It Was All My Fault


Lessons on Vigilance

by Sally Wallis

Probably more by luck than good judgement, we have had extraordinarily few fights during the 22 years I have been involved with Basenjis. Marvin has been around for a great deal longer (since 1956) but I am sure he agrees with me. We have always kept a mixed pack of entire boys and willing girls loose together - up to eight used to sleep in a pile in the kitchen (see pictures elsewhere on this website !) Now we are down to five through natural processes and because we are older the pack size decreases.

The handful of fights, probably fewer than one every two years - if that, we have had were humdingers and every one the fault of one or the other of us. I am galvanised rush for the keyboard on this subject because I have recently heard the same words expressed by two different people miles apart within the space of two days.

"It was all my fault" - The wrong dog let out through the door first when owners come home tired from shopping - a lax moment when one tired dog tries to share the blanket of another equally tired pooch, food bowls put down in the wrong order, failing to pick up ALL the marrow bones. The slightest slip, a simple lack of concentration, can spark off an unholy row which, if one is lucky, is all noise. But sometimes it is considerably more serious and the post mortem when everything is over and the combatants settled, muttering, into their favourite corner always seems to start with the same statement.

Our dogs know exactly in which order they receive their food and, to within a few inches, where their own bowl will be placed even though Marvin, doing breakfasts, uses a different system than do I, serving teas. That is perfectly acceptable to the pack. But on one occasion I wasn't thinking - there was a knock at the door or the phone started ringing - and slammed the pans down so a confused boy on his spot on the floor lunged for the food destined for the girl in the further corner of the kitchen. Bingo ! that was all it took. After years of feeding up to 8 starving (when isn't a Basenji desperate for food ?) dogs - a failure of mine started it off and with great glee, all the dogs piled into the fray.

Our boys go up to a des.res in a small corner of the orchard very shortly after the first onset of the season season by the first bitch. They have a large kennel which we can access from the garden patch and a dog-door so they can lie around in the sun in 'their' part of the orchard.

This picture was taking last Spring when the trees were in full blossom.
We have now laid paving stones around the perimeters to keep them from churning it all into mud during winter sojourns

We have been lucky in this regard since the bitches do tend to come in within 24 hours of each other.

Torrential rain and totally unpleasant conditions one year prevailed and we figured we'd be OK for one more day - - We were, as far as any danger of a 'oops mating' was concerned, but the nursery alarm installed in the boys' quarters so I can share the village pain when they 'timber-wolf' at two in the morning, sent us hot-foot to break up what was a serious set-to among the males.

It started in the 12*8 foot kennel and didn't cease until I had followed them outside, scrambling out through the Basenji sized dog door. I grabbed one dog and swung it so the other was flung from its mouth over the fence to a waiting Marvin who had raced around by the path. Obviously we had allowed them to become too aware of the impending season because that was the only time the boys have been other than philosophical about their segregation. If they go to the orchard early enough, they may have an inkling but the hormones aren't really surging yet and the boys accept their extra long, extra frequent walks as a chance to explore the surrounding countryside.

The worst six-sided fight I inspired (if that is the word) was when I came around the corner of the house and whistled. The dogs were all disposed around the lawns, taking in the sun. But for some reason, they all jump from the lower lawn to the upper one in the same spot and take the same (now well-worn) path across the grass and to the paving stones.

This spot is just as useful for rolling recalcitrant puppies down

And that is what happened. They all leapt up, raced to the jump-up spot and collided. 'Don't you jump on me !', 'I didn't - you crashed into me !' 'You'll pay for that !' In 'thinking mode' I'd have waited to call them until I was a great deal nearer and could see where they all were.

I have learned that there is no point in hanging around - any kind of fracas and you dive in, grab the nearest neck and throttle it. Cutting off the wind causes a dog to 'drop' the other man's whateverhehasgrabbed. And with luck you can lift one high in the air and knee the other off. Six eager participants were more difficult.

And that brings me to another train of thought. The first and worst bite I have ever had was many years ago now, when two dogs were disputing ownership of a bone on the hearthrug in front of a blazing fire on Christmas Eve. I was preparing to throw another log on when it seemed to get nasty so I grabbed the girl and lifted her high above my head. Unfortunately, I was on my knees at the time and couldn't get her high enough. The boy lunged - and Marvin & Paul had to roast the Christmas turkey with all the trimmings ! My hand still aches to think about it but the cooks did a grand job ! However -

"It was all my fault" -

The Zande Put-Off
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Sally & Marvin Wallis
Zande Basenjis
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