It is four months since the loss of Tilly.
It is Saturday morning and I am scrolling down my Facebook page when I see a photo of a little brown daxie girl who was found in a rural area consisting of plots and farms, some ten kilometres to the north-west of Uvongo. It is therefore not that far away and it is quite feasible that a little lost dachshund could work her way there in four months.
This is the problem when you have no closure. Your head knows perfectly well that Tilly cannot possibly have survived, but your heart doesn’t accept it. No, your heart wants her to be alive and it persistently argues with your head.
The photo is not clear and it doesn’t look exactly like Tilly, but, just in case, I call Tasha to have a look. Tasha is also not sure.
I phone the contact number just to set my mind at rest.
The woman I speak to confirms that she cannot be Tilly. She has taken her to the local vet and he estimated her age to be about eighteen months. She also has no scars on her side. Definitely not Tilly.
We have a brief chat. The little dog was found the previous day, at the side of the main road through the area, by a woman on her way to keep a doctor’s appointment. She stopped at the nearest house - the home of the woman I am speaking to - and handed her over because she had no time to make a thorough search.
My contact then took over the search, and although she went to every house within a reasonable radius from her home, the little dog remains unclaimed. I ask if she intends keeping her if she cannot find the owner and (rather reluctantly) offer to foster if she cannot. She tells me that she has a friend who will take her. (To my relief. I am not quite ready to get another dog.)
The next day I receive a phone call.
It is an unknown man. He remains unknown as he does not introduce himself. He is clearly not over-concerned with the niceties of social intercourse.
He abruptly tells me to come and fetch the dog I phoned about before his big dogs kill it.
What? What, what, what?
It takes me several seconds to fully grasp what he is talking about, upon which my hackles rise. (I do not take kindly to being ordered about, especially not by people I do not know from a bar of soap.) To say that I am taken aback is an understatement of no mean proportions, I assure you.
I am very tempted to tell the man to take a running jump at himself, but manage to swallow my indignation. With studied politeness, I obtain the information that the little dog is in grave danger. But whether he is genuinely concerned for her safety or just doesn’t want to clean up the threatened bloodbath, I will leave it to you to decide. (You might conclude that I have taken a dislike to this man and I have one reply: You think???)
I decide the safety of the poor little dog is more important than my feelings. I get directions and leave immediately.
The woman (who has my profound sympathies) is waiting outside her property at the side of the road. We greet, I take the dog and put her in my car, we have a few minutes conversation, and I leave.
I am convinced the vet doesn’t know what he is talking about. This tiny dog is still a puppy! She is nowhere near eighteen months old. Possibly six, if that.
I arrive home. Pixie and Bessie are safely locked away. Tasha and I take a good look at this exuberantly friendly little puppy. I notice for the first time that while she has the short legs and long body of a dachshund, she has a sharp little face, her paws are dainty, and her body has a rounded look. She is also able to lift her enormous ears. She is a crossbreed! Suddenly the vet doesn’t seem that clueless anymore!
We decide to introduce her to Pixie first.
Tasha brings Pixie on leash onto the sundeck where I am waiting with the little dog. I hold her up with her tail facing Pixie to allow Pixie to have a good introductory sniff, thereby also letting the visitor know that she is at the lower end of the hierarchy. We then walk the two together around the sundeck a few times (with the new dog on Tilly’s leash) and then around the garden a few times, till we are sure they have accepted each other as a dog with no evil intentions.
Tasha takes Pixie to the back and locks her away and she comes back with Bessie. She has to restrain her as Bessie immediately signals her intention of having the little dog for breakfast. We reprimand Bessie, go through the bum-sniffing ritual that dogs find so crucial, and then do the walking - first around the sundeck and then around the garden.
Tasha takes Bessie with her to fetch Pixie and then we walk them as a pack. Round the sundeck, down the steps onto the paving, up the steep driveway, round the back and the other side of the house to the front, then up the steps to the sundeck. We do this several times. Many times, in fact. Although it is winter, it is a warm day, and we both work up quite a sweat.
After more than an hour we feel safe (not to mention exhausted), and indeed, all is well. (Thanks to Cesar Millan.) At least she will be safe while we attempt to find her owners, which we hope will be quite soon.
That night I advertise on South Coast social media pet sites and the following day I phone the two shelters in our area and all the vets. They have had no enquiries but they take my information in case someone is looking for her.
By Monday night, Tasha and I have decided that keeping her won’t be so bad. By Wednesday we are hoping that we will never find her owners.
She is absolutely adorable!
Completely housetrained, knows her way around a home, jumps happily onto beds and furniture and walks well on a leash, and is very evidently accustomed to being a lap dog. She is extremely playful and ready at all times for any game you can think of and is especially fond of ‘fetch’, which she plays with great gusto. And yet, there is no sign of the typical daxie OCD. If you stop playing and put the ball away, she accepts it quite philosophically.
We cannot understand why no one is looking for her.
The first night she sleeps with me. (Barry is in Newcastle and is not there to object.) The second night I put her beside my bed in Tilly’s igloo, with one of my tops. She makes one effort to get into bed with me but I put her back firmly. She makes no further attempts and remains in the igloo. The next night she sleeps in the kitchen, where the big dogs are sleeping during the winter months. And there she has slept ever since.
We do some research on the Internet and come to the conclusion that she is a dachshund - miniature Pinscher cross. In the US they are known as Doxie-Pins. In SA, I suppose that is a Daxie-Pin.
Now to find her a name. (Before Barry comes home and suggests ‘Trixie’.)
We seem to have run out of ideas. We’ve had too many dogs, I suppose.
One of Tasha’s weird dreams finally provides us with a name.
Some years ago, while we were still in Hermannsburg, on one of Tasha’s walks around the village, she saw a little brown dog that she thought was one of the cutest little dogs she had ever seen. She did not recognise the breed, and was not even sure that it was not perhaps a crossbreed. She dreamt that night that she discovered it was called a Skippity-Skippity. (Yes, I know. But if you had to sit and listen to the descriptions of some of her dreams, you would not find this to be that surprising.)
Not long afterwards, she discovered (while she was awake) that it was a miniature Pinscher. So, because we are sure this dog is a miniature Pinscher cross, and because she skips around, we jokingly start calling her ‘Skippity-Skippity’.
It is not very long before we shorten this to Skippy.
At first she does not like to be left alone and seems to suffer from separation anxiety, which I have since discovered is very common with abandoned dogs. But eventually she seems to settle in and accepts our departures without howling.
After a month we have her spayed.
Tasha and I go off to town on a Friday, leaving her outside with Pix and Bess. They have settled so well together that we feel she will be perfectly safe in their company.
She stands at the gate with both ears erect – which we eventually learn is a warning sign. (She has the long ears of a dachshund but the ability to raise them so that she looks like a bat-eared fox! One ear up means that she is interested, and two ears up means that she is stressed [or she has heard the rustle of a packet of biltong].)
When we get back from town she has vanished.
Phoning SPCA and vets. Searching. Waiting. Praying.
On Tuesday morning I receive a phone call.
A very kind and polite lady (who introduces herself and tells me where she lives) asks me if I am missing a dog.
Indeed I am.
Would I please describe her?
I ask one question: Has she got a stitch on her tummy? (It is just a week since she was spayed.)
The lady laughs. That is what she was waiting to hear. Only the genuine owner would know that!
She was picked up by the lady’s daughter down the road from us, (Skippy had obviously got through the gap between the gate and the wall and tried to follow our car) and is a mere two minutes away by car. The lady kept her for the weekend and was sorely tempted to keep her permanently. (I understand only too well!) But then her conscience smote her and she phoned the SPCA and was given my number.
I rush off to fetch her and the rest is history.
What a blessed relief.
To ensure that this is the last time I have to go through this, the gap between the wall and the automatic gate has been closed off, and all the dogs have name tags with my phone number. We also never again leave Skippy outside when we all go out…
She has now been with us for three years and I still find it very difficult to believe that there was not someone grieving her loss, because she was so obviously very well cared for. She is also very familiar with children and absolutely adores babies. She was undoubtedly part of a family with children.
She is super affectionate and has a habit of climbing onto your lap and stretching up to roll on your chest and in your neck, and with her being so soft and snuggly, she is the most cuddlesome dog we’ve ever had.
She is also extremely intelligent. It’s almost as though she is completely conversant in English, she picks up commands and directions so quickly. This is definitely her pinscher heritage, because, let’s face facts, as much as I love daxies as a breed, I will be the first to admit that they are not candidates for MENSA, and their single-minded stubbornness makes them very difficult to train.
Another of her endearing habits is the way she communicates with us. If it is suppertime, or she wants to go out, she jumps onto your lap, stretches her paws out on your chest and looks you in the eye while uttering soft, baby-like whimpers.
We have yet to meet anyone who does not fall victim to her charm. In fact, Tasha informs everyone (friend, wider family member, or casual visitor alike) that she is building up a mugshot collection of everyone who meets Skippy, so that we know whose houses to search if she ever goes missing!
In fact, if she has one character fault, this is it. She is so well socialised and so friendly that she will hop into any car and can easily be stolen. In fact, we sometimes wonder if that is not how she got lost. We still cannot understand why no one is looking for her and we wonder if she is not, perhaps, from much further afield.
In the time we have had her, we have discovered that she does have one rather unpleasant flaw. She suffers from what we have termed ‘stinky-bum’. Her anal glands do not clear normally and, after a few months, they start dripping this nasty, fishy smelling substance onto your clothes. Because it irritates her, she also licks her rear end, with the result that whenever she has stinky-bum, her breath could knock out an elephant.
After having the vet clear it a few times, and dismissing the possibility of an operation to remove her anal glands (it is hideously expensive), we googled the problem and learnt how to do it ourselves. Although we cannot do it as thoroughly as the vet (we dare not try to do it internally as he does), it has solved the problem. (All the procedure requires is latex gloves, a newspaper - so you don’t have to scrub your floor afterwards - and a bit of skilled effort.)
But the stench is so awful that we do wonder if it is not possibly this that led to her abandonment.
Or perhaps she came on heat once too often.
Whatever the reason, we consider her to be a little theodora - a gift of God.
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