Yesterday Nico took me for the strangest walk I’ve ever been on. He usually takes me to the mountains, and I chase birds through the brush. Sometimes he leads me across glaciers, and sometimes we run over desert sandstone. Sometimes he takes me into the jungle and hairy, human-like monkeys try to pee on me. Once, he even took me to the White House to meet President Bar’k Dogbama, but yesterday was completely different from anything we’ve ever done or seen.
We woke up early, just the way I like it. After my breakfast of rice and ground beef, we walked to the center of the city. On Meskel Square, some 30,000 humans had formed a massive crowd, and for some reason they all wore the same yellow and green shirts. Becuase I was the only canine at the gathering, they took hundreds of photos of me. Needless to say, I was getting nervous.
Suddenly, Nico picked me up, stuffed me into his backpack, and in a moment’s notice he started walking. I sat there and watched. Unrelenting, frenzied people kept running by us left and right. As far as I could see, thousands were all moving in the same direction, yelling, singing and smiling.
The running-people constantly reached towards me, touching my head and saying things like “wushi wushi”. At one point, I looked up and a guy on stilts wearing a sparkling, purple suite smiled at me. Runners were weaving through his stilts, but I was still trapped in the backpack. I wanted out, I decided, and started wiggling my way up.
The crowd gradually thinned out. Nico pulled me out of the backpack. We started to run. It reminded me of a movie I saw when I was a pup, Dogzilla. Something seemed to be chasing these humans… or were the humans chasing something. I imagined a juicy rabbit running for its life, but all I could smell was human sweat and injera.
Arbitrarily, we turned left at the National Theatre. I decided we better move through the crowd to find out what we were chasing. And we kept running. Nico shouted encouraging words the whole time. “Essssse Mino, venga Mino, vaaaaamos dale Chorizo…. Ayzoooooh” and his renowned call “uuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhweeeeeeeeeee”.
The running seemed to continue forever. There were Ethiopians on all sides of the path, screaming and pointing at me as I ran by. Some had hoses and sprayed me with water. The fanatical runners themselves were very friendly and encouraging. In an instant, there were more than 20 Ethiopians behind me, barking like dogs, albeit in Amharic. They did all they could to communicate with me and let me know that they supported my kind in the Great Ethiopian Run. Even the great Haile Gebrselassie waved at me. I knew it was good ole’ Gabe because I can smell greatness.
Many of the running bipeds were surprised by my four-leggedness. When we passed them in the street, they’d jump left and right. They’d let out a slight yelp and then laugh it off, and continue to run in the same direction as before.
One particular Ethiopian stayed by my side for at least half of the run. He didn’t have an official t-shirt like the rest. He was maybe 12 years old and never drank any water. But he wasn’t going to let a dog outrun him. If nothing else, Ethiopians are proud, and they don’t mess around when it comes to long-distance running.
When we passed the slaughter house, I caught a strong whiff of goat and sheep meat, and in vain I tried to steer Nico to the fresh meatiness. Then suddenly the runners started to chant “we want cheaper meat, meat is for everyone”. They were reading my mind. This city is full of meat, but so many people can’t afford to eat it. Thank the Ethiopian Orthodox God they don’t eat dogs.
By the time we got to Meskel Flower street, I was exhausted. Nico stopped running, so we walked for a while. Throughout the crowds, we saw live music and people dancing, as well as drunken onlookers toasting the nutty runners that streamed towards the indiscernible goal.
My tongue was practically dragging on the ground when we turned onto Bole road, there was a sudden positive energetic surge infecting all these runners. I felt we were approaching some kind of paradise where humans live in spiritual commune and mutually help each other and accept dogs as equals. I thought this may be the end to worldwide competition, because by then the runners had stopped trying to pass each other.
Suddenly we were back in Meskel Square, and the runners were walking around with medals adorning their necks. When we ran under the big clock, I noticed it read: 1:24:49. I didn’t even have time to calculate what that meant in doggy time when somebody fastened a medal around my neck and patted me on the head.
The running had finally come to an end, and there was no rabbit, no paradise, no angels. All I had to show for the effort was a heavy piece of metal weighing my tired body. I climbed onto Nico’s lap and dreamed of the mountains.