Thursday, December 27, 2012

Basenji Discipline

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     In less than two weeks, we will celebrate the first anniversary of Star's arrival in our household. Over the last year, she enjoyed the retired show dog life, no shows, no puppies, just one slightly eccentric basenji boy to keep in line. At first, she experienced a lot of culture shock. She met other people and dogs on our walks together. She watched Kindu yodel greetings while she had been hushed her whole life. Life's changes left her stunned and confused much of the time.
     One of the first problems we had to address was her inappropriate nipping if someone surprised her. Sometimes all a person had to do was pet her the wrong way and she might fall apart. She had spent much of her life outdoors isolated from other people and dogs and she found integrating in a pack of two humans and one very spoiled basenji boy troubling. Two things calmed her during these challenging early days: resting outdoors on the back patio or sleeping in the safety of her dog crate.
     As time passed Star learned the routine around our house. First thing every morning included a walk around the block with Kindu. During the warm days of spring and summer, she went outdoors to rest on the patio after breakfast, but as the days grew shorter at the end of the year a nap between her humans suited her just fine. Breakfast slowly grew later and later in the day until she learned her big meal of the day arrived after 3 each afternoon followed by another walk. As the sun set, she joined the pack in the living room at first in her own personal dog bed. Eventually she was invited to join the rest of us on the couch.
     For Kindu it has been a year of transition too, much of which he has disapproved. When two dogs reside in a household, nobody gets quite as spoiled as they used to be. Behavioral expectations have increased for our boy. Star wanted to get in the middle of every game, so he plays less and sleeps more. However one of his favorite activities, watching out the front window to see what's going on outdoors, still remains a prime use of his time. Star still doesn't understand the appeal of watching out the window, she is content to take a nap and let the whole world walk by.
     In those first months, I never let the two dogs alone together. I feared a fight might develop and one of them would be hurt. In time, Kindu began to ask to join Star on the back patio for sunbathing together. I monitored their interactions carefully watching for signs of aggression. Interestingly the one place they rarely disagree is outside in the sunshine. I guess there are enough California sunrays to satisfy both of their desires. After 6 months of no outside fights, we dared to leave them both together on the patio when we went out. The first couple of times I felt sure I'd be rushing one or both of them to the vet for stitches, but thankfully they teamed up out there and just kept an eye on the back gate.
     Discipline at our house has tightened up and both dogs are expected to listen up when we ask them too, but mostly we are a happy and healthy pack together. Star still looks confused at times and doesn't really understand at all what all this Christmas fuss has been about. Trees in the house, visitors at the door, all these and more have stretched this basenji girl's patience a bit, but it's been really fun spoiling her a bit while providing her a more relaxed life. She will celebrate her 8th birthday in early January, next week, and I wonder what 2013 will bring to us and our little basenji pack.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop's Home

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     Kindu and I played tag today. On a rainy day, the dogs slept, bored on the couch; no sunshine, no sunbaths, no interesting comings and goings to watch on Flora Lane. So I decided to see what the two of them would do if I got down on all fours and started playing with their toys. Naps ceased as soon as I moved and curiosity finally compelled our basenji boy to come down and investigate what I was up to by his stuff.
     As soon as he approached I batted one of his tennis balls at him. He reflexively pushed it back in my direction. Hoping for a game, I sent it back in his direction. And typical of his breed, now that he knew what I was doing, he chose to let the ball roll right past him. Meantime Star watched attentively, ears forward and eyes alert. She decided it was best to sit still and see what happened next. Kindu had decided the ball game was over though.
     He retreated back up onto the couch and I gave up on the floor play and began to chase him, the one game Kindu has never been able to resist. At first, he ran around the dining table quickly getting away from my reach. Then he positioned himself at the opposite end of the table from where I stood. Now I moved just one foot slowly and he kept himself exactly opposite again.
     We continued playing and Star could not help but sit up and take notice. She is still trying to figure out these human to dog games. They make no sense to her in her experience. She understands how to play dog to dog. She play bows to Kindu, but he doesn't seem to understand how she wants to play. In honesty, the only game she only seems to play is run as fast as possible around the house. He has longer legs, but she can turn faster corners. She almost always beats Kindu at chase. But on those occasions when he bests her, he grabs her by the scruff of the neck and she doesn't like that much. It motivates her to run faster the next time.
     Usually dogs seem to communicate just fine with one another, but these two just don't seem to get each other. Kindu acts like a sulky little brother whose sister Star has cooties that he can't stand. Most of the time in the house it is reasonably peaceful between them. Out on the patio they actually seem to enjoy one another's company. All except when Gary comes home in the evening. Then basenji dervish craziness comes out. They tear around the house seeing who can beat whom to the garage door. When it doesn't open fast enough Star whimpers and Kindu chuffs his unhappiness, then they chase each other around the house and dining table circling back to the door hoping for it to open.
     When Gary steps in, the rejoicing begins. Their "Pop" is home and his welcome makes them nearly burst with excitement. He greets them, trying to give them both some attention. But we all four know that Boo is his boy and best buddy. He crowds through their combined legs to set his stuff down on the counter to free up his hands. Petting their ears cements the deal and all are happy again.
     Their unconditional love of their master and effusive pleasure at his appearance always makes me smile. They don't think twice or worry that someone will laugh at their antics. They have just one thing in mind, welcoming their master back into the pack. The joyous reunion makes their day and Gary's too. My more restrained greeting, all too human, can't compare no matter how much I missed my husband that day. But they have taught me to let the people that I care about know that I care about them. They remind me that no one's days are assured and we all better keep our relationships in order every day.
     So how about you? Who do you need to run around the house and jump up and down to say hello to them and that you love them? Take a cue from your little basenji buddies and let those whom you love know that you love them. Go ahead, pick up the phone, give them a call and re-cement your relationship. You'll be surprised how much it will make you feel like wagging your curly tail.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Discovering the Mirror

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     In the last couple of months Star learned about the mirrors surrounding her. While living her first 7 years outdoors, she had little opportunity to discover her reflection. However, if you are going to be a good and proper "Diva," then sooner or later you must take the occasional glance at yourself just to make sure your hair is correctly styled, or maybe in Star's case, your curly tail still has it's bounce.
     She first noticed that other basenji in the house in the mirror in the closet. She followed me in to retrieve the laundry for the washing machine and there she was; giving herself a close examination in the mirror near the door. Hmmm, Star did not really like finding another dog in her house, so I moved the mirror out of sight. Now though she was on the hunt and next she discovered that other dog in the mirror in the headboard of the bed. Yikes, that one was close, but she could detect no scent. She tried to look behind the mirror, but with no real access, I settled her down by turning off the light. No light, no reflection.
     Being a thoroughly observant girl, next she found herself in the mirror in the bathroom above the vanity. Her hackles rose and now I was getting pretty fed up with her overreacting to her own reflection. I sat closely beside her so she could see me as well as the strange dog in the mirror. Now that was confusing! I tried moving various parts of her body so she could see the dog doing the same motions in the mirror. Still she intently stared at that other dog, conveying her complete disdain about it sitting so nearby. Eventually she curled up beside me, closed her eyes and gave up at glaring at herself.
     I recall when I first brought her 5-year-old mother, Noelle, home to our house. She hated the floor to ceiling mirrored closet doors that dominated our upstairs bathroom. After a prolonged amount of staring and fussing over the dogs she saw in the mirror, I resorted to decorating the doors with white Christmas foam for windows until she became accustomed to her new indoor lifestyle.
     We all go through these occasional adjustments to our perceptions. Something drastic in our life might change or maybe we're just stuck doing the same old things over and over. Whatever the motivation, we decide to change our way of looking at the world, adopt a more positive attitude or undertake a challenge to break up the routine. And sometimes when we are truly blessed that fundamental choice to change makes all the difference. My wish for you on this All Hallow's Eve is that you find a new way of looking at the world and that it makes a change for the positive in your life! Dare to peek into that mirror and see what you might discover.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Talkative Basenji Boy

By Linda Boutin

     I joined The Basenji Community: today. They asked me to link up and it makes sense having enjoyed the company of this unique breed for my whole life. I used to think that I understood basenji vocalizations very well. However lately Kindu has proved to me that most of my dogs, primarily females, barely scratched the tip of the sounds they are capable of making.
Kindu walking near our home

     Lately when my basenji boy is surprised he releases an involuntary woof. One single bark which causes him to turn around and look behind himself to see who is barking in his house. He's never quick enough to catch the culprit at it, especially since the sound emanates from his own throat.

     Kindu always surprises us when we are out on walks and he decides to let out a full-throated BARROOOO. And not just for us either, he uses this technique to gain the attention of other walkers who show the slightest interest in him. It's his way of saying, "Hello, how are ya? Watcha doin?" He has a pretty good vocabulary for a dog! Often this gains him a reward of petting from the new person he's just met.

     Just yesterday he spoke up when we were all walking together. Star and I led the way with Gary's mom following us girls. Next came Kindu straining to get to the front with Gary holding him back keeping him from tripping anyone. Our boy disagreed with this arrangement and BARROOOOED at me to slow down and let himself and his man lead the way. We gathered together at the corner and Kindu pulled Gary into the lead while we crossed the street together. He has strong opinions about who should lead and who should follow.

     His other new sound is what I call "chuffing." This is a guttural sound from deep in his chest that he uses when he is very unhappy about a situation. It usually comes out when Star walks on him or touches him in any way. When he riles her up, she uses the standard dog growl to tell him to back off. But when Kindu is unhappy with her, he sounds like an old man HARRUUUMMMPPPPPING about a small child getting too close.

     So what about you? Have you been learning any new communication techniques lately? Is there a community out there that you should be involved with, but just haven't taken the big step of joining in? One of the reasons canines and humans integrate together so well is that we are both social creatures. How about taking a step of faith and joining a class, a Bible study, or checking out a church where you might find camaraderie with your fellow beings. All of us crave a sense of belonging so next time you are surfing the internet, look for a local group that meets your set of interests. You'll be surprised by the potential rewards just like Kindu when he BARROOOS.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Putting Your Life in Good Order

Star at 5 weeks old
By Linda Grupp Boutin 

   Star is lying beside me tonight. Methodically she lifts her left paw (yes, she’s a leftie), licks it, wipes it across her face, licks her paw, wipes it across her face, over and over. As she prepares to bed down for the night, she likes to wash her face. You might say that’s what cats do, but I am here to tell you that’s what basenjis do too. The breed is quite fastidious about their personal hygiene.
     In Star’s case, she also uses this method to draw your attention to the fact that she “needs” petting. She always wants more petting, Gary calls her “needy.” And she is. She loves food and is willing to taste just about anything; however she is passionate about tactile comfort including just touching you while she sleeps. Being brushed is a special kind of pleasure that she is just discovering. While Kindu fights the brush trying to bite it, Star shivers in delight as the many teeth of the brush send comforting scratches in unison all over her back. She stands still, waiting in anticipation for the next pass of this magical tool. At 7 years old she’s found a new pleasure in life.
     She has other unusual approaches to life. All of my basenjis have always ruffled up a pillow by scratching it into submission. More than one of my pillowcases died a slow death from the dog’s toenails. Star though finds stomping works more to her taste. She steps around in circles, just like every other basenji, but instead of circling and scratching, she turns around and around stomping the pillow to death. Many mornings when I get up, I give her bed pillow a good fluff just to try and give it some body again. If I didn’t occasionally fluff it, she would stomp it as flat as a pancake.
     There are always times when life leaves you feeling as flat as Star’s pillow. Pain has been knocking me down lately leaving me feeling paper thin at times. Star and Kindu join me on the bed in the afternoon while I lie down begging the pain to stop. Absently I run my fingers through their fur comforting both them and me. The mere act of petting an animal releases stress-relieving chemicals for both the person and the pet.
     Star has really great instincts too. It makes good sense to wash your face and make sure all is in good order before you go to sleep at night. When you take the time for this it makes waking up the next morning just that much better. I always feel that way about putting my kitchen to bed for the night so I get up to a clean room the next morning. So what about you, can you use Star’s example to put some needed order into your life? My challenge to myself is to make sure my world is in the best order possible before I close my eyes at night.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Big Ears

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     I want to talk a bit about ears, specifically basenji ears. Safe to say, they hear a lot more than they like to admit. Kindu never misses the sound of a nearby garage door opening. He monitors this when he is, by all appearances, sound asleep. He can discern whether it is our garage door, our neighbors’ above, our neighbors’ beside and even our neighbors’ across the street. Each door owns its characteristic squeaks and our boy has memorized the sounds. Sometimes his head shoots up listening carefully, other days he just opens an eye, quickly returning to his dreams. However one sound is never missed by our basenji-boy: that is the sound of our Toyota Camry, distinct to his sharp ears from every other Toyota. Why this interest? Because that’s the sound he expects to hear when Gary returns, always cause for rejoicing.
     I love being greeted by my dogs. Their joy at my appearance never fails to bring a smile no matter how exhausted I might be. Of course, that does not mean that they will use those ears of theirs to listen any better when I ask…or command…or yell…what I want them to do. Kindu is the most tone deaf when he is nipping Star’s ears. The louder I tell him to stop, the more those huge ears of his seen stuffed with cotton.
     Makes me think of myself a bit when God is trying to get through to me. Just when I need to hear the Holy Spirit most, that’s when I close my ears and stop listening. Take this post for instance, I had a clear idea of what to say last Sunday and here it is Saturday night and I’m just typing now and haven’t yet published a week later.
     Thankfully last Sunday on another, more important, matter I not only heard, but also followed through with action. Much to my delight I was provided with instant validation that made a difference in another person’s life. That’s the thing that is so affirming: when you listen, hear, act and see immediate results. It’s like when I entice Kindu or Star with positive rewards (think bacon) and when they respond, they decide listening to me might be worth it. Funny how God provides these small examples of proper behavior for us then waits on us to get His point.
     So back to those ears, Kindu’s are the largest I’ve seen on any basenji. When he would go through one of his growing spurts as a pup, one ear or the other would droop over waiting to be grown into. As soon as he filled out, both ears stood up listening to hear every sound. So let me ask you, how well are your ears working? Have you been following the urgings of the Spirit or those of the flesh? When those promptings come to smile, converse, bypass your own feelings to center on another’s, did you hear and follow through with a God-inspired action? If you did, then I know that you understand the pleasure of a positive reward (think chocolate).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Graduation Night

by Linda Grupp Boutin

     Star experienced a special joy in the last week. Gary purchased her a new bed, just her size. We lined it with a towel and our little basenji girl got to sleep in the bedroom with the rest of us. Up until this time, Star had been sleeping in the dog crate, but she has made such progress in the last month or so she got to graduate to her own bed. And last night at bedtime after going for a quick walk with Gary, she literally dragged him back to the bedroom--past the dreaded crate and straight for her bed. She catches on really quickly when she wants to...
     She's been receiving quite a few new privileges lately and it's been paying off for all concerned. Housebreaking complete, nipping curtailed, starting to perform tricks for treats have led to a new level of trust for Star. She and Kindu tolerate each other, although with no signs of affection yet. He sleeps in his bed on my side of the bed, she sleeps in her bed on the opposite side.
     Curly Girl, as she is sometimes called, has learned how to dominate the force of Kindu's personality. With only an occasional growl, she has declared her beds to be her "safe" places. So when the basenji boy is chasing her around and she's had enough, she jumps into her nearest bed and stands her ground. If he pursues her further, she growls very quietly and he tends to back off.
     These may sound like miniscule steps to you, but for a 7-year-old "outside only" dog they mean a lot. She still has moments when she dashes around the house confused about why she isn't being chased outdoors, expecting to be banned from the house. It's at those times, that my heart breaks a bit for the years she spent contributing to the basenji breed. When I saw her beautiful litter of pups, 4 girls and 2 boys, 3 tri-colors and 3 red and white babies, I realized her work was complete. Now she is retired, ready and willing to stretch out on the couch beside us, encouraging us to pet her continually by craning her neck backwards to make us feel guilty with those dark brown eyes if we dare stop.
     Yep, the girl has found her home and she is enjoying every minute of it. She loves the food, works hard to pick up any stray crumb on the floor, sharing daily walks with Kindu, and loving her new life: a lady of leisure who has graduated to her own bed.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What We Need

     The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Milan, repeats over and over that dog owners receive the dog they need, not the dog they want. It seems a bit backwards, a shy person owns a boisterous dog, an outgoing person lives with an animal who is timid to a fault, and a low energy couple pick out the highest energy pup from the litter and learn just how hard it can be to train a dog. I ponder this idea: that we get in life not what we want, but what we need. Sounds suspiciously like the way God sometimes works in our lives.
Kindu relaxing on my feet
     I have a self-concept that includes a good knowledge of how to get my dog to do what I want them to do. Some might call this training. When I first received a full-blood, AKC, registered basenji from Gary as an engagement gift, I anticipated no problems whatsoever training her. Petite Seraph (French for Little Angel) arrived in my home at 4 months old. I had trained Ginger, my first dog, by instinct alone. Ginger still lived with me, but neither of us could fathom how to get Seraph to do anything we wanted her to do. What I didn’t realize was that as a pup, Ginger spent most of her day with my mom while I was away at school. That well-honed instinct that I thought I had, had all along enjoyed the helping hand of Mom who had a lifetime of experience with dogs.
     Suffice it to say that the “little angel” basenji girl nearly drove Gary and me to divorce in the first year of our marriage. That is until I met Sam Kahua and enrolled Seraph in his obedience class. He laughed out loud when he saw a basenji standing in line that first class. And although she was a stubborn dog, I have won awards for my perseverance too. Every class and every training session became a battle of strong-willed females. Me, determined to train this dog to behave, Seraph, determined to remain the “wild thing” that I’ve heard basenji means in Swahili. Sam stood amazed when we both graduated his advanced class with my “little angel” heeling off leash and following my every command.
     Today, 35 years later, I’ve learned quite a bit about convincing basenjis to listen. However, Kindu recently realized that Star has come to stay. And he’s not too happy about her stealing the limelight from his life on occasion. Most importantly to him however, is sharing his man, Gary, with a girl. Simply put, he doesn’t like it and is at a total loss about what to do about it. Most of the problems arise in the evening when the pack comes together in the living room to watch TV. Kindu always took up his position between Gary and me and all was right in his world. Nowadays there is quite a bit of shuffling going around.
     Star’s arrival calmed Kindu considerably. Although just as enthusiastic about walks and visitors, his demeanor is more adult now. He is approaching 5 years old and I expected to see him mature, but the lack of some of his mischief creates a sense of loss for me. The loss of puppyhood I guess, although I find it hard to define. Funny how life is, when he was so full of himself I kept asking when he would grow up. Now that he no longer grabs a cell phone or opens drawers to remove sweaters, I miss the little guy who could always make me laugh out loud…not necessarily the dog we want, but somehow the dog we need.

Sunday, May 27, 2012


By Linda Grupp Boutin

Star just before we brought her home.
So excited about picking Star up at the breeder's, Gary and I only began to think about introducing the 2 adult dogs on our way home from San Diego. First we stopped at our friend, Barbara's, grooming shop. Star needed a bath badly and we were welcomed into the shop for a quick clean up. Bathing her gave me my first chance to really assess her reactions. Like all our basenjis, she saw water as something to avoid if at all possible. Barbara and I wrestled together to get Star cleaned up and dried off. Wow, did she ever smell better and her coat shone after washing out all the dust.

Continuing on toward home, we discussed various possibilities for Kindu and Star's introduction. We stopped at the pet store to purchase a new collar, halter and leash for walking our basenji girl. This time I selected pink because this little one was such a girly girl. We brought her into the store to try on the new equipment. She looked around amazed with all the new scents, sounds and sights. We saw she had never been in a pet store before and the cashier made sure she liked her experience by rewarding her with a tasty treat. Star wolfed it down in one bite.

Gary dropped me off at a nearby park and drove home to pick up Kindu. The plan was to walk him to the park and let him "discover" Star walking with me. Our boy loves greeting other dogs on his walk and at the park we would all be in neutral territory as far as the dogs were concerned. The little girl and I waited sitting at a picnic table while the boys approached. Star watched intently as Gary and Kindu came closer and closer. She knew how to handle herself and feigned indifference when they joined us at the picnic table.

Ahh, contentment...
Our ever enthusiastic boy showered Star with all his attentions. She kept her cool giving Kindu a growl when he gave her a nip on the neck. Very soon her ears totally captured our boy. He mouthed them and she tolerated this silly boy's antics. That is, so long as he didn't chomp too hard! When he did, he received her low growl compelling him to back off.

Soon we were all walking side by side back to the condo and we had crossed our first hurdle with Kindu wanting to know Star better and her wondering what to do with all his enthusiasm.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Getting to Know Star

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Star moved in with us on January 10th this year, officially the oldest dog we ever adopted at 7 years old. And I would be fibbing if I said the road has been free of bumps. We started off with a big advantage because we were there when Star was born and she knew our scent as some of the very first that she learned. When you are a newborn pup, blind and deaf, first and lasting impressions come through the sense of smell. So when we picked Star up, she seemed to have a deep recognition of us.
Star about 1 hour old.

That helped, but plenty of challenges remained to incorporate Star into our "pack." She had been raised to be an outside dog, so the first thing she tried to do was cover up Kindu's scent on our bed. I'll leave some of this to your imagination, but it did involve the washer and dryer...hence the beginning of our housebreaking procedures. She actually caught on quickly once we succeeded in teaching her the new schedule around our house.

Although she was new to us, the vet considered her to be a "senior dog" requiring special older dog precautions adding greatly to the cost of having her spayed. And we had no idea she is a complete and total diva. We knew we faced troubled waters when we arrived at the vet's to pick her up from her surgery. We could hear her objections loud and clear in the waiting room. One thing about an unhappy basenji is that they do not just whine and cry, they scream and Star was very unhappy, maybe even downright angry about the whole thing. Her screams rang loudly in our ears and I've never seen a vet's office so happy to send a patient home!

So Star took out all her pent-up fear, frustration and frantic energy by attacking the cone she woke up to find firmly attached to her head. I would arrive home to find she had found another way to remove this hated appendage. I replaced it over and over onto her head and she looked for more and more ways to remove it. I have never had a dog succeed in removing a cone before, so this was new to me. After we resorted to duct taping the chewed up thing back together again, Star took matters under her control and ate it off of her! Now I was scared she would need another surgery to get all that plastic, tape, etc. out of her stomach. A couple days later I (and the vet) breathed a huge sigh of relief when she successfully passed the remnants out of her system.

And this doesn't begin to address the matter of convincing both dogs to get along--this part of the adventure will be saved for my next post!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Taking the Bumpier Road

After moving to Salt Lake City my husband and I began driving around learning about our new home. We discovered how the double numbering system using longitude and latitude kept us from ever feeling lost as we explored. One bright Sunday morning, we decided to drive out to Park City and spend a day exploring a mine they had converted for tourists. We went one mile underground in the mineshaft elevator to find a drippy, cold and dark environment that we mostly wanted to get out of and away from. Dutifully we rode the little mine cars that took us on a tour of the tunnels, learning all the way about how this mine provided so much to the residents of Utah including the artesian spring that supplied our water. At the end of the tour we rode the elevator back to God’s blue sky above and breathed relief at smelling the fresh mountain air.

This was just the beginning of the adventure however. We got back onto the freeway to travel into the city only to find the most massive roadblock of cars that we’d ever experienced. As we crawled forward at 2 M.P.H. we noticed that many locals were bailing off the freeway and up a mountain road. Having developed too much confidence in our navigation skills, we decided to follow the group traveling in a southerly direction. That’s where we made our mistake.

We had driven our brand new, and unfortunately low-hanging, Mazda to Park City. And what we really should have done was park for a while and let the traffic pass. My husband kept saying there was no problem as the street below us turned into a rutted, asphalt road; into a gravel strewn path; into a dirt trek; and finally into a deer trail as it made its way through the forest. Being the passenger in the car, I growled about every little bump and rock hitting the bottom of it. But when our way turned into a dirt trail with what felt like enormous boulders jutting into our path, I begged him to turn around. Nope, he had the wheel and was determined to bypass the traffic and find a different way. No matter what it did to the bottom of the car!

After forever, we reached the summit of the mountain and a dirt lot where backpackers had parked their vehicles while hiking on the mountain slopes. We proceeded through the area to another dirt road following our group leaders with faith in their knowledge. Eventually we left the rocks and dirt behind and found a real road again. It even took up past Sundance, but every bit of the explorer in me had been bumped and scared away.

We wound up coming out one valley south of where we lived, and found the freeway with little trouble that took us back home. Gary chuckled the whole way about what fun it had been to drive over the mountain with no real road to follow. When we arrived back home at the apartment Rosie barooed us a greeting, her lost wanderers.

Sometimes God’s path for us is a bit rutted too. Maybe the asphalt has decomposed a bit with time, or the way becomes lost in the forest of trees. Occasionally guides are sent that lead us back to find God again. All in all, I believe that almost everything that happens can shed light on our experience of the Lord, whether it be a deep, dark mine that makes you shiver or a non-road that helps you climb a mountain with your husband while all the time inside you’re thinking Grrrr!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Role Models and Spelling Lessons

By Linda Boutin

Boo Bear
     Have you ever noticed that “dog” is “god” spelled backwards?
     I hear the groans now, “Linda, you are just too into dogs!” you complain. And perhaps you are correct in this assessment. But there truly is something about a love of dogs and animals in general that brings out the best in many of us. Growing up 10th in a family of 12 children, I always could count on the complete attention of the family dog if I simply showed them the slightest interest. When a household is wracked with the noise level created by 3-5 teenagers, a couple of babies, and a year in which 3 of my siblings had weddings; not to mention the regular occurrences of births, graduations, ball games, solo performances, choir, plays, etc., etc., etc. Let me just say, that it was ever so easy to become lost in that crowd.
     Not so with my four-legged friends. I could call them, take a walk (to get away from the noise), dress them up (while ignoring my dolls), or simply share reading a book with them attentively listening. They captured my heart for as long as I can remember. And even in adulthood, while I stayed home battling pseudo-obstruction, a succession of basenjis sat beside me while my husband marched off to work to support our little family. Even had we been blessed with children, I know they simply would have caught my love of dogs and enjoyed them as well.
     It’s hilarious to me that so many dogs are named anything from Aphrodite to Buddha to Zeus or Hera. I know from these names that I am not the only animal lover who has noticed this weird quirk of spelling. Just how many cats have you heard of named Thor? I used to always name my basenji babies after a place in Africa since that is where their breed originates. However all of my dogs over the years sported many nicknames which they answered to. These days Kindu knows exactly how I’m feeling depending upon whether I call him by his real name (might be in trouble), Boo (good vibes), Little Buck (puppy name that has fallen into disuse), or “The Do” (when Gary and I are discussing his antics). And this list is not comprehensive.
Kindu keeping me company
     Seriously though, when I consider God’s unconditional love for His Creation--humanity, when I remember how He forgives us no matter how far we wander astray, when I realize He doesn’t hold a grudge no matter how I cling to one; it’s then that I know that God placed these little, patient, tail-wagging friends into our lives as an example for our own behavior. Jesus showed us a perfected example of what behavior to strive for, but the pup at my feet gives me the daily reminder to not judge, always forgive, and greet my friends like I haven’t seen them in months. It makes that friend feel special and isn’t that what makes life worth living?

P.S. Gary pointed out to me that this spelling does not cross over to other languages. Something is lost in the translation from English. No matter whether French, Spanish, or German, it just doesn’t work.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Turn About--What???

Kindu keeping my chair wa
By: Linda Grupp Boutin

     Even after decades living with basenjis, they keep teaching me new things about the breed. Most recently Kindu taught me a new trick. So you’re asking, the dog taught the human a new trick? And I would answer: of course he taught me a new behavior. It’s not the first time this has happened. Rosie Toes received her name after she taught me that if I didn’t fill up her food dish by 5 p.m., I could expect her to dance around the room until she gained my attention to go to the kitchen and feed her. Others of the breed taught me all about when I should open the door using various cues to tell me their desires. Mostly all these dogs taught me how I was to respond to their needs.
     Kindu has turned this completely upside down. Ever since we had to patch holes in walls and purchase replacement furniture turned into chew bones, we have taught our basenjis that their crate was their “safe” place. In other words, we were protecting them from our wrath when we returned home to find destruction wreaked by our bored pets. It’s amazing what this iron-mouthed breed can chew through when they put their minds to it.
     So on his very first night, I taught our basenji boy that his crate was to sleep in and I lay on the floor beside him trying to lull him to sleep. That is, until Gary came out to the living room and convinced me to let Kindu sleep near us in the headboard of our bed. We all got a good night’s sleep and I continued working on his training the next morning. One thing he could always count on though was that if we both went somewhere, Kindu would be confined to his crate.
     As a result, he has never learned to be a destructive chewer like so many basenjis are. All he’s ever chewed up included a potholder and one of Gary’s baseball caps. So recently when he gave us more than the usual guff about going in his crate, I decided to desensitize him by providing positive reinforcement when he went in his crate. In other words, I bribed him.
     So last Wednesday night I was surprised to see our boy sitting behind me while I was getting ready to go to the Aspiring Writers’ Forum, a writers’ group I co-lead with my writing buddy, Coleene. My shock grew out of Kindu’s unusual behavior. Normally if he senses that we’re leaving, he hides behind the far end of the dining room table and leads us on one of his merry chases before acquiescing and agreeing to go in his crate. Not this night though, a strategically placed piece of bacon treat had been beckoning to him from inside the crate and he was waiting for me to follow him up the hallway and open the door for him to enter and enjoy his treat. No muss, no fuss, just a boy happy to go into his “safe” and “tasty” place.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Special Kind of Love

By: Linda Boutin       
Bettenon Gala's Rosebud
     We had just lost our beloved 14-year-old Rosie the month before. I missed my sweet companion and knew I would have to find a new basenji to enliven our lives. So I called my friend in San Diego to see if she knew of any puppies needing adoption. Barbara would know if anyone had an off-season litter and if any pups were around in October. It saddened me to learn that she didn’t know of any and I resigned myself to not having a pet until the pups became available in February. I left her with my new phone number so she could call, but I knew the odds were against my hope.
Noel and her original owner

     It surprised me about a week later when Barbara called. She told me about a breeder who was in trouble for keeping too many dogs. He needed to find homes for his extra adult dogs and he had to find them fast. She told me that there was a very special girl who needed rescuing and that her name was Noel. I told her that I didn’t think we would be interested in adopting an adult. We know the breed from years of keeping them and one thing was for sure, you wanted to start training a basenji young because they are just so hard to train. A 5-year-old made no sense at all.
     Barbara tried to explain to me that this girl was different, so sweet she would let anyone handle her. I was doubtful and told her I would talk it over with Gary and get back to her. I really had no intention of following through, but when I discussed it with my husband that night he encouraged me to give it a try. I thought about it for a couple of really lonely days. When Gary went off to work, the house seemed so empty and quiet with no little tail-wagging friend to keep me company. Finally I called Barbara back and asked for the details.
     I learned that another breeder had taken Noel in on her farm and that she lived less than a half hour from my house. Driving down to “take a look” with my friend, she wasn’t surprised that the dog crate I brought with “just in case” was filled with Noel when we drove back home. We stopped at the pet store and picked up a new leash, collar and bed for our new girl before returning home.
     It took months for Noel to truly trust us, but I persevered working daily to break down her defenses. She had never lived in a house and needed to learn everything from going up stairs to sleeping in that brand-new dog bed. First thing we had to do was change her name to no-Elly from Noel because otherwise “no” meant her name. She and Gary got off to a really rocky start with Noelly running as fast as possible in the opposite direction he wanted her to go.
Noelly and her 2 pups Rudy (left) and Star (right)
     Eventually we all made our peace and enjoyed 5 years together. Even though the years were shorter and we only met Noelly when she was an adult, we grieved her just as much as we had our other basenji babies. There is a special kind of love that develops when you rescue a dog from a bad situation and give it a better life than they had ever known before. We enjoyed teaching her to overcome her fears of everything from black trash bags to sirens. We loved her just as much as we’d loved our other pets and were grateful that we’d allowed Noelly to steal our hearts.