Twelve years ago I hired a Nubian houseboy. I had previously hired some Sudanese who robbed me blind. These, I understand , were an exception, as most Sudanese are honest people though rather lazy workers. It took me a couple of years till I finally settled on this Nubian young man. As is the case with Nubians, he was very clean, very dedicated and very respectful and very honest. Intrinsically shy, to this day he barely meets my gaze, but is always looking down or elsewhere. No, not shifty, but a sign of great respect, that is their culture.
When I first employed him I had two house dogs,
two cats in the house
and six large dogs in the garden.
He avoided the dogs like the plague. A very devout Muslim, he considered them unclean and, quite frankly I think, was a little bit afraid of these alien creatures. But he loved the cats and without my asking, started making sure that they always had water and food available. The bigger dogs in the garden scared the living daylights out of him, especially Caesar, the Alfa male.
No matter what I said he could not bring himself to see that those were very gentle, loving dogs. So I did not try to persuade him otherwise.
A couple of years into his employment I started to see a very strange development. My two house dogs loved him. My Yorky, Poochy, used to jump up and down and yap in excitement whenever my houseboy came back after his weekend. This gave me a great deal of satisfaction as it endorsed my judgement that he was a trustworthy person. Then I started noticing that his attitude towards the dogs started changing.
One day I was surprised to see him bending down to pet Cookie. My Mom’s white griffon is the gentlest creature alive. That my houseboy was actually petting her was testimony to that.
In just a few years not only did he prove his worth as a houseboy, but through his intelligence and diligence he became very adept at running the house. Matters reached a point where he took over all preparations for any function I hosted at home where I was only required to give him the number of guests, which China to bring out, the colour of the tablecloths and whether it will be indoors or in the garden.
He became a very efficient handyman, putting to rights anything that broke down in the house or garden, and even learned how to drive and doubled as my driver. So in a few years he transferred from my houseboy into my major-domo.
Over time the big dogs out in the garden started getting sick, one after the other. Every time one of them got sick I would bring her in to the kitchen, bring in her bed, and nurse her there till she got better. On seeing them individually and on their own, up close and personal, he started losing part of his fear. But still he would not get into the garden till they were all locked up.
His fear of the original six big black dogs in the garden never left him, till all that survived of them was Caesar.
When only Caesar was left, I fell in love with two golden retriever puppies, Helen and Troy.
.When I adopted them, my major-domo and two gardeners were fascinated. As babies I kept the dogs indoors full time, taking them out to the garden to do their business and for a bit of exercise, but they lived indoors. My major-domo was intrigued by them and their antics. He started getting more and more interested, then kept an eye on them so they don’t harm themselves. I knew he was hooked the day I saw him carrying Troy downstairs as he was afraid he might fall and hurt himself! From then on the transformation accelerated exponentially. With the advent of Petra, he took her in stride. They kept growing with every breath they took, but to him, in his mind, they remained the puppies he had first seen. By the time they were fully grown, he was so attached to them, and they too loved him, so he had no problem driving them anywhere. When they were a year old it was time to get them used to living in the garden. Three huge dogs in the house were too much. Also, by that time the dog of a neighbour of mine had given birth and I had committed to taking two of the eight expected puppies. These were German Shepherds. As it turned out she gave birth to only four, but I still took two, a male and a female, Max and Millie.
When I told my staff that I was getting two more dogs they were excited. More so my major-domo. Later on I found out that he was so intrigued as to go visit my neighbour to have an advanced peek at the new additions to our furry family.
With the advent of Max and Millie his love for dogs could not be denied any longer. He pampered them, he helped with their food, medication, exercise and housebreaking. Now that most dogs were half in the house and half out in the garden, he even started petting Caesar. Caesar had now become a very old gentleman and was, as always, impeccably behaved. It was a little miracle that after so many years of fearing Caesar, he was now petting him and treating him with love.
The full transformation came when one day, not long ago, Cookie had soiled herself and needed to be cleaned. I usually did that by taking her into the bathtub and cleaning her. I was not feeling well and thought I would do it the following day, but I was surprised to find her clean in the evening. He had taken her and washed her! The icing on the cake was just a couple of days ago when, on his own, he took the clippers and asked me about clipping her nails. I told him how to do it, and he did!
Not only does he cook their food for them and serve it in the different plates, noting how much each gets according to who needs to lose weight and who needs to get fattened up, but he also helps in taking them for their walks when one of the gardeners is on vacation. He even drives them to the vet, and I think is starting to think of them as his own. He is still a very devout Muslim but he no longer holds the misconception of them as being ‘unclean’.
The transformation is complete. I even think he is now reading my articles in Arabic which are part of my educational campaign about dogs. If nothing else, one convert from fearing to loving dogs is gratifying.
9 May 2016