Saturday, January 7, 2017

Stay Tuned

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     Star turns 11 years old this week! Her long life and good health have brought daily joy into our lives. These days she sleeps a lot more, but when it comes to walks her enthusiasm reminds me of her younger days. When dinner time rolls around she jumps off the couch, positions herself directly in front of me, and when she has my attention, she gives a fast head shake followed by a dance around the living room. if this routine doesn't bring me to my feet and into the kitchen, the dance continues around the dining table indicating her concern, Dinner Time!

Thinking it might be time to dance for dinner!
     Her contentment and peaceful spirit is contagious. Every visitor to our home receives a gentle greeting from Star. Depending upon their reaction, she then tries to sit beside them and coax them into rubbing her ears, neck and, if they are enthusiastic enough, her belly. We have been trying to tell her that we are bringing a baby brother into the house for her as a companion. Typically she ignores these comments. I believe that she has no interest in upcoming events, but remains in the moment. And for this moment, she is top dog and only dog in our household. It remains a big question mark for us thinking about how she will react to the addition of an energetic basenji pup. We are hoping for the best on this dilemma. 

     Star has been our easiest ever basenji rescue. All she ever wants is to be with her humans, enjoy being petted as much as she can get away with, and two meals per day, along with as many treats as she can cajole out of us. I know when we bring a pup home, all of this is going to change drastically. Recently my brother, Greg, and his wife, Donna, joined us for dinner. This was the first time they had come into our home and not received a boisterous greeting from Kindu. Greg always joined him on the floor and had a great wrestling and game session. Instead Star walked up to them, said hello, and retreated to her position on the couch. Polite and calm, but not what they expected after 8 years of Kindu's jumping enthusiasm when visitors arrived. It became clear for them why I kept telling them that our household is just not the same without his presence.

     Since we have experienced many transitions to our basenji pack over the years, I keep remembering that our new pup will be nothing like our Kindu boy. He will bring a whole new set of challenges and ways of acting. And because I have raised and trained many a basenji pup, I know I have to be in shape for this process because he will not slow down for me. It is said that every dog comes into your life at the time they are needed. So while I look at basenji puppy pictures on Facebook, I wonder to myself what "Red" will introduce in our lives. Kindu brought Joy, Star brought Peace, and "Red," stay tuned!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Star Taking the Lead

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     Star has learned to love the life of a single dog living in a pack with two humans. When we sit side by side on the loveseat in front of our TV, she takes up her position between the two of us. This way she is handy to both of us for all petting, scratching and massages.

     We have been so thankful that since the passing of our basenji boy, Kindu, that she has been with us to comfort, make us laugh, and require multiple daily walks. Many days as we adjusted to a new way of life, Star and her needs kept us focused on the here and now.

     She now knows how to read our body language and routines. She understands that she must ask for walks, food, and all her other needs. She doesn't twang the doorstops like Kindu did; but instead jumps up, does a basenji dance with a shake of her head, and then sits down in front of us and stares at us until she gets our attention. Mostly she contents herself by sitting in quiet companionship with us.

    Her biggest need seems to be a rather constant desire to be petted and scratched. When she decides that it is time for petting she tries to sit in a lap, the easier for reaching her ears. Sometimes she chooses to drape herself across one of us for special attention. Once she is properly positioned she turns her neck backwards and fixes her brown eyes directly at us. This is her clear signal to do our job and massage her. But most of the time she is content in the middle touching both of us at once.
Star begging for pets

     This basenji girl stays calm in almost every circumstance. Sirens, fireworks, and earthquakes barely cause her to blink. If she does get spooked by anything, she retreats to one of the three dog beds in our home. Also if she senses that we are getting ready to leave, she tries to hide in the bed hoping not to have to spend the time of our absence out on the patio.

     When she joins me on the bed we have a silly game that we play. She positions herself beside me and cranes her neck backwards to look me in the eye. She has taught me that this means she wants tummy rubs. If I do not comply quickly enough, she pulls her lips away from her teeth displaying a perfect "submissive grin." As soon as I start rubbing her tummy she relaxes and just enjoys the experience. Other times she sits beside me and places her head in my hand indicating that she wants her head petted. So many times people ask me how a basenji communicates if they cannot bark. They use many alternative ways to put their point across.
Star cuddled up with my nephew, Alex
      These days both Gary and I ask Star if she would like a puppy. She does not know what this means, so she usually ignores us when we ask. But we know that a new pup will be a challenge to both the humans and the basenji girl in our pack. We have both started a new exercise regimen to get into shape for the challenges a playful pup will present. Star thinks we are both goofy doing all this exercising, but she always just goes along with whatever happens in her life. I wish she could share in our anticipation, but on the other hand I am jealous of the contentment she always seems to feel.

Friday, September 2, 2016

A Redesigned Pack

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     Many months have passed since our basenji boy departed across the Rainbow Bridge. His collar tucked away in a drawer. And now friends and family ask me if Star is lonesome.
Star at 5 weeks old

     Since this is her first time being the sole dog in a human pack, Gary and I agree that she does seem to be lonely at times. What she doesn't object about is being the sole recipient of our attention. Kindu had such a big personality that she often stood in the background waiting for her turn. Now when we come home she runs back and forth between us trying to say hello to both of us at once.

    She accepts her role of lying between the two of us often using our computers for what would seem a very hard pillow. She has adopted the basenji habit of dancing for her dinner when she is hungry and the clock has strayed a bit past dinnertime. Her play bows are reserved for me when she is trying to get my attention to fill a dry water bowl or take her out for a walk.

     Lately I have asked Star if she wants a puppy. She has no clue what I am talking about, but I figure it is time for her to learn a new word, that is puppy. We know bringing a youngster into our home will turn our routines upside down again. Just like Kindu did. The volume of walks will go up since our habit is to escort our pups outdoors the instant after they finish eating, wake up for a nap, or show any inclination whatever that they need to go. More walks will be good for all three of us, so I am not concerned about this. House training basenji pups is usually relatively easy.

     What does worry me a bit is a pup's energy level. Gary and I are nearly a decade older than when we took on Kindu's puppy days. His challenges to us came daily, lasted all day long until he fell asleep at sunset, and were invented creatively by him to keep us on our toes. Grabbing anything for a good game of chase around the dining room table remained a lifelong favorite of that basenji boy. No matter whether it was a pot holder dangling from his mouth, a brand new cell phone, or something he scrounged from a visiting friend's purse. 
Might this boy look a bit like our new pup?

     One big question on both our minds is whether to get a male or female. We had so much fun with our boy, it is tempting to get another male. We already have tentatively named him "Red." However we know that God is in control and that the appropriate dog will be with us in His timing, just like with all of our past pets. One of the most calming messages I understood after Kindu died was that I should be thankful for the days I shared with him and for the companionship Star has provided helping to fill a large hole in our hearts.

     So we watch and we pray and we wait. Right now the answer to our prayers is to wait. And sometimes that is just about the hardest thing any basenji or their pack members must do. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mourning Dove

In June of 2015, our pack went through a great upheaval. My husband, Gary, had a knee replacement and stayed in the hospital for 18 days to recuperate and relearn how to walk with his new knee. This became the second major upset for us because in January he also had been gone for six weeks nursing his mother back to health after she had a major hemorrhage. This took a huge toll on both Star and myself, but for his little buddy, Kindu, it became devastating. Nothing I said or did consoled our little basenji boy over the loss of the daily companionship of his pop,

Kindu with his head on his favorite man's shoulder.

Ever since Kindu was about 3 months old, he went through times of great problems from his intestines. We had him tested for worms and other common ailments for pups, but about the time he was nine months old we understood he had an irritable bowel. The vet provided us with simple remedies to deal with his occasional bouts of diarrhea and vomiting. Over the years we learned how to cope and get him back on track and feeling better within a couple of days.

When 2014 turned to 2015, I found myself constantly busy with helping Gary with his mother, taking care of everything in our home on my own, and a very sick basenji boy. For the first time, Kindu's symptoms lasted longer than a few days. I found him drinking the water bowl dry many times per day. All that drinking water necessitated frequent trips outdoors with more than a couple of accidents in the house as well. Kindu cringed every time he messed up in the house and I found myself losing patience with the constant demands from so many directions.

By mid-January Kindu became even worse just as Gary and I were realizing that his mother was improving. Our basenji boy had the worst bouts of diarrhea in his 7 years and began to lose weight daily. Gary spent hours on the internet searching for remedies to help Kindu and I kept running to the store for more and more unaccustomed dog foods, like cans of pumpkin to help cleanse him of his problems. These things might help for a week or two, but pretty soon our boy declined again and the search began all over again.

We all rejoiced when Gary returned home in both February and June, but Kindu continued to struggle with what turned out to be inflammatory bowel disease. Trips to the vet led to antibiotics, special foods, pancreatic enzymes, vitamins and eventually a special diet of chicken thighs, baked potatoes (with no skins), yogurt, coconut oil and me pushing more pills down Kindu's throat than I cared to count.

By July, things were finally settling down. Gary's mother recovered and resumed her normal routine. Gary attended 3 times a week physical therapy punctuated by one or two trips to the gym daily. Kindu put on weight and began to return to his normal vibrant self. However I was exhausted to the bone and began to spend more time in bed every day with my own inflammatory bowel disease.

Gary recovered enough to begin taking on some of the daily routines I had been doing. First he took over driving himself to physical therapy. Then one very hot July afternoon he decided that he would take the dogs for their afternoon walk. I relaxed on the bed, but the length of time the 3 of them were gone became a bit worrying to me.

I became concerned that Gary's walk with the dogs went a tad bit too long. My imagination ran away with me and I envisioned Gary collapsed from the heat. Concerned I opened the front door to look for him and the basenjis. The moment the door opened, a mourning dove flew in the front door! After a swift trip around the front room checking 3 of the 4 corners, she settled on top of the still open front door. I stood, mouth agape, wondering how to release her without scaring her back into the house.

About this time, Gary returned with the pups and stood staring at the bird atop our door. The dogs decided to take matters into their paws and stepped inside, ignoring the bird far above. The door opened wider as Gary entered and at that moment she decided to take her leave. Filled with wonder, we wished we had been swift enough to capture the image. Alas, we only captured the dove in our minds' eyes. I cleaned up the gifts the terrified bird left scattered around our living room and returned to resting. Still the whole event left me feeling confused about what it had all meant.

We have lived in this condo for 7 years and I often took time to admire the big variety of birds including finches,pigeons, sparrows, tuxedo birds (my name for them), falcons, geese, seagulls, and my favorite hummingbirds. At night I listened for the bats and owls that patrol the skies after dark. Not once in all of these years had a flying creature entered our home, although once we scared a falcon off of her beheaded pigeon in the back patio.

I wondered why these doves were known as mourning doves to me and marveled while still feeling apprehensive that one had decided to visit us on that blazing hot summer day. I consoled myself that she was overheated and needed the comfort of shade, but then again...

Long story short, our sweet boy lost his battle with his illness on September 17, 2015. His final weigh in showed a scant weight of 17 pounds, 10 pounds less than normal. He tried and tried until he could no longer eat or drink and he put smiles on our faces through his dying day. He took a piece of both of our hearts with him when he left us. A special dog, a valiant fight, a mourning dove, a broken pack. We wait upon the Lord's timing for us to bring a new basenji boy home.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Finding Herself

By Linda Grupp Boutin

The first thing Star did when Gary and I returned without Kindu was to examine closely why her brother wasn't with us. A thorough sniffing told her that all we brought in with us was his collar, but no basenji boy. Impossible for me to explain to her, she had been well aware of his illness and that he wasn't doing well. She had taken to cleaning him like he was one of her puppies. At first he objected, but her persistence wore him down and he allowed her to lick his face and keep him clean. 

Star has always been one of our most fastidious basenjis, washing her face after every meal, keeping the floors clean with her own unique style of "vacuuming," trying to wash every bit of the coconut oil lotion off my hands as I let her get away with; the smell is just a bit too much like food as far as she is concerned. She is getting accustomed to being the only dog of the house. She no longer bolts down her food the second it hits the floor. She lingers over breakfast, sometimes not finishing her kibble until it's almost dinnertime.

Star looking backwards trying to convince me to pet her!

She approaches life in her own unique way, quietly, sometimes silently sitting beside me. Then turning those baby brown eyes backwards, reminding me that her ears, tummy, back, paws, face all need good and proper petting. I often wonder how in the world she can turn her neck this way without harming herself in the process. But she manages it on a daily basis. 

She enjoys moving from Gary to me, back to Gary then back to me. She relishes not fighting for the prime position next to our leg on the love seat. But she no longer enjoys long sunbaths on the patio with her best bud, Kindu. She prefers to stay in the house all day long with us, never concerning herself about the comings and goings on Flora Lane. At times Star seems to be completely bewildered having lost her compass in the form of her basenji brother.

We all are learning to live without Kindu, the life of the party. His example about how to enjoy each and every day, rejoice over the falling leaves and the singing birds, and greet every visitor with a loud BAROO. Star's calmness is unnerving  after 7 years with our boisterous boy leading the parade.

So now Gary and my conversations have turned to the subject of adding a 4th member to our pack. Basenji babies are only available in February, so stay tuned. Maybe not in 2016, but certainly by 2017 an addition to the pack is coming. After all, we need Star to train the new puppy about how to behave. Just like Kindu did for her.
Kindu on his puppy leash the first day home, ready to explore the neighborhood.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How Do You Brush a Stubborn Male Basenji's Teeth

Fig.1 C.E.T.
Note: We invited a guest blogger to provide his unique experience with brushing Basenji teeth!

By Gary Boutin

Tools and Supplies
C.E.T. Tooth paste kit 
A brave owner

One of the interesting adventures for a pet owner is to brush their teeth. After all good hygiene prevents tooth decay and bad breath. 

This post shows the seven steps on how to brush a stubborn Basenji canine teeth without getting bit.

Step 1: Fig.2 shows the logo for Direct to you PetSupply at, where I purchased the Oral hygiene product.
Step 2: Fig.3 shows C.E.T. Home Dental Care is distributed from Canada. Fig.4 shows the Canadian address.

Step 3:  Fig.5 shows the product comes with a brush, toothpaste and a finger brush. 
Fig.5 Oral Hygiene Kit
Step 4: The first step is to show that the toothpaste tastes good. Fig.6 shows the chicken toothpaste that will be introduced to our dog, Kindu. Fig.7 shows the chicken toothpaste is being smelled by Kindu.

Fig.6 Chicken Toothpaste
Fig.7 Chicken Toothpaste Introduction
Step 5: The next step is to place the chicken toothpaste on the outside of the dog's gums. Fig.8 to Fig.10 shows Linda applying the chicken toothpaste in Kindu's mouth. Notice how he is cooperating with the application. (Not really!)

Step 6:  Linda tried using the finger brush and Kindu would not cooperate. Fig.11 to Fig.13 shows more pictures that Linda used in brushing Kindu's canine teeth. He likes the toothpaste but the overall hygiene was not accomplished for this boy.
Fig.11 Brushing front teeth
Fig.12 Brushing Canine Teeth

Fig.13 Holding mouth open
Step 7: At the end all Kindu would agree to was to eat the toothpaste. Linda tried her best and she could not get this job done. Whose fault is it, it's Mine. If I had done this to Kindu when he was a puppy and brushed his teeth then, this process would have been easier and maybe a little fun for him. 

P.S. At 10 years old, all Star wants to do is eat the toothpaste--an extra meal with no brushing!
 This post was written in memory of Kindu my friendly boy Basenji!
Kindu 2015

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Monday, October 12, 2015

A Heavy Heart--Hoping for a Rainbow Bridge

By Linda Grupp Boutin

It is with the heaviest of hearts that I must share with you the loss of our dancing basenji boy, Kindu. Despite all our efforts, attempts at homemade meals and pancreatic enzymes, vitamins and digestive medicines, he lost his battle with digestive disease on September 17th. We found so many foods he just loved, for a week or two, but, in the end, despite eating, his scarred intestines could no longer absorb the nutrients required to sustain him. It turned into a long, hard grind for him to simply eat or drink. 

About a week before he crossed over the rainbow bridge, a new friend, Bridget, stopped by our house. He greeted her entrance with an enthusiastic baroo and spent most of the evening trying to steal her chair which she graciously gave him. He attended our meeting quietly waiting for it to end. This was one unique dog among dogdom. Leash snapped in place, we walked her to her car with  Star and returned home after the dogs finished their business.

Comfy for the night, he stretched his long, skinny frame beside me and I ran my fingers over his prominent rib cage recalling the many conversations over the last month between Gary and me that, "Our boy is failing." I would introduce a new food, make a fresh run to Petco for another different canned food, cook up a round of chicken thighs and baked endless array of trying to tempt our boy to eat something, anything...

During the final month we tried all we could do to restore his strength and spirit. Trips to the dog park brought happiness, but he no longer ran and played, choosing instead to stay beside us. As always his favorite place was stretched alongside one of us in the recliner or better yet for a nap in the big bed. We settled into a daily routine including cooking, feeding him, cajoling him to eat, walking him and picking up after him. Once the food reached his tummy, we hoped for the best but too often watched him endure pain from the feeding.

I weighed him frequently watching his weight fluctuate between 20-22 pounds. No matter what I tried I could not help him regain to his thin 24 pounds or robust 27. Eventually he would no longer eat twice a day anymore, but only would eat after the heat of the day late in the evening. He no longer wanted a morning drink of water and drank less and less every day. He turned up his nose one evening to all food except a hand-fed chicken thigh sitting on the floor beside him. We knew we had reached his limit and decided that the next morning to give him his release.

His final trip in the car provided him the delight of sticking his nose out the window and letting the wind brush back his ever-alert ears. I drove and Gary held his pal and little buddy on his lap, holding onto the spirit of joy and mischief that filled our home to overflowing for just 7 short years. A normal lifespan for basenjis is 12-14 years. But we knew our boy had some special challenges with his digestion along with eye issues from too much inbreeding. We always will cherish these final 9 months when Kindu worked so hard to eat and drink to please us.

It is my dearest hope that somehow God has provided a special place across a rainbow bridge for my fur babies. I am so grateful that He placed these examples of unconditional love in my life for me to emulate. I envision all the dogs of my life running through a green meadow chasing one another in circles and shaking their heads about the silly pair of humans they have shared in their pack over all these many years.

Kindu the summer before his illness took over

From my friend Linda Conger