First published in Basenji Companions January/February 2007 and in Basenji Owners and Breeders Magazine - Spring 2007
When Betsy Polglase' Lottie reached her 17th birthday on 2nd December, 2006, a Member of Basenji Companions suggested a conga-line in celebration (only they called it a 'Congo-Line' in honour of Basenjis and VTW !).
Betsy came in with the idea of a virtual conga-line tour celebrating ALL Basenji birthdays. It became known as the "Magical, Mystical Barooing Basenji Conga-Line Tour" (Tour" for short) and 22 folks immediately signed up to virtually "host" the Tour from Yellowknife, NWT, Canada to Florida, USA.
More followed and the Line returned home on 13th January, 2007.
Anyone was allowed to host the conga-line Tour and if you wanted them as virtual visitors you made up a “sighting report!" To move the story along. People across USA composed these reports daily and on the night of 26th December, the Tour left Carol Kovac’s house and crossed the Atlantic to visit the Zande Pack who did their best to make them welcome and show them the sights.
After a day in London, the Tour crossed back across the Great Pond to Laura Whitney.
All the sighting reports can be seen by Members on the Basenji Companions website and were published in their Newsletter. Membership is only $25,00 a year – and for that you receive 6 excellent newsletters, and (sadly we Brits can’t attend) The “Revels” – and all kinds of fun events.
Basenji Companions has been trying to include more people via photographs in the REVELS competitions, so you can join the fun even if you live far away. Cassette tapes are even acceptable for the "most vocal" competition and rosettes are sent out for all winning e-mails or mailed photos !
ARRIVAL IN ENGLAND
“You all know what its like, the day after Christmas” said Curly. “And the next day, as England shuts down for a long winter holiday. All the presents have been opened and chewed, the wrapping paper shredded. And I have growled hundred and four times at Keepurr who wants me to play with him – at MY age ? I had my 14th birthday two days ago and no-one remembered it. Except me, and I feel very old these days. I think I’ll turn my face to the Aga, put my paws in my eyes and pretend everyone goes AWAY.
“What on EARTH is that ? Can’t an old man get any peace in this house ? Noise, lights, baruh-ing, yodelling, shouting, hunting horns and young Keepurr bouncing around at the window, elbowing Firbi and the girls out of his way – he is shouting too –
“Oh my HEAD, I need to sleep”. . . .
Poor Curly. But what is happening – he is right that the pack is in a turmoil, and Oh MY ! as far as I can see through the winter mist (it’s a real pea-souper of a fog this evening) the lawn outside is crowded with Basenjis, wet, bedraggled, obviously exhausted. I must rush out to them if I can avoid tripping over the pack. But wait ! In the dim mists beyond the lights are figures. Yes ! It is a bearded man, white haired and elderly, wearing a red cloak, and before him lined up in rows are reindeer ! Santa Claus himself has deviated from delivering Christmas presents and guided our guests to safety ! He waves to me as he sets off again, soon to disappear in the swirling mists.
The lights are flickering and Keepurr has found a pretty young Basenji lady – “Well, you see, we are part of a conga-line to celebrate Lottie’s 17 birthday and we knew you’d all want to be part of it but crossing the Atlantic Ocean was far harder, further, wetter and windier than we’d ever anticipated. We’ve been buffeted by storms, soaked in gales, blown off course in a hurricane – but something – a shiny red light which never dimmed, went before us, comforted us and we are here at last !
“And our tummy-clocks are all out of sinc. Do you have anything for us to eat ?”
Of course they are, my poor little lady - the jet-lag is always far worse coming this way across that great ditch. But help (and food and rest) is in the hands of a very willing pack of hosts.
Well you can guess the rest, Firbi & Plessy ran to fetch their dinner bowls, Chezz fetched bones from all over the garden just to give the travellers a snack while I made sure they could really tuck in to Christmas fare of turkey, baked ham, all kinds of vegetables, chestnuts, sauces, gravies, mince pies and cheeses. Keepurr watched carefully to make sure there was enough turkey and ham to go around. Trouble rushed around cleaning ears, rubbing noses and wishing everyone a hearty welcome and then Keepurr dug out rolls of kitchen- & toilet-paper from the cupboard and shredded it to make beds.
The home pack even elbowed old Curly out of the way (he was quite willing when he realised it was in a good cause and welcomed the visitors warmly) so the visitors could all pile up high in front of the Aga until I’d laid and lit the fire and logs were blazing merrily away in the grate in the lounge.
Some of the older Basenjis who were feeling cold to the very marrow of their bones,
we clad in sweaters and they were warming up as they slept the sleep of the righteous.
Keepurr came and whispered to me once the visitors were settled in front of the log fire,
lying on kitchen paper he had shredded. . . .
I am unhappy to admit this – no woman wants her baby to bestow his
affections on another woman, but he is in love and I can’t guarantee
that he won’t be a part of the conga line when it takes off again tomorrow.
We have all agreed that the distance is too great, the dangers too severe
and the weather too treacherous for the line to set off again
without a rest – and anyway – the Pack wants to show them
the sights of South East England !
Tomorrow is another day !
LONDON And the South East
After a good long sleep in front of the now dying embers, the visitors slowly came to life, s t r e t c h i n g themselves and shaking heads to clear the cobwebs. Keepurr had spent the night curled up with the pretty young lady but the rest of the host pack returned to the kitchen and slept in front of the Aga as usual.
Before breakfast we needed to get comfy so took all the Frisbees out onto the wild-flower meadow (just short grass at this time of year) and had a spell of racing around, throwing and catching, chasing, retrieving them. The sprint around the hidden places in the shrubbery turned into a carousel of laughing Basenjis. Keepurr taught the pretty lady to go down over one shoulder and do the Basenji Roll, a kind of somersault which enables fast change of direction and enables a dog to flee. Many of the Basenjis hadn’t ever seen, let alone done, this manoeuvre so Plessy and Firbi gave a demonstration and then everyone wanted to try it. There were collisions all over the lawn and much laughter as they disported themselves in time-honoured Basenji fashion. Appetites needed satisfying so we went back indoors for FOOD ! Miraculously there was more turkey and ham, all kinds of special foods for doggies which all disappeared in short order. In fact, the conga-line can come again if it shortens the number of days we have to eat turkey after Christmas !
The horrors of the Atlantic crossing were forgotten as the visitors looked forward to exploring and seeing the sights of this old country.
Everyone piled into the car and we drove to Bodiam Castle –
there were races around the old tilt-yard, ducks to chase
on the moat and swans on the River Rother.
Somehow we discovered a large pile of fresh fish from the moat in the back of the car ?!?!?
Trouble ? Chezz ? Firbi ? Probably Chezz, I suspect.
Someone had been busy in the moat but it came in useful later.
The Basenjis climbed onto the battlements and the old walls echoed to the sound of excited yodels. The owners of the Castle put on a special Son et Lumiére for us, and Keepurr and the pretty lady found themselves in the flood lights dressed as a venerable king and his queen. Everyone else joined in the noise and added sounds never before heard in this ancient castle.
From Bodiam we went to the beach – to race along the sand. Except that the tide was in so there was no sand, only shingle. One step forwards and two backwards as the loose stones shifted even under the light weight of the Basenjis. There was more baruh-ing as they tried to find a foothold !
So we went instead to the woods to paddle in the stream, sniff the holes and get the mental stimulation enjoyed by the host pack. Spreading out across the fields were Bunny Rabbits ! hundreds of bunny rabbits, and the conga-line components were encouraged to catch their own lunch. There were a few squabbles but everyone ate their fill and the local gardeners who normally lose half their vegetable crops to the bunnies will be grateful to them all summer long.
No visit to England would be complete without a trip to London so of course Curly, the most knowledgeable, insisted on organising it. The Conga-line formed and the home pack climbed back into the car for a virtual journey, far faster then normally achievable. We raced around Buckingham Palace and exchanged email addresses with the Queen’s Corgis, toured the dungeons of the Tower of London – the pretty lady had to go back for Keepurr who got left behind gazing at the splendour of the Crown Jewels. Thames River Authority allowed the visitors to conga around Tower Bridge while they opened it and closed it again in honour of the visit.
The Changing of the Guard on Horse Guards Parade is normally at 11 o’clock but in deference to the visiting Basenjis, a special Changing was staged for them. Everyone was enchanted by the soldiers in their bearskins although some of the younger Basenji girls giggled. They’d expect to see the soldiers in their bare-skins !
From Whitehall it is but a step to Trafalgar Square, with fountains, lions and Nelson on his Column ! Luckily it was too cold for swimming and there are no fish in the fountains because you can be arrested for bathing there. Lions are not frightening to any self-respecting Basenji though, and suffered the indignity of being clambered over. But no-one tried to climb up to Nelson. I was so proud of them.
Then it was off to Madame Tussauds – the Waxworks, the Chamber of Horrors and the London Dungeon. The dogs wanted to go to the 'Clink' but I warned them BAD Basenjis could be imprisoned there ! They were worried by all the instruments of torture but Curly explained to the visitors that humans really did perform such barbaric inhumanities on other humans, and not that long ago, either. The Basenjis wanted to see a waxwork of Veronica Tudor-Williams but were told she was away to be cleaned. Too many visiting Basenjis over the years had left dogs hairs on her clothes. To clear the unpleasant taste in the mouth left by the Chamber, we all rode on the London Eye – and Firbi thought he was so high up he must be able to see his brother Zan in Oklahoma. Plessy told him not to be so silly.
A rapid foray to the shops of Oxford Street was embarked upon and everyone bought presents for the dogs back in USA. Some of the older dogs would have preferred Harrods of Knightsbridge but we all thought it might be too expensive, given the current exchange rate.
Exhausted from shopping, we all took tea at the Ritz Hotel. Bone china, crumpets, finely sliced cucumber sandwiches, creamy cakes. It went down very well and the dogs agreed that a good cup of tea really does cheer you up and give you new energy.
We watched the lights in Piccadilly Circus and then rode the tube, London’s Underground Railway, out to the suburbs to hunt the deer in Richmond Park before zooming back home for a bonfire and barbecue which Marvin prepared.
There was no more turkey but the fish from Bodiam went down very well !
Suddenly it was time to reform the conga-line, take a deep breath and zoom off to the West – it’s a very long journey but the Basenjis knew they could make it. They got here safely and on this trip were going home across the Ocean to America.
Curly, Firbi, Chezz, Plessy & Trouble waved and shouted from the lawn until the line was out of sight and then trekked sadly back into the kitchen to resume their routine.
But where was Keepurr ?