by Sally Wallis - Zande Basenjis
First published in Basenji Owners & Breeders Association News Christmas 1989
The few minutes pleasure in the show-ring (when I win !) are as nothing beside the hours of pleasure I have daily exercising our pack.
We have caught squirrels, chased dabchicks, hunted field-voles, had a baby rabbit, pulled a pheasant by its tail and seen an old dog-fox. In the early mornings the autumn mists are broken by an elderly Basenji creeping through the reeds along the river bank, down on her elbows, roached and with her tail way down between her legs for all the world like an old vixen stalking her prey.
The younger ones frolic, wrestle and cover at least four times the couple of miles I walk myself. Every morning and again after lunch we go out of the front gate, a brisk half mile down the road and over the stile. Festooned around my neck with leads and with liver in my pockets, I love taking the dogs out to run free.
At this time of year we go along the river which meets another stream about a mile further down and return by another way. It is an ideal spot for Basenjis. They won't cross that particular piece of water which effectively surrounds them, swift-running, cold as ice and in places very deep. But 1989 was a very dry summer in the South East and the water got lower and lower.
One day a bitch did the unthinkable - she crossed the stream. I called the others and immediately hitched them. For some reason the old lady had decided not to come that afternoon so I only had five. I picked the girls up in my arms and hauled the boys to the other side. The runaway teased, came close but never close enough.
Suddenly she was away - and so were about 200 sheep. My wee shepherd did as good a job as I have seen. She got the flock through a gate, over a moat which runs through the fields, across a narrow dyke and into yet another field. Then my screams got to her and she brought the whole flock back again - except that one sheep was lying on the ground with my girl tearing at it... Tugging the other dogs and by now screaming and crying, I reached the spot.
The Basenjis hitched firmly to my arm also tore at the thick wool while I made an abortive attempt to catch the culprit. I dragged them off and the sheep got up and ran into a corner where it was kept penned by my run-away in a most professional sheepdog manner. Hoarse and in despair I eventually persuaded the girl to release the animal and give herself up. She came to me, got a piece of liver for returning to her mistress and was hitched.
By now the five leads were so tightly plaited I had about 3 inches per dog of slack - they were very excited at the taste (luckily only of the wool) and we still had to make our slow and painful way back around several fields and across the stream.
As soon as we arrived home I phoned the farmer. His wife was very kind. She told me not to get upset, that if the ewe aborted they would obviously expect compensation, but thanked me for letting her know. Two days later the farmer himself stopped me in the road, got out of his car, played with all the dogs and said how grateful they were that I had contacted them - that had it been anyone else they would have thrown the book but they knew how careful we always are with our dogs. We were all lucky. But that silly little girl has spoiled things for the dogs and for us. It was a long time before I could bring myself to run them loose again, there or in any of our other seasonally changeable haunts.
There is a moral. Had the ewe aborted or been killed outright, or had my little hell-hound done any real damage, we would have been covered under our household insurance policy. Would you ?
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