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.