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.