Keepurr's Self-Imposed Diet !

by Sally Wallis,
Zande Basenjis

First published in Basenji Companions March / April 2007 and in Basenji Owners and Breeders Magazine - Spring 2007

Just about ready to go out, anorak, handbag, telephone, camera, spare lens all piled up on the kitchen table, I went to the drawer for my car keys. The dogs were all milling around as usual, wondering if they could accompany me. Suddenly Keepurr made his presence felt. He stuck his nose into my pocket, extracted something from it and raced out of the open kitchen door.

I followed him at speed, stopping only to grab a handful of treats because normally he will trade whatever he has stolen for something tasty. Keepurr is one of the worst – or should be that best, most successful ? - thieves since his great-great grandsire, Deedles. Neither Marvin nor I could figure what he had stolen until we’d rounded the house and saw the young miscreant disappearing under a rhododendron bush at the far end of the wild-flower meadow.

One hand went to my pocket and I realised – he had stolen a glove. I guess panic showed in my voice and Keepurr realised I was determined to have the object of his attention. He didn’t know he’d done wrong, dogs don’t, but he knew I was cross with him. Or worried, or concerned. So he panicked.

This is the brother-glove seen from the front
It was no longer new - in fact very old, but warm and comfortable

Glove in mouth he raced around and around the old tennis-court, flattening out on the move like a trained racer. Only this wasn’t a game, this was serious. From time to time he retreated under the rhododendron bush which I figured was his preferred hide-away. He’d let me get really close to him, still holding out the treats, but there was less of the glove visible all the time and then he’d race off again.

There is no way two old people can catch a speeding Basenji on a mission. He wanted what was in his mouth and so did Mum but he wasn’t going to let her have it. We did the best we could. I modified my voice to something more conciliatory, positively balmy, used the magic words, ‘bickie, bickie, bickie !’ over again, held out a handful of treats. This went on for better than 30 minutes during which Keepurr totally disappeared into the shrubbery and Marvin went out around the road to see if he could located him.

I descended into the shrubbery a couple of times and, on my bum, heels and back, slipping every which way, toured it thoroughly. Keepurr finally went to ground again and I could see he was pretty exhausted. We were both lying under a bush but although he was only a yard away, the bank was steep and slippery and I couldn't reach him. There was a convulsive movement of his head and I thought he’d spat it out. But I raked through the dead leaves and undergrowth very carefully and couldn't find it. Thinking back, it would have been unlikely. Too much of it was already down his throat.

But for the rest of that day he seemed fine. Next morning though, he threw up a couple of hours after his breakfast so I phoned and took him straight to the Vet.

Philip couldn't find anything in the small intestine which might be the indication of a blockage - gave him an anti-spasmodic and an antibiotic 'in case’ -and made an appointment for next morning. He was doing that day’s surgery cases and would keep space for Keepurr. That night the boy ate normally but threw up a couple of times first thing next morning.

We’d made sure he was still ‘nil by mouth’ when I took him back to Heathfield. He was very subdued which is totally out of character, and his coat felt yucky – harsh and dry. Rick examined him thoroughly and admitted him.

They planned to x-ray him although the chances of the glove showing up were slim - and to do an endoscopy cos if they could see the glove they could perhaps pull it out. Otherwise they would have operate.

Vets have to give you an 'estimate' before admitting an animal - Rick said anaesthesia, X-rays and endoscopy would be in the region of £250 (pounds - about US$500) but if they did have to perform surgery, it would be much more.

Middle of the morning, Philip phoned. They had found the glove - nothing showed on the X-rays, no 'holes with trapped air or gas' but with the endoscope they could see the leather and food piled up behind it - I’d already signed the consent forms so they opened Keepurr up.

Philip found three fingers and was about to stitch our boy back up when one of the nurses spotted a piece of thread. He pulled at it and (with difficulty) out came the entire rest of the glove. The nurses and Vet reconstructed it to make sure they had it all and kept it for me in a plastic evidence bag. Everyone was amazed at the size of the garment this small animal had swallowed.

And this is the brother-glove seen from the back.
We don't have a photo of the bag containing the pieces !

Although the glove was an expensive one - leather palm and front of fingers, lined and with a string-knitted back - I do NOT want it back. Keepurr remained at the surgery over night on a drip and on dripped antibiotics and they tried him on several very gentle meals and monitored him closely all next day. He came home late on Saturday evening and dined 6 – 7 times a day on spoonfuls of low residue diet in order not to stretch his stomach until the internal stitches here healed.

Watching the interaction between the rest of the Pack and the sick one was very interesting. Normally I crated Keepurr to feed him but one time in a hurry I just put his bowl on the floor. Although all the others were curled up in front of the Aga, not one got up to investigate. They all looked at me as if to say ‘he’s not getting much, his need is greater than ours,’ or’ ‘we know he is ill, we won’t try to steal his food.’ – Take you pick. Fact is, he was left alone to wolf his scrap of nourishment down unmolested. They never attacked him when he returned, smelling of medication and veterinary (to a dog’s nose) nasties. They all cleaned his wound but no-one tried to take his stitches out.

The difficulties of getting Keepurr to STAY QUIET were enormous ! He could go out into the garden (only) and on a lead. No jumping up, no putting paws on the table, no reaching up to grab anything, no steps or stairs. It was sunny and the others want to be out and about, lying around in the sun. So did Keepurr but he'd try to catch birds or even a bunny and running was also a no-no so he had to stay indoors.

Twelve days later I took him to Rick to have his stitches removed (and to pay the bill. . . Rick had been right, it was MUCH more than the originally estimated £250 !). He was very happy with him but I was guessing it’d be hard to keep his coat in condition for a bit. He doesn’t seem to have lost it but he still could after such massively invasive surgery.

This morning after showering I brought the laundry down to put it into the machine. But I dropped a face cloth on my way through the kitchen. Simon who was digging the vegetable garden over for us helped and we were very gentle and disarming as we followed Keepurr into the garden.

This time I told him he was a good boy and offered him a paper hanky. And he traded willingly (but lost on the deal, I pocketed the flannel AND the hanky – fast !)

Darned dog - he is NOT a Billy-goat and worse, he won’t learn from the experience. We will. We already have. The dogs’ bedding has been thrown out. Previously we used bits of ancient stair carpet but Chezz has a tendency to turn it over and rip out the threads & Keepurr is such a vacuum cleaner. We no longer keep paper hankies in pockets (unless they can be zipped up) and we don’t carry more than we safely can without dropping things. And we watch Keepurr like a hawk.

He is called Keepurr cos we kept him. Maybe it wasn’t a such a good idea ?

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Sally & Marvin Wallis
Zande Basenjis
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