where she sniffed crazily before squatting for her excretion. Emeka was grateful for the proliferation of vegetation that interspersed his neighbourhood; it meant that he didn’t have to clean up after the dog.
Finally, the walk was over and the two returned home. Beast was panting audibly and dribbles of saliva dripped from her gaping mouth as Emeka led her to the doghouse that had been built close to the house. He patted the dog’s sleekly-furry head and refilled her water-bowl with water from the tap. For a moment, he watched Beast as she lapped noisily at the water, the tongue tapping a beat on the liquid that made it slosh about in the bowl and over the rim onto the ground. Then she was done and looked up expectantly at Emeka.
Emeka chuckled. He knew what Beast wanted. Her food. Her feeding followed a timetable of two mealtimes, one in the morning and the other in the evening. Emeka went into the house, and in a matter of minutes, had whipped up a mishmash of tenderloins, bones and some leftovers. Beast was a big animal with a big appetite, and the plate Emeka carried back out was piled high with a plethora of different items of food. Beast sat patiently in one corner of the roomy doghouse, watching her owner with her liquid-dark eyes as he set the plate down outside the doghouse, under the shade of a garden tree planted in the compound. She waited until Emeka had stood back before rising and lumbering out to the dish. She leaned forward and started gobbling up huge chunks of the food. The teeth crunched noisily on the bones, and a guttural growl rumbled in the back of her throat as she ripped apart stubborn pieces of the meat. Several seconds after she started eating, as though realizing Emeka was still there, watching her, she looked up and fixed Emeka with the ugliest expression he’d ever seen on her face. The skin of her snout peeled back over her bared teeth, her hackles rose in a thick dark rank, and a growl rumbled through her throat, before ripping out in a threatening bark that stated clearly her displeasure with being watched while eating.
Emeka was so startled that he nearly tripped over his feet in his stumbling hurry to flee from there. His heart pounded and his face was flushed, and in that fleeting moment, he felt the terror that everyone else must feel when confronted by the sight of his dog. How quickly man’s best friend turned into man’s worst nightmare; that was the thought that fleeted through his mind as he hastened back towards the house. He glanced back quickly at the dog; Beast was still watching him. The malevolence was gone from her face but there was something still uncannily disquieting about her stillness, one which warned Emeka not to return until she was absolutely done with her dinner. And he listened to his instincts and went on into the house to start his evening chores, having learned a new lesson about the makeup of the animal he thought of as family.
-Written by Walter Ude
Twitter handle – @walt_shakes