11.10.2008

First Puppy and rare breeds

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.

11 comments:

Missy said...

LOL!!! Who ya gonna call? The Dog Whisperer? I have a friend who had gotten her basenjis ready for a walk. The phone rang, and while she was talking one ate a hole in her new couch. She has three and says the other two are sweethearts. Good post.

Deb said...

HEY B.J.,

I LOVED THE DOG STORIES. DO YOU HAVE PICTURES OF THESE PUPS. I WOULD LOVE TO SEE THEM.

YES, WE DO KNOW ABOUT PUPPIES CHEWING. EVERY DOG WE HAVE HAD OR THE BOYS HAVE HAD-- HAS CHEWED THROUGH THE SHEETROCK TO THE STUDS IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM. SLOAN IS HANDY WITH REMODELING SKILLS, SO HE HAS REPLACED THE SHEETROCK AND DOOR FRAMES FOR US 6 TIMES ALREADY IN THIS HOUSE. THAT LAUNDRY ROOM HAS BEEN THROUGH MANY PUPPIES-BABY DOLL, CODY, CHLOE,LINUS,DIESEL AND ROXIE. THANK GOODNESS, MARCIE & TAYLOR WAITED TILL THEY HAD A FENCED YARD TO GET THEIR GERMAN SHEPHERD- DAYTON.............WE DO LOVE OUR DOGS......................

CAN'T WAIT TO READ ABOUT ISAAC TOMORROW....................

I LOVE YOU, DEB

B.J. said...

Yes, Deb, I do have photos of the basenji puppies AND Cleo, but don't have any hopes of finding them in my boxes of photos. I wish you could come spend a week with me and help me get them all organized! I can think of no one with more expertise in organizing photos! There's a story behind the puppy photos. A couple of years after we moved up here, and years after Michael's death, I was cleaning out a drawer in my sideboard. I found a roll of undeveloped film, the kind used in the old Kodak Brownie camera. Mark was curious and took the film to be developed. The photos were a little faded, but fine. I remembered that Michael had made the pictures of Cleo and her puppies. Sweet, huh? I regretted not having had them developed for him. I sure wish I had had the photos this morning to go with the post, not to mention a scanner to transfer them to my 'puter. I love you, BJ

B.J. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Betty Joe said...

I had forgotten all about Cleo's escapades! Forwarded this to the girls telling them we were the only ones lucky enough to be living in the only house SEPARATING her and Patton!

By the way, I swear that Ladd Frazier trick or treated me on Halloween! The cutest little blonde boy came several times (don't know if his folks really think I didn't notice). He was wearing a dracula cloak with a white ruffled shirt and red bow tie!

bj

Anonymous said...

Hey BJ, this is Annelle, I'm sure you recall that we had a litter mate of Cleo's (actually I think you got her because we brought ours home). Senji chewed the door facing around our front door...chew marks still there 35 years later, just painted over, lol.

B.J. said...

Betty Joe: About a year before she had the litter of puppies, we thought Cleo was “in the family way.” We took her to the vet, and your mother got the biggest kick out of Michael coming over to her house and announcing, “Cleo is having a pseudo-pregnancy!” She laughed about that for years! Ladd has never forgotten coming to see with you and Betty after she moved to Nebraska. Ah, Monticello memories!

Annelle: Yes, I remember that we got Cleo because we saw your basenji first, and you told us about the guy in Natchez who had the puppies! They WERE beautiful dogs, weren’t they? Our buddy Daphne would get a kick out of this post. I will print it and mail it to John! :-) Thanks for commenting!

Frodo, the Wonder Hobbit said...

Just outside the Shire, there once lived a man named Jack Russell. He thought that Fate required him to take dominion over any creature thusly dubbed. The final straw came when the dog buried the remote control to his wide-screen TV somewhere in the back yard. Jack Russell moved away some years ago, and Frodo reminisced about him the olther day when he accidentally uncovered a TV remote. Frodo supposes the dog simply figured that the batteries were dead.

Eowyn said...

I always wondered why my neighbor had stopped raising basenjis. She hadn't come out with that "full disclosure."

I'll tell you, Border Collies are too much if you want to rest for any reason. But then to see them take off and train you with a field full of "untrained" sheep is a wonder only God should behold. There's not a minute the dog's not working with you. But if you don't know what you're doing he's the manager. He'll show you what the books are all about. Then he'll work with you, but not before you understand what it's all about. From then on, you got wings and eyes in the back of your head.

Katherine said...

Several years ago, I experienced my first-ever sheep dog trial in a breathtaking setting near here, with close-in mountains all around and a lovely stream twisting through the valley where the trial took place. I was mesmerized by the instinctive genius and cunning of each sheep dog at work. If I recall the rules correctly, it was forbidden for the dog to bite or harm any sheep. Nor was the dog owner allowed to command the dog with words. So each dog owner oversaw and guided the dog's complex herding assignments with assorted gestures and whistles only. After a couple hours of observing all this and feeling amazed by the profound skills of these astounding dogs, I had a lovely conversation with a woman scientist who was participating in the trial with her new sheep dog. Her previous sheep dog had died of old age. I asked her, "Do you really believe that the dog needs you to tell him what to do?" She replied, "It's interesting that you'd ask that. [Name of her previous dog] kept coming in third in the trials every year. Then one year, he came in first. That was after he went deaf."

Eowyn said...

Oh, it's so true. I was a new working dog owner, though I'd owned sheep for two decades. I had gone to trials, took my young dog to a traing session, had all the books, talked to seasoned professionals. You let the dog take it all in for a year or so. Then you "take him to sheep." I tried and tried and found myself amazed that nothing worked, so I gave up for a moment, and there I saw it all: He came in just at the right angle with just the right crouch, and they split and he countered them, he herded them together, and he brought them in with sheer balance of his action against their will not to be prey to it. It was heady. He worked lambs with all the gentleness of the world, let them take advantage and sniff him, etc. Then one day came and they had to mind. A lip curled, teeth were shown, eyes blazed--and they were mesmerized till they broke and joined the others. Trained to the dog. It's talent and skill not trained. The training comes with honing those skills. But Mac always knew more than I did and taught me every time. Pup from Scottish working parents.