Thursday, January 10, 2019

Black Is the New Red

By Linda Grupp Boutin

     I apologize to my readers for the prolonged time with no new posts. Two extended hospital stays and an 8-week-old puppy made the time disappear in an eye blink. Shortly after Star's January birthday, a litter of puppies were born near Temecula. With 7 pups in the litter, their mama, Ginger, stayed quite busy. We had asked for and wanted a red and white basenji boy like we have always had. But this litter was sired by a basenji who goes by Blackie because that is the color he wears along with his white boots and white-tipped tail. The breeder explained to me that there was only one red and white male and he had been previously promised to someone else. However she did have 3 black and white brothers available.

     I stared at the picture of the 3 brothers lying side by side. One was a big, husky looking pup just a few days old. The one in the middle appeared average size for his age and the third looked a bit undersized. The nurse stepped in my room, checking to see if I needed anything and the only thing I could think was, "Yes, I need to get out of here." But I thought better of it and kept that to myself.

      God created a stunning show of lightening that whole day. Flashes repeated over and over and hail showered down to emphasize His majesty. Thinking again about the pictures, it seemed to me that the middle-sized boy would suit us the best. Still we had decided we wanted a red and white basenji and had never thought about adopting a black and white into our pack. When Gary came to visit I shared the pictures with him, noticing now that this brother had lots of white to accent his black tuxedo. We both felt like he would be the pup for us and we began discussing what name to use since obviously 'Red' would not work. 

     I discussed with everyone who called what they thought of as a good name for a black and white basenji boy. I thought of Onyx which I had used for a female black cat. That didn't seem to fit. My friend suggested Oreo which though appealing seemed a bit undignified for a basenji boy. My brother, Pete, asked me why I always chose basenji dogs. What was their appeal? So after a moment of thought I answered, "They are just so full of fun and mischief."

     He replied that that sounded like Tommy. I knew he referred to our brother Tom who had lost his battle with colon cancer in 1995. Why not name him Tommy after the brother who filled every room he entered with warmth and mischief. I mulled this over, but one small adjustment seemed necessary. Rather than Tommy's full name, I replied, "What about TJ?" And our new pack member had his name.

     But time was needed for TJ to grow under his mama's tender loving care. He had much to learn from his litter mates. When he turned 3 weeks old, we asked if we might come over and meet him in person and visit. His owner and breeder, Sandy, helped us decide on a date and time. Soon we hopped in the car and drove an hour south and east to meet this basenji boy. He captured our hearts before we ever entered the barn.

     First Sandy had us meet his papa, Blackie. His curly tail wagged furiously as we stopped by his kennel. All the dogs gave us friendly greetings and Sandy explained how they were inter-related. Care had been taken in their breeding and temperament seemed just as high on her list as their good looks. Given  that Kindu suffered from digestive and eye issues his whole life, health issues counted high on our list too.Temperament always ranked high for us.

     We enjoyed the novelty of driving out of our carefully planned suburb into the mountainous area where TJ was born. We passed some life-sized sculptures of horses, stage coaches, and a variety of other amazing pieces. We noted where this was located to check out on the way home. We continued past wineries, lakes and tack shops. Finally we turned onto the road which would bring us to the ranch where basenjis resided.

TJ the day we visited him at 3 weeks old

      Sandy showed us all her dogs in the outdoor kennels before bringing us into the barn and her special warm room for mothers and their puppies. Ginger danced out of the puppy pen while Sandy reached in to introduce us to TJ. At 3 weeks old, his eyes peeked out and he cuddled in my arms while we followed Sandy out in the February sunshine to meet her horses. Every animal she introduced had its own special story and we spent an hour feeding snacks to the horses with me contentedly carrying TJ every step of the way.

     We left that day more excited than ever to bring TJ home. Our big question was how Star would react when she met our newest pack member. She had been top dog since Kindu passed over the rainbow bridge 20 months earlier. We talked all this over while wandering through the amazing sculptures and considered whether to purchase one of the smaller items for ourselves. Deciding we could just as easily buy one in 5 weeks when we planned to return to buy TJ.

Star enjoying top dog status!


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