THE DAY LULU BARKED
With Gambit’s unexpected departure (see Coming and Going), we knew it was only a matter of time before Purdey left us too, and considering our isolated position, it was imperative to have a pack. As Wolfie and Schnudl were already six months old, we decided it was time to add another Rottie so that she could be integrated into the pack before the others were old enough to cause problems.
Just before Easter of 1999, Lulu joined the pack as a seven-week-old puppy.
During the first few weeks of getting to know Lulu, Wolfie decided that Schnudl was more fun so he tended to ignore Lulu, which Purdey did too. (In fact, Purdey could well have done without either of the Rotties, thank you very much! She continued to adore Schnudie, though). But after a while, Wolfie warmed to Lulu and began to protect her. If Purdey growled at her, Wolfie would step in between them, shielding Lulu in a rather sweet and heart-warming way.
As we got to know her better, we soon learnt that Lulu did things by extremes.
Rotties are known to practise passive resistance. They sit and look at you and give due consideration as to whether to obey an instruction or not. We had not realised this with Wolfie because he had been remarkably obedient from puppyhood. Lulu, on the other hand, did her best to be a textbook case.
Being the chief walker, Natasha was the one to have the most experience of this. She would sometimes come back from the walk, fulminating with rage because Lulu had been so determined to do her own thing, running off and ignoring coaxing calls, desperate whistles and screams of fury with equal disdain. Then when she finally did turn round, she would sit or stand looking at Tasha but not moving one inch towards her. She simply could not be trusted off leash and this spoilt the pleasure of the walk with Wolfie. On more than one occasion she was left at home because of it.
The irony of this was that very suddenly – almost magically overnight – when she was about three, Lulu became our most obedient and submissive dog, out-obeying even Wolfie!
From then on she followed a strict code: In order to protect her humans, to whom she was intensely loyal, all animals, from cows to rabbits, were to be hunted down and ruthlessly slain; all humans, big or small (including complete strangers) were gods sent to rule over dogs and were therefore not to be touched. On her own she would have been the most useless guard dog! (We were kept perfectly safe from the local bunny population though.)
Another extreme was her silence.
I have already mentioned that Rotties are not yappers, and only bark when necessary (see Shadow Chaser) but even this she took to ridiculous lengths.
Although she had done the growling thing as a puppy when playing with Schnudie, we had heard only one little “wuff” during the six or seven weeks she had been with us.
It was then that Schnudie came on heat for the first time and, of course, was confined to the house, being taken to the front garden only when she needed to go out.
During this time Wolfie abandoned his self-appointed task of being Lulu’s Protector-in-Chief and spent the days hanging over the lower half of the stable door into the kitchen, panting and literally drooling with lust. Within a short space of time, there would be a puddle of saliva on the tiles at the door, big enough to totally disgust the unwary stepper (usually me)!
One morning Lulu saw me through the smaller of the two gates separating the front and back gardens while I was taking Schnudl for a walk in the front. She tried to get under the gate to join us, but the space was too narrow and she would never be able to get through, so I was unconcerned and left her there. We returned to the house soon afterwards.
At the very least, it was an hour, possibly even more, when I went to the back door to check on the Rotties. Only Wolfie was there, at his drooling post. I called Lulu but there was no sign of her. While searching the backyard, it occurred to me that she might have got through the gate into the front garden after all. As the front garden was not puppy secure, I rushed round the house to the gate in a panic.
And there she was. She had tried to squeeze between the gate and the gatepost and had managed to get her head through. She was securely trapped. She stood there, engaged in a titanic struggle, wriggling and writhing with all her might, but without making the slightest sound!
Aside from that one “wuff” when she was a little puppy, there were only two occasions that we ever heard her bark.
We had made the decision not to have the girls spayed, more or less in ignorance (or just plain stupidity, take your pick).
Both my mom and a good friend of mine each wanted a daxie, and I very much wanted another one myself. We had also long decided that we wanted a third Rottie, and breeding them ourselves would save us a lot of money. (Rotties do not come cheap – even those from backyard breeders.) In the light of what was going to happen, this was somewhat ironic.
We were also confident that we would have no problem finding buyers for the other puppies. (I have said it before: there are times when ignorance is not bliss.)
Our intention was to wait until they were about two years old, so when Lulu came on heat for the first time, I hot-footed it to the vet (okay, I drove there) with Lulu and asked about the hormone injection I had heard about which removed the heat. The vet agreed to give her the injection, but warned me that there was no guarantee it would work as, ideally, it should be administered immediately prior to the onset of the heat. But we were lucky (or so I thought) and the heat disappeared.
For two months.
Whether I had misunderstood, or whether it had not been clearly explained, the injection only delayed the heat. There was no question of skipping the heat completely.
So there we were as the last weeks of the 1900’s were drawing to a close and Lulu was on heat for the second time.
December turned into a month of horrors.
On the very first day of December, Barry picked up a speeding ticket as he was leaving Piet Retief. Now R400 might seem like peanuts today but it was a fairly hefty sum in those days.
Then day five arrived.
Lulu had already been on heat for two weeks. We kept her in the kitchen for most of the time, but, strangely, there was no hanging over the stable door and no puddles of drool on the floor. I wondered if the hormone injection had something to do with it. Wolfie had lusted after Schnudie from the fifth day and here we were, two weeks into the heat, and he showed no interest in Lulu other than the odd sniff and lick.
On this particular day, I gave all the dogs their food outside in the usual place and returned to the kitchen.
Ten minutes later there was a terrified shrieking from outside the backdoor. It summoned the entire family as we were all convinced that one of the dogs was being killed.
And what do we see? Wolfie, or more appropriately in this case, Wolf, the lecherous swine, had just deflowered little Lulu, and she was shrieking because of her inability to get away from him!
Dieter, home from Germany for the Christmas holidays, was convinced that because we had kept Schnudl under lock and key, Wolf had laid a cunning plan: he would only pretend to be completely uninterested in Lulu!
While they were latched together I phoned my mom (who used to breed dachshunds way back in the fifties) and she advised me to use a douche of bicarb and disinfectant. I got all the paraphernalia together and waited.
And then the strangest thing occurred.
The moment Lulu was free, she began to chase her tail, barking quite hysterically at her own rear end! It was the first time we had ever heard her bark!
Recovering from our bemusement at this unprecedented behaviour (I mean, Lulu, barking, actually barking), we grabbed her, Dieter and a friend of his pinning her down. It took two of them because Lulu, though relatively small in size, was a particularly strong and muscular dog. I then administered the douche, praying it would work. She was, after all, still a pup herself.
Three days later, I am on my way to Vaalpark via Jo’burg with Tasha.
Deep in thought, I do not slow down quickly enough as we enter Bethel and am trapped doing 94 in a 60 zone! The fine? R500! R900 of fines in just over a week! Holy moly!
Not even half an hour later, just some kilometres past Trichardt, smoke suddenly begins to pour out of the bonnet of Barry’s precious Jetta VR6. I look at the dashboard for the first time since the Bethel incident. It is practically screaming with red lights. Red alert!! Loss of pressure in radiator!!! Red alert!! Very hot oil!! Red alert!!
A Good Samaritan stops to help. He opens the bonnet. Steam – not smoke! – pours out. It’s a burst radiator hose!
The Good Samaritan has a tow rope but we cannot figure out how to tow the Jetta. The road is narrow. And very busy. With huge trucks racing past. This is not pleasant.
I phone Barry. He tells me to hang in there, he’ll phone the VW dealer in Trichardt. He phones me back. They will come and fetch me. (By the way, the tow ring is concealed in the boot and has to be screwed into an eye which is concealed behind a front reflector.)
Is that a stupid design or what? Is this the Secret Service or what! Why didn’t the idiotic designer go and conceal himself in a cave in the Bavarian Alps instead of unleashing his ridiculous ideas on an unsuspecting world!! Imbecile!!! )
Assured that we will be in safe hands, the Good Samaritan leaves.
Tasha and I wait. And wait. And wait.
Eventually they fetch us.
We spend the night in Secunda with my sister.
The next day the radiator hose is replaced but water is still pouring out.
The cylinder heads need skimming. The auxiliary water pump must be replaced. Sensors must be replaced. Only R7800.
R400 + R500 + R7800!!!
Holy moly isn’t strong enough. I will refrain from expressing my true feelings.
The dealer kindly provides me with a courtesy car and we proceed to Jo’burg and from there to Vaalpark.
Saturday, the eleventh day of this hellish month, arrives.
Since Tasha and I left on Wednesday, Lulu has been spending the days in the garage. On Saturday morning, just before he goes to golf, he lets her out of the garage. That maniac Wolf shows not the slightest interest in her. Good news. Her heat must be over. Barry goes off to golf.
He comes back from golf late in the afternoon and feeds the four dogs outside as per usual.
Ten minutes later, a frightful shriek rends the air.
Yes, you guessed it. Deja vu.
And exactly as the previous time, once Lulu is free she chases her tail barking hysterically at her rear end!
I give up. There is no way on earth that Barry can administer a douche on his own.
We return home on Sunday. Lulu is overjoyed to see us and runs into the garage to greet us. I bend over to pat her and my expensive dark glasses fall out of my handbag onto the concrete floor of the garage and one of the lenses cracks from top to bottom.
This is the last straw! (As it turns out, I had no conception of the true meaning of ‘the last straw’.)
I will only add, at this point, that till the day she died, Lulu never barked again.
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