A Fun Day - Organised By the Basenjis themselves

by Sally Wallis,
Zande Basenjis

A Trilogy on Training & having Fun with Basenjis

Part III

First published in Basenji Companions (USA) newsletter - May 1998. Since writing, Deedles, Ziggy and Hope have all crossed the Rainbow Bridge

To celebrate the first day of Spring, or the end of winter, whichever way you choose to put the emphasis, A Fun Day for Basenji Companions was organised in a small South of England village.

There were races, competitions, walks, exhibitions and all kinds of fun. The event took all day and participants were rewarded with their tea, marrow bones and a good night’s sleep at the end of it. Humans felt they deserved a decent dinner and a bottle of wine.

Owing to the confines of Geography, there were only six Basenji Companions available to take part so they invited their friend Lucy, a black Labrador, as well as various lorry-drivers and local farmers to join in.

0900. High Jump. Four of the Companions jumped the four foot chain-link fence into the vegetable garden. Eventual winner was Curly, with Shani coming a close second. These two had to have a jump-off after Marvin had ejected them for the umpteenth time. Timekeeper was Ziggy, and Deedles eyed the heights achieved by the younger dogs and pondered, inscrutable in the sunshine.

0930. Crud Eating Competition. Only Curly and Plessy elected to take part and this event was staged (the Basenjis’ own idea) actually in the compost heap. Marvin put a stop to it as soon as he discovered what they were eating. All the dogs were rewarded with marrow bones which they were allowed to work at for 45 minutes.

1000. Mail Hiding. Outright winner was the postman. He defeated the Basenjis’ attempts to find the morning post by hiding it away behind the pot plants on the kitchen work-surface.

1030. Disciplined Leash Walking and Plaiting Competition. Walking out along the highways on a leash is not really something they need to compete at. They all have it to a fine art. The plaiting aspect of this activity was won hands down by Hope who managed to knot all the leads up, totally, every couple of hundred yards.

1105. Rabbit Chasing. This is always a popular pastime with the Companions and the rabbits join in more or less willingly. They have no choice. The pack arrived at the field, the sight of hundreds of white scuts rushing all over the green grass excited their primordial instincts and a great chase and hunt commenced. It would have been slightly easier on the human had they waited to dash off in all directions until after their clips had been sprung but we will overlook the muddy trousers and grazed knees because this was COMPANIONS FUN DAY. And one has two arms so it is probably very useful that they be different lengths following Basenji-efforts to stretch them.

This event was a failure insofar as no rabbits were actually caught, although many were thoroughly chaste. Perhaps we should chalk it up as a win for the bunnies ? Lucy joined in but had no more success. She isn’t really built for the chase like the Basenjis and the Bunnies and walks nicely behind or beside her owner most of the time.

1145. Cleaning-cloth Shredding Competition. Here Plessy was a clear winner. Not only did she get the cloth from furthest back on the work-surface, but using her now-famous three legged racing technique necessitated by her desire to keep at least one paw dry over wet grass, she beat the pack to the bottom of the tennis court and ripped the blue cloth to shreds in short order.

1200 (and at intervals throughout the day). Lorry or Tractor Racing. The winner in almost every case was the lorry or tractor but nevertheless the Companions loved to take part. It is impossible to schedule this event at a particular time because it is controlled by traffic using the lane which runs the length of the garden. A lorry turning down the lane sounds a horn (sometimes it tries to sneak past but the sound of its engines awakens the sleeping pack) and this was regarded as the starting gun. All the Companions rushed out, around the house and follow the vehicle until brought up short by the boundary hedge - flat out. Winners were variously Deedles (who beat a tractor chucking mud from its wheels), Ziggy (who caught a lorry coming UP the lane and raced back into her favourite place beside the AGA), and Shani (who yodelled loudest in response to a friendly driver’s tooted greeting of the speeding hounds).

1230. Table Dancing Exhibition. Performed by Shani - who used her nose to move a chair far enough out from the table, leapt nimbly on it, and thence to the table. Had there been any goodies, she would have thrown them down for the rest of the pack but there weren’t. So she skittered daintily around, missing the bottle of wine and filled glasses set in place for human lunch. Applause but removal followed.

1300 - 1330. Cheese Thieving. This competition is a another great favourite with the Companions but is only scheduled very rarely on special occasions. It was arranged that it should take place during human lunch time and was won by Deedles’ who managed to sucker the others by going down on his elbows and wagging his entire back-side before leaping up onto a convenient chair behind the human occupant.

It is interesting to watch their varying techniques in this competition. The winner, from his position behind the human, pushed a head and then a neck and then a front paw around the body under the elbows and gained access to the cheese board. Whence he grabbed. Successfully. Runner-up was Ziggy who leapt up behind the second human, and with paws on the shoulders, reached forward and grabbed. Equally successfully. Gallant also-ran was Curly, who sat beside the humans in turn, placed a paw on the lap and gazed soulfully upwards. Consolation prizes went to Shani, Plessy and Hope who sat patiently, good as gold, beside the AGA...

1400. Paper-tearing Competition. The humans were taking a brief rest and the winner was once again Plessy. Superior reach of paw allowed her to grab the daily papers and pull them to the floor for the pack to tear at their leisure. Prize for carrying torn paper the furthest was awarded to Curly who took several pieces of broad-sheet to the Chestnut Tree at the far end of the garden.

1430. River Crossing/Paddling. On the way to the river the plaiting competition was once again won by Hope. None of the others can touch her when it comes to passing in front, behind, in front, around and through the rest of the pack. She also won the Lead Knotting competition. The river was ‘up’ and in full spate owing to recent rains, so Deedles absolutely refused to set foot, even onto the sandy shelves at the foot of the banks. Curly and Ziggy went in as far as their arm-pits but no-one actually made it across the river. On the way home they held an impromptu Yodelling/Barking Competition with their friend Sadie. She barked from the safety of her garden as the pack went past and Shani’s soprano, Hope’s excited tenor and Plessy’s unashamed roar of delight almost (but not quite) drowned out the large dark brown doggie.

1600. Exhibition of Synchronised Jumping (Dolphin-ing). This was a re-run by popular demand of the morning’s high jump competition but this time Shani and Curly showed their skills at leaping into the air and over the fence in perfect tandem, just like a pair of well-trained dolphins. Their prize was instant ejection via a gate.

Further Lorry Racing competitions were enjoyed throughout the afternoon along with Somersaulting and Exhibitions of the Basenji Roll. Fastest at using the roll to change direction was Ziggy, closely followed (which is why she had to do the roll !) by Plessy. Curly and Plessy treated us to a full demonstration, using the old net posts on the tennis court to chase around.

1730. Bowl Cleaning Competition and Race preceded by Teeth Sharpening and Fabric Weakening. The signal for the ‘off’ was retrieval of dog pans from the shelf and Shani won the Teeth competition by rushing to find Plessy’s plaque-attacker (Plack-Attaquer) and working furiously on it. Hope sharpened her claws (as she always does) down my right thigh, thereby ensuring that a patch on my skirt will once again be necessary one day soon. Singing - choral singing that is, was won by Hope, Plessy and Shani with Curly coming in a long way behind in fourth place. Deedles and Ziggy refused to join in. Bowl cleaning is handicapped in that all the bowls are filled but insufficient number of hands means all the dogs are not fed at exactly the same time. Ziggy (back door) and Plessy (beside the radiator under the window) got theirs first, followed by Curly (beside the refrigerator) and Hope (sort of under the table). Last off on this race were Shani (middle of the kitchen floor) and Deedles (beside the AGA). First to finish was Plessy, followed rapidly by Hope. Curly (who had most) was last but attempts by Shani to help him were seen off (in the nicest possible manner, of course. She is his mother).

1800. Sauce Stirring Interference. During the preparation of our dinner, ALL the Companions helped by getting underfoot, tripping the cook, sleeping in front of the AGA making it difficult to open oven doors and forcing the feet away so the sauce-stirrer found the critical preparation of food almost impossible. Their offers of help at ‘trying’ and ‘sampling’ were strenuously refused.

2000. Exhibition of Dexterity - by Deedles. Like many Basenji-Companions, Deedles doesn’t have paws. He has hands and extremely flexible wrists which enable him to open refrigerator doors and reach goodies placed beyond even the reach of Plessy. A small piece of cheese was placed on the table, and Deedles demonstrated his extraordinary ability to draw it towards the edge. He used a backhand motion, a forehand twist and, against all the odds, was rewarded with the cheese. This exhibition was repeated to the delight of the onlookers.

2230. The Emptying Race. Inveigled more or less willingly from a sound (and well deserved) sleep, the Companions raced out once more to the tennis court where under the lights automatically triggered by their progress around the house, and with the stress of ‘competition’ no longer upon them, they enjoyed a last romp, wrestle and chase of the day. They had a desultory chew on their marrow bones, before Deedles disappeared into the shrubbery, Plessy hid under the chestnut tree, the others dispersed to make themselves comfortable for the night and returned to the tennis court before following Curly in a disciplined line back up the lawns and around to the kitchen door.

They were sleep again before locking up was completed.

Arranging a Companion Fun Day is very rewarding - I commend it to Members.

Return to Table of Contents
Ring-Craft Classes Part I of this Trilogy
Exemption Shows Part II of this Trilogy

Sally & Marvin Wallis
Zande Basenjis
Email : zandebasenjis@btopenworld.com

Illustrations (pictures) will be added shortly