KINSHASA, ZAIRE—In his greatest act of international heroism since alerting authorities of British Prime Minister John Major's fall down a deep well in 1993, "Houser," a big, lovable dog, brought peace and stability to the war-torn nation of Zaire Monday.
Once pushed to the brink of mass starvation, genocide and chaos by rebel attempts to overthrow President Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire is now a stable democracy, its warring factions united in their love for the cuddly, furry animal.
After solving the Zairian crisis, Houser wagged his big tail and barked triumphantly to the nation's once-warring factions, who laughed merrily and patted the shaggy canine on the head and back.
"He is a good boy," said Mobutu, who returned from exile to form a broad-based coalition government with rebel leader Laurent Kabila. "I love him so much." Mobutu then gave the dog what his advisors described as a "big hug."
Said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan: "Attaboy, Houser!"
Annan recalled Monday morning, when Houser came running into the U.N. intent on saving the day.
"At first, many of the diplomats were annoyed that the big dog came bounding into the General Assembly," Annan said. "The dog was running back and forth and barking very insistently."
"Houser was dripping wet," said Alexei Lukashenko of Belarus. "He was shaking himself and spraying water all over the delegates."
Austrian representative Gunter Hosch, who was delivering a speech advocating the passage of a U.N. resolution condemning human rights abuses in Honduras, paused mid-address to ask the dog, "What is it, boy?"
When the dog responded by barking even more insistently, many representatives began to make guesses as to what the dog was trying to say.
"Houser, have you been swimming in Old Man Seaver's pond again? We told you not to do that! Bad Houser!" Hosch told the dog.
The assembled delegates, unable to interpret Houser's frantic barking, were about to give up on the dog and have him removed when Angolan representative Goma Ndeti noticed he was carrying a handmade Zairian "Juju" doll in his mouth. "It was then I realized," Ndeti said, "that the water was not from Old Man Seaver's pond at all—he was wet from a swim across the Atlantic Ocean. The dog was trying to tell us something about Zaire."
Annan then put it to Houser: "Is it Zaire, boy? Is there some kind of trouble in Zaire?"
When Houser barked more loudly and at a higher pitch than before, those in attendance knew they had hit upon the right answer.
"What's that, Houser?" Annan continued. "Laurent Kabila and his rebel forces have seized much of the south and are headed toward Kinshasa? Come on, take us to them!"
According to U.N. command leader Edgar Nielsen, the dog led a 45-nation peacekeeping force to the city of Lubumbashi in Shaba Province, a key, mineral-rich region in southern Zaire which had fallen to the rebels. "It was tough keeping pace with the dog. He was so excited and running very quickly," Nielsen said. "But once we arrived in Lubumbashi, we dispersed troops and were able to bring stability to the area."
Nielsen said that for his great bravery and invaluable intelligence-gathering efforts, Houser was given a biscuit.
The dog then led troops to a badly ravaged encampment in central Zaire, where more than 500,000 Rwandan and Zairian refugees were dying of malnutrition and ebola. U.N. troops quickly airdropped medical supplies and food to the area. Nielsen noted that Houser saw to it personally that a young female dog to whom he had "taken a shine," was given a delicious bone.
Houser's owner, Tim, 10, was pleased with his dog's accomplishments in Zaire. "He's a good dog. And he's my best friend. I love him."