Are You Paying Attention To The Little Things In Your Life?

Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things.

Vernor Vinge

This story might be offensive.

Depending on the type of dog that you are. A village dog will find this easy to relate with. While a typical town dog may find it disgusting and offensive. And so will a village dog that completely abandoned its former life. Even though I may bruise your ego or contravene your animal protection beliefs, there’s nothing personal about this story. As a matter of fact, you may help me know my unique doggy pedigree.

To be honest, I do not know what type of dog I am. All I know is that I have always loved dogs since childhood. I was a passionate village dog keeper who had mastered everything about dogs back then. I knew dog sounds for all seasons and occasions. Listening to them growl in the thick of the night, I could tell if there was an intruder in the homestead or if the moon was full. I knew when dogs were introducing each other or about to pick up a brutal fight in the day. I could tell if they were teasing or just about to have some from their howls. And when they did, boy, didn’t I love to watch them perform the dramatic act!

It is hard to be a village dog.

A dog is not just a man’s best friend in the village. It can be a friend or foe, depending on the circumstances. Let me explain this better. If the dog is yours and it is behaving well, at that moment, it becomes your friend. You talk to it. It keeps you company, runs your hunting errands, and in turn, it receives treats. It can even be free to take a nap close to you. If the same dog becomes a nuisance, it faces wrath. Usually, a sudden wild kick or hurtling from a stick or a stone. Same dog, same owner, different times.

A village dog’s life is forever uncertain. It cannot predict where it stands with anyone at any one time. It can belong to a home but live and die homeless in the same compound. It can have love and care from one family member and endure a mean hater in the same homestead. And when needed for protection, even its haters call upon its help. It is given food and shelter when a puppy. But when mature, made to live in destitution, surviving on scraps. A village dog is made to hunt and bring food to its owner but never eat the meat. The only good thing a village dog enjoys is a beautiful and powerful name like Jimmy, Bosco, Bruno, Tommy, Simba, Tiger and even Mugo ????

Dogs have been my source of many life lessons.

They taught me about choosing and loving genuinely. Back then, I was the boy who knew where the bravest and cutest puppy was in the village. I knew philandering circles of the most beautiful male dogs and where it was likely to plant the seeds of its loin. I lingered around scouting for its offspring to take home. I made kennels and provided them with tender care. I diligently fed and trained them to communicate, graze and hunt. They became my companions and playmates when pastureland turned lonely and unbearable.

Dogs upped my confidence and helped me understand courage. They gave me company and protection around the village. Because no one dared to joke around a boy with a dog or a dog with a boy. And when strangers visited our fenceless homestead with no one in sight, they desperately shouted, “Mwene! Kwina ngui?”. Meaning, “Homeowner! Do you own a dog?”. And if the dog showed up before their hopeless alert was heeded, they wildly yelled, “Mwene! Aki ya Ngai ningurio ni ngui!”. That is, “Homeowner! In God’s name, your dog is about to eat me alive!” Even the seemingly brave grownups feared the boniest of the dogs. The desperate adult shouts and cowardly drama not only cracked my ribs but made me understand how pretentious courage can be.   

Living in town got me confused about dogs.

The first thing I noticed was the difference between the dog attitudes of a villager and a townie. If a villager called another a dog, the only thing to expect was a murderous attack. Because referring to a villager as a dog is socially demeaning and verbally injurious. But in town, being called a dog was somehow cool. It meant being good at navigating the complex web of urban romance.

This got me even more confused after discovering that village dogs romanced better than their well-groomed and nourished city relatives. The townies were never confident enough to do it in broad daylight by the roadside. Neither could they display intimacy prowess synonymous with village dogs, like the hump-reverse-and-chill one that lasted forever in public places.

Dog food in town was even more confusing.

When I got a job, meat became my staple. I then vowed to never, ever chew meat from a bone. And to be able to do that, I stopped shopping from a typical African butchery where meat hangs from the roof and has five other standard features. A cow-tail fly whisk, a 10-pound steel welded machete, old faded newspapers in a heap, a balance scale that is visibly faulty, and a gigantic, standing tree stump. I said enough to deal with their mean attendants, who love to haggle endlessly about the size of the bone and pretend to be scientifically and arithmetically superior to their customers. From the way they flipped weights around the scale to how they tipped it with their fingernails. Best of all, the way they speedily ‘rewarded’ the shopper with one-and-a-half grammes of flesh carved from the bone with a sharp knife without slicing their fingers.

Truth be told, these guys have many special gifts concealed in their bloody white overcoats. Their ripped upper bodies are way superior to the musclemen minding your gym desks. They are overly talented and capable of many other things. Just look at the way they offload stuff. The way they slice bones with a slick lift of the heavy machete while spewing a hissing breath melodiously expelled from spouted lips. How they meticulously multi-task. Weighing from an uncooperative scale for one customer, counting coins for the other, and taking a new order from another. That is why no sane village man sends his wife to the butcher. Because she is unlikely to return.

I, therefore, chose to shop in upmarket butcheries.

There, I was sure of sending my wife and her coming back home. The butchers were not endowed enough to upset my happy life. Besides, meat was not just meat. It was organized into ‘cuts’ and neatly displayed in glass chillers. And most importantly, there was respect. There were no emotive arguments arising from calculating the percentage weight of bone divided by the weight of flesh minus cartilage plus fat content.

Neither were there any pseudo-intellectual lectures on the guaranteed taste of the meat. Those unsolicited lessons about meat flavours. Like where the goat came from and the types of soils in that part of the country. About how the richness of those soils nourished the thorny shrubs that the goat fed on. Before it drinks water from the well that had God-knows-what ions. And how that will influence the boiling time, tenderness, and tang of its meat. Some even request feedback after consumption.

The high-class butchery was a different experience.

One day, I found a lady being served by all the three shop attendants. I waited for a while until it was her time to leave. And all the three guys followed her, each carrying a big load of meaty stuff like steaks, ribs, and sausages. I later came to know that all that was food for her dogs. Imagine fine cuts from a classy butchery for dogs! I was distraught, not by the long wait, but by the insensitivity of town people. How could they feed dogs with quality meat in a country where everyone is working and praying hard to afford meat in a meal? For God’s sake, who in this country did not have poor, starving relatives who needed attention more than spoilt dogs?

I was mad because this woman reminded me of my ‘rich’ relatives, who enjoyed life in town, while we toiled and starved in the village. I wondered whether having pets that fed better than humans was why some of them never cared a thing about us. I hated that woman, her dogs, and all my relatives who valued pets more than us. But besides my covert hatred, she taught me that dogs did not eat leftovers in town. They never scavenged. Instead, they enjoyed planned, tasty meaty meals that they didn’t have to work for.

I also learnt that neither of the dogs is in a good place.

A town dog lacks space to express its inherent skills like hunting for food. It is deprived of the freedom to move, interact, and mate. It does not have absolute authority to guard the home and repulse at will. Instead, a town dog is over-dependent and needs to be trained on what God bestowed upon it. It requires a tutor to learn how to sit down, watch television, dance, use the toilet and flush it. A town dog lives a boring, cushy life.

But a village dog is in no better situation. It survives by the grace of God. Its life, right from conception, is a dangerous affair. Of all the disadvantages it faces, the worst is the risk of crossing a road. A dog that lives by the road starts with being careful and masters the skill of traversing over time. It becomes confident and even starts to make moves without paying much attention. And that is when it will miscalculate a single step, and its life will most likely be cut short. A small mistake ends the life of a village dog. And possibly, ending a motorist’s life too.

Life is all about the little things.

In today’s world, we are all cultured to compete and seek the big things. That makes us rise early every morning, even when it is hard. In chasing the big dream, everything starts from the point of difficulty. But with time and persistent effort, it becomes easier. Things begin to flow fast in the right direction. We stop paying attention to the tiny things that brought us the accomplishment without knowing. We start to feel that we have got the magic pill of what we have always been looking for.

Success is, however, built upon small things. Like healthy living, loving and caring relationships, spiritual nourishment, and self-care. These are the foundations of every long and happy life. These things are not accessed in a big way. Neither can they be rapidly stocked for future use. They are built and nurtured in a small way, endlessly over one’s lifetime. Meaning that, no matter how big our lives turn out to be, we should never stop paying attention to the small practices.

It pays to pay attention to small things at all points in your life.

A great life will most likely be ended by big things going wrong. Failing health, a breaking family, a business collapsing or even someone ending their own life. But what appears to be a big thing, in the end, is the result of minor things going wrong over a long time. Things don’t just suddenly happen. Things start happening a long way back, but our inattention to small things makes us oblivious of looming danger. And then one day, bang! Our world comes tumbling. And because we no longer value small, we can only imagine seeing the big reasons behind it.

Paying attention to small things does not mean that things will never go wrong. No way. The unexpected will always happen. But it may never be that serious when it does. And we will not make excuses for it. This means that the outcome will be somehow different and possibly less damaging because we will be better positioned to respond.

Just like a village dog, it is detrimental to become overconfident. Like author Gilbert K. Chesterton said, one can only see great things from the valley, but only small things from the peak. The bigger our lives become, the more we should pay attention to the little things.

Because it is the small mistakes that are likely to ruin a good life.

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Published by Kariuki Mugo

I live cherishing the outdoors, especially green, rugged and watery spaces, but still enjoy the city life. I dedicate in and cherish a family system that provides the foundation for nurturing strong, loving relationships. I trust in thriving communities that provide a better life for everyone, and I am highly committed to creating knowledge. I am a husband, a father, a friend, a development worker, and a teacher to many!

One thought on “Are You Paying Attention To The Little Things In Your Life?”

  1. Grace says:

    Amazing read as always, now am wondering what type of dog I am. #LittleThings

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