Saturday, August 31, 2013

Part 1 - Petite Seraph - My First Purebred Basenji

By Linda Grupp Boutin

I received a very special engagement gift from my fiancee, Gary, many years ago. She had a curly tail, sported a red and white coat, and wore four white socks with a white-tipped curly tail. Sound familiar? Yep, you guessed right. My hubby-to-be gave me my first purebred basenji girl. I named her Petite Seraph and sent her registration paper in to the AKC. I thought of her as my "little angel" and she was so very cute at 3 months old; all wrinkles and loose skin and bouncy energy. As you can tell from the name I selected, I was a classic novice basenji owner with so very much to learn about this unique breed.

At this time, Ginger, my first dog, still lived with me. She was about 10 years old when Seraph arrived and the two of them became friends immediately.
                   Ginger watching the road
Being 1/2 hasenji, Ginger had posed her fair share of problems when it came to training. You could not keep this girl in an enclosed yard because she could jump any fence. She would back up far enough to get a running start, then gallop as fast as possible to where she'd decided to jump over. She continued her run right up the fence until she grabbed the top with her front paws, then hoisted herself to the top, followed by a quick jump over. She taught herself how to do this because the cats next door sat on top of our block wall fence teasing her. The first cat who saw Ginger run up the fence to balance beside them atop the block wall must have been shocked!

So I had gone through tough dog training with Ginger, but couldn't have been more unprepared for a new marriage, in a new town, with a new husband AND a purebred basenji! By the time we married in July, Seraph turned 6 months old and had decided opinions about how she planned to spend her days. We moved to Lakeside in San Diego County and began rehabbing the house we rented while living there. Construction materials rested beside dog food and boxes containing all our possessions. The fighting about Seraph and her bad behavior started before we celebrated one month being married.

We spent one month living on our savings and wedding gifts working daily to put our one bedroom house into good order. Ginger and Seraph watched from the couch while Gary and I tore down layer after layer of wallpaper, repaired and painted walls, hung a new ceiling in the living room and redecorated both the bathroom and kitchen. Soon our little house shone like a new penny and we began to look for jobs. This is when the trouble started.

Fast approaching her first birthday, Seraph's hormones began stirring. Basenjis come into season only one time per year, typically in October. So our girl needed to be protected from getting bred by one of the local male dogs roving the neighborhood. I planned on taking our basenji girl to dog shows and competing, so I took this responsibility very seriously.

While we were away at work, we confined Seraph to the bathroom with the door shut tight. She didn't like this limitation and when I got home from work that afternoon, found our newly repaired and painted bathroom wall shredded by Seraph's iron hard teeth. I sat on the bathroom throne, held my head and cried until Gary got home. When he saw the mess, he roared.

He already had erected a chicken coop on the side of our property and filled it with several hens and a rooster. He decided the solution was to build a dog run and to save on materials connected it to the side of the coop. With no fence around the property, our girls could be safe all day in nice, new kennels while we worked. Yes, the basenji girls were safe, but we could not anticipate what Seraph would come up with next. While we worked, she did too. When I arrived home that afternoon, she had dug a nice, neat tunnel from her kennel into the coop. I found feathers flying, the dog chasing the hens, and half of our hens deceased from Seraph's attack.

This was the last straw, I had to find a solution to getting her behavior under control. This dog, my engagement gift, caused almost all the disagreements Gary and I had in our married life. I wondered whether she was worth all the trouble and strife she was causing. While discussing it with my friend, Mary Jo, she told me of a dog obedience class led by her friend Sam at a nearby mall. A solution to our problem, my iron hard will up against our "little angel's." Our basenji girl would soon be marching off to school!

(see Part 2 for the continuing story)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Baby Girl

By Linda Grupp Boutin
Alex with newborn Rudy and Star

Star has been changing lately. It seems she finally accepts that she has a place in the pack and a forever home. She always claims the spot in the middle of the loveseat between Gary and me. Depending upon how he feels, Kindu may sleep on Gary's lap or take up most of the couch, legs fully extended. He can be the epitome of the independent basenji, aloof and perfectly happy to sit by himself. 

Our basenji girl prefers to be with someone, preferably touching in some way. Of all the curly-tailed basenjis I've shared my home with, Star is the only one that I have nicknamed Curly. And she loves it when I call her this or sing a song about her. Sometimes the name gets stretched to Curly Girly and that's when she acts especially cute. But by far and away, she loves to be called Baby Girl. And I like calling her that too.

Dog trainers advise owners to name their dogs one-syllable words. Simple, concise and easy to call, like Star. Nicknames don't come up because you aren't supposed to use any other name but their usual name. However, basenjis are smart enough to respond to many words, including nicknames. So Star and Kindu know many different names and can often read my mood by which name comes to mind first.

I love seeing Star finally finding confidence and her place in our little pack. She is relaxed these days, often dancing around the house, play bowing to get Kindu to play, just enjoying life. I've seen this happen before with other dogs we've rescued. It is almost like she realizes that her life has taken a turn for the good and embraces the joy in it.

I look forward to a day when I will go to my forever home with the Lord. I understand and share in the joy Star feels as she dances freely and happily around our home. Some days I dance in the joy of that same knowledge, knowing there is a place where I am accepted by Our Father just the way I am; sins, scars, bruises and all. I hope some time in your life that you can share in the joy of this knowledge too!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Living Free or Choosing the Settled Life

By Linda Grupp Boutin

Sometimes Kindu lies on the floor striking the pose of a lion; smaller of course, but fierce and tough and unpredictable. He makes me think along those lines with the regal uplift of his chin and the contemplation in his deep, dark brown eyes. At times Star looks a bit like a deer and other days they might both remind me of foxes. Friends have described them as all of these other animals.

Our basenji boy joined me tonight as I enjoyed a special by Nature on PBS. It explored the true story behind the "Born Free" book and movie released in the early 1960s. I turned 10 the year the movie was released and wished so much that I could go and see it at the theater. Alas, I never got to see it on the big screen, but I read about the story and came to love Elsa through the National Geographic magazines that arrived in our mailbox each month. This was the first magazine I came to love as a child. Great photographs, interesting stories and travel around the world, all included in one gorgeous publication, usually accompanied by a large, folded map of some part of the globe.

My dogs were not born free and have lived their whole lives in a comfortable domesticated state. Star came into this life on a cold January night in a shower lined with newspapers and softened by blankets and towels.
Star, between her brothers, with Mom Noelle
I know they would like experiencing the freedoms of living without boundaries, but there would be much from our life they would miss as well. Soft beds, regular meals and ice cookies spring to mind. Although Kindu is more impetuous and willful, I believe that Star would be well able to fend for herself living wild.

She has the heart and instincts of a hunter. Nothing is missed by her watchful eyes and she catches on quickly to new situations and circumstances. While Kindu jumps in with four feet flying, Star assesses the situation then decides how she will react. Both strategies have advantages and pitfalls, but I must agree with Star that a measured approach is often best. People tend to choose different strategies for how to try new things too.

I just read an article about dogs and how the bond with their owners shares much in common with how people bond with their infants. When we picked up Kindu at just 8 weeks old, he epitomized the image of a confident pup. Over the months I learned from the breeder that his puppy name at his birth house was "Truck," but I believe that "18-Wheeler" might have been more appropriate. Obviously the breeder was thinking of a "Mack Truck" when she named this basenji boy!

We decided to share our new pup with our family, so rather than driving straight home after we picked up Kindu, we headed over to my brother's house. My 13-year-old nephew, Alex, connected immediately with the pup and rough-and-tumble was the name of their game. Soon they were skittering across the kitchen tile floor, grabbing, chasing and teasing one another. Even 5 years later the two of them have a great time when they get together.
Alex and Star resting up after a play session

So I must admit I'm pretty tightly bonded with my dogs. They bring comfort and joy and a healthier lifestyle into our lives. Some researchers say canines and humans have worked and lived together for over 15,000 years. I don't know about that, but I am grateful for my 4-legged friends that have been a part of my life since I was small.