Lately, Willi’s attempts at biting either me or my nightvision scope have been getting so persistent that I’ve had to shove him away. And he really looks like his feelings are hurt when I do that. So I decided he needed a plastic toy to chew on as a distraction from me. Needless to say, toys are almost non-existent in this town; most kids play with old car tyres or sticks and razor sharp tin lids and so forth. And as for toys for dogs (or dog-like carnivores)… forget it. So I bought a cheap plastic comb. It was big enough to keep my hand away from his teeth and relatively tough so that it would last a few sessions of chewing.
Last night I introduced Willi to the comb and he took to it straight away. He loved chewing on the end and breaking off the teeth and it was only minutes before a couple of teeth were chewed off. He also tried to get further down the handle to where my hand was but I managed to keep him focussed on the end. Then after he’d finished and the comb was covered in hyena slobber, not wanting to have a pocket full of hyena saliva, I wiped it on his fur to clean it. Then it suddenly occurred to me to use the comb for the purpose that nature had originally intended. I started combing Willi’s fur. Any biologist will tell you that, genetically, hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs, so I started with combing under his chin, where cats like it, and boy did he enjoy that. The biting of anything was completely forgotten while he turned his head this way and that to let me comb every inch of chin. Then I started behind his ears and his back and flanks and before long Willi’s fur was all disentangled and looking clean and smooth. So for a brief time last night, before he went and rolled in some vomit, Willi was the best presented hyena in Harar, possibly in all of Africa.