Every dark cloud has a silver lining, says the old adage, and this certainly proved true in the new additions to the pack. Even though both puppy sagas had been soul searing, we did gain two really lovely dogs.
With Tessie Bear, though, we discovered another twist to littermate syndrome.
Lulu was not only her mother, but her teacher and role model, and I have already mentioned that, in those early years, Lulu was a very disobedient, wilful dog.
Tasha bore the brunt of this as she was our dog-walker-in-chief. When the pack went for a walk, Tessie followed Lulu’s lead, and this included disappearing into the forests and completely ignoring all calls to return. It was very risky to allow Lulu off leash. Tasha became so fed up that she would usually only take Wolfie with her. It was only when we all went for a walk that the whole pack went along, and what a procession that was! Controlling six dogs of such differing ages and sizes was not exactly a walk in the park. (No pun intended.)
Purdey, who could no longer be trusted either after her attempt to drown herself (See Wild Goose Chase), and Lulu had to be on leash, and for much of the time, Schnudie too, for of all the disobedient dogs we have ever had, Schnudl took the biscuit!
She never became a family dog in the true sense of the word. From puppyhood she had been a one person dog, and she had decided that I was that person. As I had always had a selfish desire to have a dog which was exclusively mine, I was secretly rather pleased, but, as much as I loved my Schnudie, I have to admit she was not really a very endearing dog.
Because the front garden was not as secure as the back, and because it was so huge, I would become quite panic-stricken if I checked up on her and she was nowhere to be found. On several occasions when there was no response to my desperate calls and whistles, and I was just about to set off on a search outside the property, I would spy two large floppy ears flying up as the little menace, in pursuit of rodents and lizards, leapt over the vegetation in various overgrown parts of the garden while in pursuit of her prey.
When she was on the hunt she became distressingly deaf. And as she was a most dedicated hunter, there were quite a few occasions when I could have wrung her neck!
She also did not like small children, though in this regard, she was not alone. There were a number of school children who walked past our property daily from their homesteads in the forests to the school in Iswepe village. As they made it part of their daily routine to tease the dogs (out of sight behind the hedges) it was not long before all the dogs loathed them.
This had a profound effect on both Tessie and Schnudie. As an older dog, Tessie could not be trusted with small children at all. Her body language was most alarming because she quite clearly regarded them as prey. Schnudie simply barked (and barked and barked) and this became an embarrassment whenever we had visitors with young children. She would not let them near her.
She had also completely alienated Tasha on one occasion when we still had the daxie puppies. We had taken all four into the front garden to become accustomed to being outside, when Wrinkles found a little bone. Schnudie decided it was her bone and she snapped at him and actually punctured the top of his little head! It did not bleed but the little hole was clearly visible.
For Tasha that was The End!
First her ridiculous hysterics whenever one of the cats simply looked at her, then an incident on Tasha’s birthday, which falls in the middle of winter, when her day began most unpleasantly with stepping in a puddle of Schnudl wee in the kitchen with her socks on, and now, what kind of a mother would do such a thing to a tiny defenceless little mite!
As far as she was concerned, Schnudl was a horrible little dog, and, more importantly, “not a very nice person”. Quote-unquote!
Scampy was as different as different could be.
In the early weeks we kept him separate from the other dogs. He was so tiny (and still so weak and thin) that we were too scared he would be squashed by just one clumsy paw. We did let Tessie play with him and Popeye in front, though. She was certainly much bigger than he was but she was gentle and had a very easy-going nature, and the three of them soon became the greatest of friends.
As a grown dog, Scampy turned out to be the most delightful little character and he absolutely adored all the Rottweilers. Wolfie was his hero! Wolfie, however, treated him with lofty tolerance, when he did deign to notice him. For the greater part he ignored him. After all, Scampy had no clue how to make hand shadows!
But that was still in the future.
For the present, keeping Schnudl separated from all the others was turning into a huge inconvenience, so we set about getting her and Lulu used to being in each other’s company again.
Lulu had completely lost the calculating, on-the-hunt look which she had had during her pregnancy, and always greeted Schnudie with a friendly wag and sniff. Because Schnudie was still frightened of her, there were a few tense moments in the beginning, but it gradually improved and soon all the dogs were happily going about their daily lives together. The one good thing which had come about was that Schnudie no longer tried to dominate the others. She was too busy hunting under the hedges and on the wood pile!
A month later, in August, Barry took ten days’ leave so that the two of us could go and spring clean our holiday flat in Manaba Beach (with me doing most of the cleaning and Barry mostly – but not exclusively – seeing to the golfing side of things!).
I could write a whole chapter on the joys of owning a holiday flat which is let out to the hoi polloi of holiday makers. Not only do they steal coat hangers, not to mention the odd broom and pot, but they appear to be constitutionally incapable of cleaning the bottoms of pots and pans. And letting agents appear to have no time or inclination to see to it that kitchen cupboards next to stoves do not become encrusted with grease or that shower tiles do not become black with mould.
Anyway, we had decided after our holiday, a few months previously, that the grubbiness was becoming embarrassing, so off we went to wash curtains, clean upholstery, and scrub walls, floors, tiles and the insides of cupboards.
My parents came to keep Tasha company while we were away and also to collect Popeye. (My sister had graciously said that they could have him. Personally I think she was secretly relieved.)
We arrived in Manaba late on the Wednesday afternoon and on Thursday morning we began the Big Clean-Up.
On Monday afternoon, while in the midst of mops, brooms and soapsuds, I received a phone call from Tasha which crushed any joy right out of me.
She had brought the Rottweilers back from a walk and let them into the backyard where Schnudie was happily hunting mice and lizards in the woodpile.
No sooner was Tasha inside the house than there was a shriek of pain from outside. She rushed out again to find that Lulu had grabbed Schnudie by the neck and no matter how much Tasha screamed and tried to stop her, Lulu would not let go and shook Schnudie till her eyes glazed and her tongue protruded. Only after Tasha, calm with despair, had become quiet for a while, and gently said, “Okay Lulu, you can let her go now”, did Lulu drop her.
Tasha and my dad thought Schnudie was dead but then they saw she was still breathing. They rushed her off to the vet. She was badly mauled and needed a lot of stitches. They had had to leave her there.
Completely numbed, I phoned the vet.
The news was not good. Schnudie still had some movement in her tail and legs but the danger was that swelling would force the spinal tissue apart. He told me to phone again the next morning.
I spent the rest of the day in a daze.
On Tuesday morning I phoned the vet. Schnudie had not moved her position. He had tried applying deep pain and she had not responded. Just her eyes were following him as he moved about. The diagnosis was a damaged spinal cord with permanent paralysis and he advised me to let him euthanize her.
I couldn’t bring myself to give permission. I told him to give me a while and I would phone back. I sat on a chair and thought and prayed and thought and prayed.
But I could not bear the thought of my Schnudie, alert in her broken body. I phoned the vet and told him to end it.
All day long, I scrubbed walls and cleaned cupboards while my mind sang a dirge.
Oh, Schnudie, Schnudie, Schnudie, my darling precious little dog. Why, oh, why didn’t I keep you away from Lulu? Why did I not just put up with the nuisance of keeping you separate? Oh, Schnudie, my dog, I killed you. Oh Schnudie, I’m so sorry.
On and on it went. I could not stop it. Aside from the sorrow of my loss, I was wracked with agonising guilt. My dad had been willing to solve the problem for us and take Schnudie because he loved her to bits. (Probably the only other human to do so, aside from myself.) But I had wanted Schnudie for myself. She was my dog. And now, thanks to my selfishness, she was no one’s dog.
Over the years I have had to go through the loss of a number of pets, but nothing compares with the agony of guilt-ridden grief I suffered at the loss of Schnudie.
What is there more to say other than that we learnt some very, very costly lessons about dog behaviour?
We have since learnt the importance of establishing yourself (and the other human members of the family) as pack leaders – the ones with the dominant role – and not allowing any aggression from any of the pack members towards each other.
When they had still been puppies we had found Schnudie’s aggressive domination of Wolfie to be cute and amusing. Her behaviour towards Lulu when Lulu arrived should have been nipped in the bud. Schnudie clearly saw herself as the pack leader.
The second lesson was that if there is a history of fighting between unevenly matched dogs, then you have to re-home one of them.
We don’t know for sure what provoked that final attack, but it is almost certain that Schnudie growled at her.
Lulu had never tried to dominate any of the dogs. She was very respectful towards Purdey and Wolfie, friendly towards Rambo, and she never tried to dominate Tess or Scampy.
But she clearly had a very good memory.
In her mind Schnudie had tried to kill her (see The Bold and the Vicious), and, while she was prepared to live on peaceful terms with her, she was not prepared to accept the slightest show of aggression. What it amounts to is that from that very first incident, Schnudie had been living on borrowed time.
You do not mess with Rottweilers.
But do not for one moment think that the Year of the Dog had finished with us.
Two weeks later, after our return home, Purdey, now twelve years old, stopped eating. By the fifth day she was no longer moving around and lay all day in one place. When she got up to answer the call of nature, she staggered. She strained and strained, passing only an orange liquid. Clearly, the time had come.
I simply could not face it and asked Barry and Tasha to take her through to the vet.
As she lay on the back seat of the car, I stroked her head. She gave a faint wag of her tail. I watched the car drive off until I couldn’t see it anymore and then went into the house.
Over a period of six months we had lost five puppies, said goodbye to our faithful Purdey, and lived through the tragic loss of Schnudl. Seven dogs. In six months.
2000, the Year of the Dragon?
I don’t think so!
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