Much attention is being given to the choice of the new First Puppy. I would advise the new First Daddy to stay away from rare breeds and maybe go with what we used to call a “Heinz 57,” denoting an offspring of “57 varieties.”
The most beautiful dog among my many pets was a Hungarian Vizsla named “Pete.” On his official AKC papers he had six names which would have befitted a Transylvanian count. A most impressive pedigree noted for hunting skills.
My then husband, an avid bird hunter, couldn’t wait for a field trial. As he put it, when he fired the first shot, Pete “took off like Lindbergh.” Two days later, a farmer in a small town 10 miles away called to say he had Pete and demanded pay for the chickens he had killed. The pedigree came home with a backside filled with birdshot.
No amount of begging convinced the hunter that a gun-shy bird dog who couldn’t “earn his keep” could stay around as a pet. So, Pete, after vet care, was adopted for his beauty and not his instinctive “skills.”
We had lost our precious fox terrier “Peppy,” and I insisted our boys – Michael and Ladd – needed another pet. I had read them a book, “Goodbye, My Lady,” about a boy who found a rare dog. So, when the hunter got word one was available, off he went to Natchez, Mississippi, for an African basenji. Her papers proclaiming she was “Cleopatra of the Nile.” Cleo’s mother had been bred with a Texas chainsaw.
An African basenji is a beautiful little barkless dog with a corkscrew tail, a deeply wrinkled forehead and a very strange quirk. If left alone, a basenji will destroy anything in sight.
Not knowing about this trait, we left her as a puppy in our carport storeroom, where, 20 minutes later, we discovered she had chewed our freezer’s cord in half and obliterated the sheetrock flanking the door.
The pedestal of my round wooden dining table still bears deep teeth marks where Cleo chewed away chunks after being unknowingly left in the house alone.
If there’s any terror worse than an African basenji left alone, it’s an African basenji left alone while in heat. The hunter had her bred with a registered male, then built a special cage to keep her away from the amorous advances of our neighbors’ half-pit, half-English bulldog, “Patton.” Awakened by a terrible commotion, the hunter found Patton firing his artillery after Cleo had chewed a hole through the cage’s wooden floor.
None of the puppies bore any resemblance to this interloper. My best friend took one and named him “Wrinkles.” “Don’t leave him locked up alone,” I warned. Shortly thereafter, she called, “You’ve got to get over here. Stanley will be home any minute, and Wrinkles has destroyed his greenhouse!” Nothing left but dirt six inches deep on the greenhouse floor and bits of broken clay pots and greenery sticking out here and there.
Sadly, a neighbor’s daughter sent a newspaper clipping from Nebraska about an African basenji, who, left alone with an infant on a blanket, had killed the baby.
Wrinkles acquired a new metal outdoor pen. Cleo, with ample warnings, went to live with a man who had begged for her.
I acquired an interest in and a subsequent love for cats.
I keep thinking what damage Cleo would have done in the White House.