Monday, October 12, 2009
Rory Stewart’s walk across Afghanistan three months after the Taliban’s exit from power is described in his book The Places in Between, an engrossing read that I devoured over a recent weekend. I agree with the Christian Science Monitor’s characterization of the book as “wryly humorous, intensely observant, and humanely unsentimental.”
I am interested in the people of Afghanistan, and was fascinated by Stewarts’s encounters with them, but I was even more intrigued with this book for several side issues that I have a keen interest in: primitive guard dogs and wolves.
Not long into his journey, Stewart was given a dog to accompany him – a mastiff-type guardian animal, similar in looks to what we recognize as a Turkish Kangal, with docked ears and tail, seemingly about the size of a small pony. Throughout the book, Stewart dribbles little anecdotes about the dog that I found typical of these guardian dogs and their temperament, and these finds only increased my enjoyment of the book.
Villages keep these guard dogs to protect their herds, and their people. The dogs are known as fighting dogs, because they fight wolves.
A local man who escorted Stewart through a mountainous region of Afghanistan carried a gun on the journey. When Stewart asked why, he was told: “Six months ago on that slope on my way to vaccinate some of the sheep on that hill, I came across the clothes and then the leg of a friend who had just been eaten by a wolf in the middle of the day. Two years ago, five wolves killed my neighbor at eleven in the morning.”
Our continued legal morass of wolf management in the United States is incredibly so far removed from other people, other cultures, who live with wolves.
This is the best book I’ve read in a long time.