RESCUES TO THE RESCUE!
In the early autumn, some four months after Pixie’s invasion of our hitherto peaceful life, we had a weekend family gathering of note, with four generations of aunts and uncles and cousins and second cousins, all from my dad’s side of the family. (It has gone down in our family annals as the Big Bennett Bash.)
My niece Christy had brought along Winston, her Boston terrier puppy. Pixie, then six months old, spent her time, most productively, tormenting Winston.
She started with his toy bone. She took it when he wasn’t looking, kicked up her heels and ran joyfully (and smugly) around the garden with Winston racing after her, yelping at the top of his voice to express his outraged indignation. She allowed Winston to retrieve his property, and the moment he had reclaimed it, she grabbed another of his toys, and the chase would start all over again. She showed no aggression at all and was clearly hugely enjoying herself – it was the most fun she had had in her life!
All this, just by the way, after Tasha had taken her for a very fast run around the dam in an attempt to ensure that she wouldn’t bother anyone too much. (Amused snigger off stage.)
Tilly, of course, kept herself secluded, still determined to keep her winsome charm a secret.
Rambo (my parents’ daxie, you will remember), the only other canine member of the party, was in a state of ecstasy. It was a very long time since he had had so many people willing to throw things for him to fetch. Rambo did not need a ball. He was quite happy with anything remotely round, so stones did very well for him too. He had managed to grind the tips of his teeth off over the years, and a peep inside his mouth was quite astonishing. I assure you that a flat-toothed dog is just plain weird!
He was amazingly active considering that he was well past his thirteenth birthday, and we were all in awe of his agility. Under normal circumstances, throwing for him soon palled, but this time there were enough people to humour him so he almost ran himself into a lather.
No sooner had the last dawdler left late on Sunday afternoon, than my mom reappeared at our backdoor in a panic. Rambo had a bone stuck in his throat and she was not able to dislodge it.
Barry raced through to Greytown with my dad and Rambo, but it turned out to be far, far worse than a bone. He was choking from congestion of his lungs. The vet injected him and gave my dad pills, but he quietly warned Barry that the prognosis was not good.
On Monday morning Rambo came out of the kitchen, lay down under a chair in my parents’ lounge and quietly died. He had literally run himself to death.
My dad missed him dreadfully and began nagging for a puppy, but my mom was adamant. Now well into their eighties, neither of them had the mobility and agility necessary for housetraining a puppy. With Pixie’s bladder still fresh in my mind, I totally agreed with her.
I wondered whether an older shelter dog which was already housetrained might not be the solution. On the home front, the dynamo living with us was giving Tilly grey hairs and we began to think of getting a rescue dog for ourselves. We could thereby kill two birds with one stone by getting another, but younger, daxie who would take some of the pressure off Tilly, while at the same time providing her with more amenable companionship.
In the months that followed we began to scan the SPCA albums published in the provincial newspaper.
It turned out to be a frustrating exercise. No sooner would the Pietermaritzburg branch advertise a daxie than it would be adopted. But, finally, after nearly five months, we struck it lucky and were able to go through to the shelter and see if we liked her.
She was a small and painfully thin little dog. Her coat was just as thin and also rough and dull, and she had no hair on her tail. She was wearing a grubby little black and white striped vest. She stretched up against the fence, and the mute appeal in her eyes sent a dagger straight into my heart. I did not care whether she would be a suitable companion for Tilly or a playmate for Pixie. That poor little dog desperately needed love and care.
Not surprisingly, Mimi came with issues.
She had originally been one of three daxie puppies owned by a family with small children, but when the pups began to grow, they ran after the children and nipped them, so all three of them ended up at the SPCA. (I have grave reservations about giving puppies to toddlers and preschoolers, especially breeds which can be easily injured. Dachshund spines are accidents waiting to happen.)
They were all adopted out again, with Mimi being taken in by an elderly lady. This elderly lady finally had to go into care and Mimi once again ended up in the shelter.
The day after her arrival was a Sunday and we had our customary Sunday dinner at the dining room table. (Excepting for Sundays, we usually eat our main meal while watching television.)
From the moment we sat down, Mimi ran around and around the table in a demented fashion for the entire time that we were at the table! I have never seen such desperation in a dog in my life!
By the next Sunday, after a week of decent food, she gave up on the table marathon, but to the end of her days the sound of plates being scraped in the kitchen was a summons for a mad sprint. At first she also wolfed her food down as though a dozen dogs were skulking in the background to steal her food. I am convinced that she had been fed only scraps and that she was starving when we got her.
She had also clearly been an only dog for most of her life and had no clue how to play. When Pixie and Tilly had one of their now very occasional tag games, Mimi dashed after them and made spirited attempts to bite Tilly to help Pixie put her in her place!
But gradually she settled in, gained weight, developed a thicker and very glossy coat, and proved herself to be a sweet and loving little dog. She even learnt to play!
This then was the status quo at the time of the incident of the last papaya. (See The Last Papaya.)
Now we had to find Pixie a companion for her new outside life.
The state of my house – it looked as though a crèche full of ill-behaved toddlers had taken over my home – was a burning incentive and we immediately began to scan the newspaper.
That very week, the SPCA had a boerbull cross named Bessie up for adoption. Tasha and I went through to Pietermaritzburg to have a look.
One of the assistants led us to the kennel where Bessie was kept. On the way we passed a friendly brindle dog and we decided that if Bessie turned out to be unsuitable we would take a good look at that one.
Bessie turned out to be awful. She was very big, almost with Great Dane proportions and she was anything but friendly. She was also on her own because she did not get on with other dogs! I was extremely puzzled as this was not the information I had been given when I phoned.
The assistant went back to the office to find out what was going on while we took a look at the brindle, which was somewhat smaller than Pixie. The ridge on her back clearly illustrated part of her genealogy, but the brindle colouring was puzzling. She was delightfully friendly and seemed calm and gentle. Whether she would be able to handle our pup from hell was another matter.
The assistant returned full of apologies. She had been mistaken. The brindle was in actual fact the Bessie we had come to see!
We went back to the office for information. Bessie had been surrendered because she was hyperactive!
Now we had a dilemma. Would we be multiplying our problems?
Back we went to look at Bessie.
We decided to risk it.
Unlike Mimi, she had her original record of inoculations from the same vet in Pietermaritzburg who had attended to Poppy and Pixie. She was also the same age as Pixie, being just a few days older. Her previous owner had taken excellent care of her. Her coat was soft and shiny, and she walked well on a lead.
Her vet booklet stated that she was a boerbull, but we considered this to be questionable. She was obviously part Rhodesian ridgeback, but one of my sisters has a boerbull/ridgeback cross who does not look in the least like Bessie, besides being very much larger. Later, while surfing the internet, Tasha found pictures of brindle boerbulls and we had to admit that the colouring was exactly the same as Bessie’s, so perhaps her mother had indeed been a brindle boerbull.
We introduced her to Pixie by taking them both for a walk through the village, and by the time we returned home they were used to each other’s presence and there was no sign of aggression from either of them.
Bessie was indeed hyperactive and we soon realised why her owner had surrendered her. In fact, she had even more energy than Pixie! She was also equally destructive!
Had we just made the biggest mistake of our lives?
But all was well. They absolutely adored each other almost from the first and played with each other continuously. They raced and wrestled and chewed each other – all day long, excepting when they fell down to sleep off their exhaustion. They were so busy with each other that our property was relatively safe. Even the washing was now left alone and we no longer had to banish Pixie on wash days.
Bessie, while not particularly intelligent, is a very sweet and affectionate dog who loves nothing more than a tummy rub, and being very submissive, turned out to be the ideal companion for Pixie, who quite naturally assumed the mantle of Top Dog.
The only game she refused (and still refuses) to play with Pixie was tug-of-war.
We had bought Pixie the mother of all ropes for this purpose, and she would invitingly dangle it in front of Bessie. But Bessie clearly understood that this was Pixie’s rope and she would never, ever even think of trying to grab it to wrestle it away from her. It simply wasn’t good etiquette!
But, until they were four years old, the chasing and wrestling continued non-stop. And I mean, literally, non-stop!
While Pixie had been trained for long-distance running (see The Last Papaya), Bessie is a natural sprinter. She does not so much fly over the ground as actually tear it out from under her, thus enabling her to run with the speed and agility of a hare. She can turn and change direction at high speed.
At first Pixie was hopelessly outmatched and became very frustrated. But she is a highly competitive dog, and while all the sprinting helped her to gradually develop greater strength and speed, she also began to use her powerful intelligence. Instead of chasing Bessie, she would calculate the direction in which Bessie was headed and would get there before her.
They became more and more evenly matched in the chase until Pixie’s combination of intelligence, cunning, determination and dedication paid off, and it was Bessie who was struggling to keep up!
When they were both eighteen months old and fully grown, Tasha resumed the cycling runs around the dam. Although not highly trainable, Bessie is able to follow the lead of another dog and soon she was running with the other two alongside Tasha’s bicycle – Pixie on the left and Tilly and Bessie on the right. All three became almost hysterical with excitement whenever the leashes and the bicycle were brought out.
But, although Pixie now spent all the daytime hours outside, she refused to sleep in the kennel, and our back door had some interesting evidence on it as to the fierceness of her resolve to sleep in the laundry according to her custom. And, naturally, Bessie couldn’t bear to be separated from her new best friend!
So, although the destruction of the contents of my house had ceased, the same could not be said for Tilly and Mimi’s igloos (originally belonging to Ginger and Katy – see Cats are from Venus, Dogs are from Mars), and these soon began to look very tattered indeed. Fortunately, the big dogs’ time in the laundry was restricted, as we let them in late and out very early, so the igloos did survive. Just barely.
Two months later, Barry was visiting Iswepe on company business, and Tasha was in Margate with Dieter, who was home from Germany for a holiday.
It was very early, before five, when I was rudely awakened by a frantic pounding on the door between the kitchen and laundry. I dashed to the kitchen and opened the laundry door.
Bessie and Mimi shot past me into the kitchen like streaks of greased lightning, and from there out into the hallway to the front door.
I stood at the laundry door completely overwhelmed by the stench and the sight. There was diarrhoea everywhere. On Pixie and Bessie’s bed, on the daxies’ igloos, on the sides of the washing machine and tumble drier, on the cupboard doors, on the walls and the doors, and the floor was flooded. Everywhere!
It took me two seconds to take all this in and then I shrieked for Bessie and Mimi to come back, but, of course, it was too late. A trail of pawmarks led from the kitchen over the hallway carpet and dried up just before the front door. They had managed to clean their paws quite nicely.
I had to step into the lake on the laundry floor to open the back door. Opening the door scraped some of the muck towards the wall and Pixie scrambled out into the back yard, closely followed by Bess and Mimi who had returned to the kitchen in response to my shrieking.
There was no sign of life from Tilly’s igloo as she was completely wrapped up in her blanket and did not budge. (I would not have been surprised if the stench had killed her. It was dreadful!)
It was a full two hours later before I had it all cleaned up, including scrubbing the pawmarks off the hall carpet. Finally, I called Tilly out of her igloo and added her bedding to the other igloo and blankets in the washing machine.
This was the turning point.
That night I took them both to the kennel. Bessie went in very happily. It was obvious that she was accustomed to being an outside dog. I commanded Pixie to go in. She complied and lay down. I stayed with them for a few minutes and said “STAY!” in my best no-nonsense voice and then went inside.
And that was the end of it. It would seem that Pixie knew that the Rubicon had been crossed.
As an aside, it transpired that Bessie had been the source of the horror. She had an upset tummy for a day or two, but it cleared up and we had no further problems.
Not long after this, our gardener, unaware of the new arrangement, put Pixie and Bessie into the laundry when the garden services arrived to cut the lawn. I was busy elsewhere in the house so did not know that they were in there. By the time I found out, they had made short shrift of what was left of the igloos.
With a sigh of resignation, I gathered the bits of sponge and fabric and threw them in the garbage bin. Then I went to my mending cupboard and took out the severely damaged bed which I had originally bought for Bessie. I fixed it as best I could and from that night onwards Tilly and Mimi slept in it together.
With Pixie out of the way, the daxies played together beautifully, with exciting chases around the house.
For the first time in a year, peace returned to our household.
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