A Wild Yellow Dog at Metsi Matsho

A wild yellow dog
We ignorantly mistook for the guardian kind
Scattered a herd of grazing goats
Across the adjacent hillside

It nipped at the stick-like hocks of a doe
Startled – she trippled over rocks
Then down into the dark ravine

Breathlessly, we watched
But could not see
What violence the impostor intended
And imagined sharp, white teeth
Ripping at her throat

Suddenly, two raggedly-clad goatherds
Crested the far hill
Like budding horns on a hircine brow
And with them came
A mingling pack of eight obedient mongrels
Swarming like flies around animal eyes
Tongues lolling and noses scenting
Then swiftly flew down into the gully

We expected yelping and a vicious brawl
But seconds later the wild yellow dog
Suddenly and silently streaked past us out of the ravine
Eyes wide, tail tucked and terrified
As the motley crew
Flushed him out and furiously gave chase

One whistle, one call
And the eight abruptly stopped
Immediately turned
As the intruder ran on out of sight
And the mud-crusted pack loped back past us
Down again into the ravine
Rejoining their masters on the other side

Their obedience fooled the herdsmen
Who moved off in search of their lost
And the safety of the others they tended

Confused, we called out to them
But race and ravine
Language and heritage
Divided us
We frantically gestured that the doe was somewhere between us
Still down in the gully’s gullet

The goatherds started to approach
But suddenly she crested our hill
Nose gashed, bleeding and flaring in fear
Then stood confused
Turning her goat-head to watch us
With one rolling orange eye

Satisfied she was safe
And that she’d spied them
They simply turned and disappeared
Expecting her to follow

She skipped the wall of our neighbour
And clipped clipped nimbly through their yard
We followed to see her escape
But found her trapped again
Wall-eyed and weary
Quietly breathing in the back courtyard
With no herders in sight

In our own gawky way
We tried to corral her out
Clumsily waving our arms and gently clucking her towards an opening
But she escaped down another alley
Leapt over that wall
Seemed to catch her bearings
Quickly skipped up the hill
And then was gone

This afternoon
A foul mist and fine drizzle set in
Shrouding the hills in white
Accompanied by a knocking wind
That still howls here at midnight
Nipping at the heels of our cottage

My companions cry out in their sleep
Beneath thick blankets
Dreaming dark visions
Of ravaging dogs in deep ravines
As I sit in the powerless pitch black
Listening to the wild wind
And wondering if the goatherds
Found the bewildered doe
Washed her wounds
And swiftly guided her and the rest
Back up the farther hill
Into to their warm, stone-rimmed ancient overhang
We’d spotted on our morning walk

Their sooty fires obscure the paintings of our early ancestors
Who also sheltered there centuries before
From prowling lions and howling winds

While herdsman huddle and dreamlessly doze
And I sit here nodding
Somewhere out there
Beneath a scraggly bush in a dark ravine
A wild, yellow dog lies curled and hungry
Tomorrow he will try again

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