you probably wouldn't believe how many times we've been asked "so, what's a basenji?" or (especially now that we have a half basenji/half hokkaido inu)  "what kind of dog is that?"  well, according to the american kennel club ...

The Basenji is a small, short haired hunting dog from Africa. It is short backed and lightly built, appearing high on the leg compared to its length. The wrinkled head is proudly carried on a well arched neck and the tail is set high and curled. Elegant and graceful, the whole demeanor is one of poise and inquiring alertness. The balanced structure and the smooth musculature enables it to move with ease and agility. The Basenji hunts by both sight and scent. The Basenji should not bark but is not mute. The wrinkled forehead, tightly curled tail and swift, effortless gait (resembling a racehorse trotting full out) are typical of the breed.
The Hokkaido Inu 北海道犬 or Ainu dog is considered by some to be the oldest and the "wildest" of the Japanese breeds. It is said to have originated from medium-sized Japanese dogs. These Ainu dogs were trained to catch salmon during the heavy spring salmon runs. The only land animal that was hunted was the bear where the the Ainu dog, with his fearless and sharp character also proved very helpful and was appreciated for its accurate judgment and great stamina. Although the Ainu dog is strongly related to the history of the Ainu people, these dogs have almost always been called Hokkaido-Ken by the Japanese. In 1937 Hokkaido-inu was declared the official name of the breed. The physique of the Hokkaido enables it to withstand severe cold and heavy snowfalls. It is a wild and powerful dog by nature. It is always alert and suspicious by nature, making him an excellent watch dog. In addition to being a fearless hunter, it is extremely loyal and devoted to its owner. To show its owner that he is happy to see him, the Hokkaido inu howls like a wolf. He is impulsive and fast and has a light gait. Coat colors are usually red or white, but black, sesame, brindle and fawn are also acceptable. Most dogs have black spots on their tongue, suggesting an ancestral genetic link with the Chinese Chow Chow and the Sharpei.
that's very interesting -- and yet it doesn't really tell you much of anything!  so, here's the important stuff, the stuff you really want to know but won't find in one of those little breed books you can buy at the pet store.  

Willy is the official family mascot. A neutered male Basenji, Willy was born February 15, 1997. Willy is an amazing animal and we all love him very much.  You will not meet a more friendly, patient, and good natured dog than Willy.  We got Willy in early 2002, right after his fifth birthday.  His previous owner had decided she no longer wanted him and so she took him to the vet to have him put to sleep.  The vet convinced her to let him send Willy to a gentleman who rescues basenjis, Charlie, who works with Darin at Lexis-Nexis.  We adopted Willy from Charlie.

On September 29, 2003, our family increased by one -- we brought home Jake, a (then) 10 year old neutered male basenji who was born on December 11, 1992. Jake was raised by a family who couldn't keep him when they moved, so they gave him to our friend Charlie to find him a new home. We were a little daunted at the prospect of a 10 year old dog, but he was still nice and active and he had a great spirit. He quickly captured our hearts. 
We lost Jake on January 30, 2006.  He had gone into kidney and liver failure and was in great distress.  There was nothing left when you looked into his eyes, the spirit and fire that made him Jake was gone, he was glassy eyed and apparently unseeing.  Darin took him to the vet and held him while they put him to sleep.  We had him cremated.  More on this -- and the newcomer to the family -- below. 

On February 2, 2006, the void left by Jake's passing was filled with Vixen (aka Vixie).  Vixie is an adorable little girl, half basenji and half hokkaido inu.  She's got the short, nearly hypoallergenic coat of the basenji with the facial structure of a hokkaido.  Her body is pure basenji in appearance although she's taller than Willy and her legs are more muscled and slightly thicker.  She's able to bark (but does so only when playing or on very rare instances when the doorbell rings and she doesn't know the caller) *and* she can yodel along with Willy.  She's definitely food motivated, and insists upon sleeping with her humans in the bed -- but usually NOT under the covers like Willy does.  She's smart as a whip and extremely strong.  She's very energetic and there's not an ounce of fat on her.  She looks like she weighs about 25 pounds maximum, but she actually weighs 39 pounds -- she's sleek and solid muscle.  She's an exceptionally attractive dog and I've never met a more affectionate dog in my life.  She's gotten the best of the basenji and the best of the hokkaido.  She's got the basenji shredding thing down pat, and she's also got the hokkaido "mine!" down pat too.  She picks on Willy to no end, and he mostly tolerates her antics.  Every once in a while he'll seriously grumble at her and sound like he means it, and then she'll stop and give him an exceptionally hurt look, as if he's crushed her.  He caves, every time -- and she knows he will.  She can be very bossy and will steal food right out of his mouth -- and he usually lets her! 

She wags her tail like Jake did -- sometimes it's as if the tail is wagging the dog!  She plays with toys, and even has Willy playing with some of them!  (He still won't stoop to playing fetch, though.)  She's  definitely prone to a bit of separation anxiety (Willy is too -- and Jake was, as well.)  If left on her own too long, she becomes a bit destructive and we've come home to find the trash strewn from one end of the house to the other.  She loves to steal our shoes and then tease us with them.  She loves to be chased and she loves to cuddle.  She knows the doggy in the mirror is her and she's not the slightest bit interested in it, but shine a laser light on the floor and the crazy girl will chase after it until she wears herself out.

Some breed characteristics they share ... basenjis hate water. (This means when it's raining outside, they're going to look at you as if you're nuts and then prance off.) They're like cats, they groom themselves. They have no doggy smell, and they almost never "pant" or walk around with their tongues hanging out (Vixie pants a bit more than Willy but still far less than the average dog).  They also almost never drool.  And they're very nearly hypoallergenic.  Both of my brothers are insanely allergic to dogs and both of them can be around our doggies without much (if any) problem.  Vixie is only slightly more likely to make them pop a benadryl.   

Basenjis don't bark -- although that doesn't mean they're silent, believe me! Vixie can bark, but usually only does so while playing.  They both love to shred tissues, paper towels, paper napkins, toilet paper, etc.  They shred it into neat little piles, and you must warn dinner guests not to leave a napkin on their lap or a basenji will come by and swipe it!  Shredding is one of their top favorite activities.  Others include: sleeping, eating, and going for a ride in the car.  They're very playful, and mischievous.  Jake used to do what we called the SPED boy routine -- he'd start jumping in a circle, leaping at his shadow or chasing his tail or just spazzing out, and he'd spring around like a bunny!  It was hilarious.  About the last six or eight months of his life, he was starting to lose his sight and he'd become a bit skittish.  He'd bump into the edge of something and simultaneously jump out of his skin and give a yelp of surprise that cracked people up to see.  Willy will sometimes do the SPED boy routine, but not even a third as much as Jake did.  Vixie has her own routine which is equally comical. 

They both love to wipe their faces on the carpet, and watching them groom themselves is really cool -- it very much resembles the way a cat does it. Willy will sometimes groom Vixie and she's been known to return the favor from time to time.  When eating treats, they've demonstrated that opposable thumbs are not a requirement.  They're quite adept at holding things erect between their paws while they eat them down.  Vixie waves "hello" at us, and she's very cognizant of her paws and the things she can do with them.  Basenjis are very aware of their paws to begin with, but this little gal is well beyond that!  She tries to use her paws the way she sees us using our hands -- so she'll come up to you and reach up with a paw to touch your face.  If she's excited, she forgets that she's got those sharp little claws and can scratch a bit, but she doesn't mean to.  If you make a kissing sound at her, she will give you kisses -- and if you don't let her lick your lips, she'll keep trying till she gets them!

Willy is the number one son -- and he was insanely jealous of Jake.  He's sometimes jealous of Vixie, but not nearly as much.  When Jake was alive, Willy would edge Jake out of the way without hesitation, and if he couldn't get him to move, or if Jake grumbled at him, he'd back off, but then sit down and sulk.  His ears would droop and he'd stare sullenly at you -- and if you didn't respond quickly enough, he'd turn away entirely and outright pout!  Sometimes Jake was the one being jealous, and his response depended on his position at the moment in question.  If he had the human to himself, he'd growl at Willy to warn him off.  And Willy's such a wimp, he'd cave.  Usually.  There were a half dozen or so instances where they got into an actual tussle, and each of those times culminated with Willy the victor and Jake doing the submissive thing.  And then Jake had to be the one to make up, too, because Willy would be aloof toward him!  If Jake didn't have the human, however, and he wanted them, he didn't growl, he whined.  He had the most pathetic whine and whimper and he'd use them shamelessly to beg for whatever he wanted -- be it a human, a ride in the car, or a tasty morsel!  Vixie knows she can get what she wants by being cute and being good.  So, she plops her little butt down and sits very nicely and then turns the doggy eyes onto you and makes little mewling sounds.  Works every time!

They're very curious, and guests are promptly and thoroughly sniffed and investigated.  Guests bearing food are their best friends.  And like good little Pavlovian Specimens, they'll remember your past offerings and immediately come to see what you've brought them this time.  They're so used to my brother (aka Tao Libra) bringing them goodies that when he doesn't have anything, they refuse to believe him and continue to wait for him to 'fess up!  Even people who are nervous around dogs will find themselves relaxing in short order because it's just so obvious that they mean them no harm whatsoever -- unless someone is being aggressive towards one of us (especially Missy).  When Josh was a couple months old, Anna and the boys came for a visit.  Willy sniffed the baby, and then began grooming him.  He especially liked licking Josh's nearly hairless head, over and over (and over) again. Josh loved every minute of it.  Our bald friends have learned not to sit on the floor unless they don't mind a basenji licking their scalp!  Willy and Vixie both adore Caleb (although Vixie has eaten part of a onesie that Caleb spit up on) and they both like to groom him.  Caleb's first laugh was due to Willy licking his fingers!

They love to cuddle and they love to be close to their humans.  Willy won't, however, play with most dog toys.  If you toss a ball and say "fetch," he'll look at you as if to say "yeah, right. If you wanted it, why did you throw it? Go get it yourself."  Vixie loves to play with toys.  She's very smart, as I mentioned, and has not chewed up anything that isn't hers.  She will cart Missy's stuffed toys around in her mouth, but won't damage them unless she's given the okay to play tug of war with them.  When that happens, Willy usually joins in and we eventually wind up with a decapitated toy! 

When we used to take Willy and Jake to the animal park, they'd watch the other dogs with obvious confusion and when one of them ran up and dropped a ball for one of our boys to join in, they'd sniff the ball and then sit there.  Willy's shudder of distaste is obvious, Jake's was accompanied by a low throated growl that sounded really impressive.  Jake's growl was usually ignored by the younger dogs, much to his chagrin.  He was all bluster, and the young ones (and Jack Russell Terriers) seemed to know it.  Willy will happily chase the other dogs and even tussle with them a bit.  Every dog that approached Jake got the growl. (He was the quintessential grumpy old man!)  Vixie goes nuts at the dog park, she wants to see and do everything all at once. She can run a ring around the inside perimeter of the fence and you'd swear she's going to leave a trench she's moving so fast.  If the dog park is too crowded, we come back another time, because Vixie gets too excited about crowds of people. 

Willy and Jake used to love to do what Missy calls the basenji 500 around the middle level of our home.  Vixie and Willy love to do it even more.  Vixie loves it so much, she'll even do it when Willy isn't interested.  She'll do it downstairs too, even though she's got to dodge a lot more furniture and stuff than she does on the middle level.  On the middle level, they can make a (virtually unrestricted) circuitous loop from the foyer thru to the living room, dining room, kitchen and family room and back to the foyer.  (Lather, rinse, repeat.  Repeatedly.)  If they get going too fast, they lose their footing on the hardwood floors and then it becomes really comical. 

Update: When we first got Vixie, we were told she was half basenji, half shiba inu.  As it turns out, she is not.  She is half basenji and half hokkaido inu. I have changed the passages at the top to reflect the characteristics and breed information accordingly.  And, on January 13, 2007 (although we wouldn't know it till January 19th) we became a four doggy family.  You can read about our two newest girls, both tricolor basenjis, below or on my blog.  

Let this be a warning to you. If you get a basenji or a basenji/hokkaido inu, you WILL take too many pictures. You WILL share those pictures with everyone you can, because you WILL be convinced your doggy walks on water. You WILL make your doggy sing for everyone who comes in your home. You will even sometimes call friends or relatives to make them listen over the phone. You WILL be insanely proud of them and you WILL become an "expert" on the breed so that you can encourage everyone you meet to become a Basenji or Hokkaido Inu owner. It's like a cult thing ... sort of like owning a Saturn.  We're just over-achievers: we have three basenjis, one basenji/hokkaido inu, and two Saturns.

In May of 2006 we began taking in foster basenjis for BRAT.  Our first was Lucky.  Imagine the coloration of a rottweiler and put it on the face of a basenji. That's what Lucky looked like! 

Lucky ws very small for a basenji, and yet very barrel chested.  We called her our little Panzer Tank. That, and Psycho Pooch, the latter was a nicknamed bestowed on her by friends who became unnerved about the way she would sit and stare at you. 

Lucky had issues with other dogs, she had issues with socialization, she had food aggression to the tenth degree, she woke up badly, she had trust issues, she was messed up even for a basenji!  She and Willy did *NOT* get along.  They had more knock-down drag-out fights in the three months she was here than Willy has had with all other doggies put together.  By the time she moved on to her forever home in July, they had come to an uneasy ceasefire agreement.  You couldn't call it a truce, but the fur had stopped flying at least.    We had to teach her how to play, we had to teach her it was okay to go nuts and baroo and yodel -- she just hated the idea of making noise or causing any kind of a commotion.   She and Vixie got along just fine, interestingly and by the time she left us for her forever home, she and Vixie would tussle and wrestle and chase one another for hours on end.  They'd have basenji 500's that made you tired just to watch sometimes!  Unfortunately for her, Lucky had stubby little legs (for a basenji, anyhow!) and she was low to the ground.  Often times we'd hear the frantic click-click-click of her nails scrambling trying to get hold of the floor before she careened across the room as a canine hockey puck. 

Not to be gross or anything, but Lucky also had the most amazing bladder-capacity of any dog I've ever seen.  She would NOT go in the house.  She would hold it, for hours and hours and hours ... if it was raining, she would hold it all day if she had to in order to avoid having to go outside and get wet.  She'd hold it so long she'd leave a gulley in the lawn when she finally went out. 

We decided that Lucky would probably do best in a home with no other dogs and definitely no cats (she REALLY hated cats).  She enjoyed playing with other dogs, but she got tired of them and wanted them to go away after a while.  As luck (no pun intended!) would have it, the BRAT coordinator found a home for her with a 26-year old newly divorced school teacher named Melissa, with no pets.  Lucky will be very happy as the only doggie because she definitely wants to be the alpha doggie. With no other dog to compete for attention, she'll be happier and with no competition for treats and tidbits, she'll have no reason to be so aggressive about food.  Update:  Lucky loves having her human to herself, and her new human even has a Mommy with a couple of furfaced playmates (that Lucky can send home!) -- she shares her human's bed and the fact that her human is gone each weekday to work is no big deal for the pooch with the 16-hour bladder capacity! 

Just days after Lucky moved to her forever home, we went and picked up Abby.  She was named "Star" when we got her, but that was a name given her by the people who bailed her out of the shelter for BRAT. She'd only had it a couple weeks and she wasn't attached to it. Missy and I hated it and changed it on the ride home when we decided she looked like an Abby!  The people who had bailed her out of the pound said they named her "Star" because she had a large white spot on the back of her neck that looked like a star.  Sorry, no, it didn't.  It looked like a splotch, there was nothing star-like about it! 

Abby was just the cutest little basenji girl you'll ever meet.  When we brought her home she weighed only 14 pounds, she was a trindle (black, white and brindle), about 11 months old, and extremely playful. She had been found wandering the streets in early July and after no one claimed her, she was taken to a kill-shelter. After a week there and another two weeks at an interim home, she came to live with us as our foster doggie. 

We had our work cut out for us! Having lived on the streets, she'd picked up some very bad habits. Like squatting wherever she happened to be standing whenever she had to go. We thought we were never going to get her housebroken!  Finally, one day it was like a light switch had been flipped -- after literally months of accidents, she suddenly "got it." 

By the time we wrote up an info page on her for BRAT to circulate to potential adopters, she'd made remarkable progress all the way around. She was no longer a little street urchin, this was a family pet and loyal companion.  We came very close to keeping her and there have been many times since we sent her on to her forever home (on December 7th, the day after my Mom passed away) that we've really regretted letting her go.  She used to lay around on top of Vixie, they were best friends. Even Willy liked her!

Here's part of the write up I did for her:

She's very small in stature, and walks like a little princess on a leash, very regal and jaunty without the slightest bit of pulling.  She is extremely social, and absolutely adores humans and dogs alike.  She has no use whatsoever for cats and would not do well in a home with one.  She has no desire to be the alpha doggie, she simply wants someone to rough-house with and some people to play with her.  She even loves babies -- she has a 9-month old baby in her foster home and has never shown any aggression toward him at all. She will not even take his toys unless they're specifically offered to her and she permits him to grab her by both ears and haul her forward so he can chew on her muzzle. She also currently resides with a cantankerous 9-year old couch potato basenji boy and an extremely playful 10-month old basenji/hokkaido inu girl who is more than three times her size, and she loves every minute of being with them. She's a bit of an instigator, and she's an expert at the sneak attack from the back. Run-by nipping is her specialty!  This little girl will do best in a home with at least one other very active dog who can stand up to her rough-housing. 

She's very vocal, and talks back frequently. Abby baroos often, she can bark (single barks) in addition to the usual complement of basenji noises (including one that sounds like a squeaky toy when she's playing!)  and of course is curious enough for ten cats.  She roots through uncovered trash, she sticks her face in purses and diaper bags, she steals toilet tissue, shreds, counter-surfs, begs and loves being in the middle of a good basenji-500.  This girl can JUMP.  She's been observed leaping from the floor (without a running start!) to the top of a desk in front of her to get at a slice of pizza left on top of the monitor. Unlike the average basenji, she has absolutely no fear of water, so a spray bottle is not an effective training tool with her -- even filled with white vinegar, it doesn't phase her, she doesn't mind being wet at all unless you hit her right in the face with a steady stream. (And even that is sometimes ignored if she feels the reward outweighs the inconvenience of a face full of vinegar!)

She does suffer from separation anxiety, and needs to be crated when left without supervision for long periods or she becomes destructive (and anything left in the cage with her will be destroyed).  When supervised or left for short periods of up to a couple hours, she's a well-behaved, affectionate and playful little gal without a mean bone in her body. She shows no food aggression (although she DOES make a game out of snatching treats from her foster siblings -- or trying!) and loves snuggling with anyone handy, human or beast.  Her favorite sleeping spot is on top of her mixed breed foster-sister, second favorite is on top of the covers in bed with a human. She's equally happy sleeping with the 12 year old daughter of the house as she is sleeping with the adults.

Abby is an exceptionally sweet little girl and will be an ideal companion for someone with the patience to work with her on refining her manners. She is fiercely loyal and her heart is surely ten times the size of her petite stature! 

The family who adopted Abby already had a basenji -- they had two of them, but one had died (old age), and they wanted to get a playmate/companion for the young boy basenji they still had. They wanted a playful basenji who could stand up to some roughhousing and could handle their adolescent boy.  They got it, in spades, with Abby!  We're still waiting for the phone call saying she's just put their pup into cardiac arrest by overstressing him!  Update!  May 23, 2007 -- we heard from the family who adopted Abby today!  She's VERY happy in her forever home and they're thrilled with her.  She hasn't put their boy into cardiac arrest, they've just become best buddies!  I'm hoping to get a picture we can post of her and her new brother together.  Abby's new humans are wonderful people and we're thrilled beyond words to know she's in a safe, happy home where she's treasured as much as we treasured her! 

January 2007 -- Our next foster was a pair of girls -- Bonnie and Donna.  After only a week here, we made the decision to keep them.  You can read more about Bonnie and Donna, and their new life here in their forever home with Willy and Vixie by visiting Note - we've taken down the site at since Bonnie has had her surgery, which BRAT paid for.  I'll be moving some of the items from that site over here, the rest of it is already duplicated or irrelevant.  That adoption officially ends our fostering career -- four is definitely enough for us!

I was rereading the original information on them when they were surrendered to BRAT and I was shocked to see that the breeder/collector didn't just have a couple dozen dogs like we'd thought -- he had 100+. (Not all of them were Basenjis.)

As I sit here and look at these two girls snoozing with Willy and Vixie, I am again amazed at the resilience and adaptability of the breed in general -- and of these two, in specific. When we first brought them home, not even two weeks ago as I write this, Donna was so skittish if you so much as put your hand out she'd run from you. Today (Monday), that same girl was sitting on the sofa alternately playing with me and kissing me.

At one point Monday morning, she walked up to me and when I leaned down to pet her, she put her paws on my shoulder and stretched up high to nuzzle my neck a moment and then licked my cheek, after which she hopped down and trotted off to the food bowl. Almost brought tears to my eyes, it was so sweet!

Sunday morning I was about to wake Missy up and there they were, Missy and Bonnie up on the pillow and Donna down at the end of the bed between Missy's feet. I wanted to run downstairs and get the camera, but I knew I'd never make it down two flights of stairs and back up without one or all of them waking up. However, I had my cell phone on my nightstand -- I use it as my alarm clock -- and thank God for cell cameras! Are they cute or what?

They're so sweet and so playful. Despite all they've been thru in their short lives to date, they seem to realize they're safe now and nothing bad is going to happen to them again. They've also stopped gorging themselves on food -- they seem to understand that there's not going to be any waiting between meals, they don't have to eat till the bowl is empty. 

As I write this (January 22, 2007) Willy is rapidly approaching his 10th birthday. As much as we hate the thought of anything happening to him, and although we know full well they can live longer (after all, Jake was 13 when he passed away), we're also realists. One thing we really regretted after Jake died was that he'd never gotten a chance to meet Vixen. 

We had already decided that we'd get another basenji soon, so that it would already be here, and be able to meet Willy and be "educated" by him the way Vixie has been.  We wanted Willy to have a hand in his or her upbringing, as it were.  And that way when Willy finally does pass on, Vixie will already have a playmate and will not know as much pain as Willy suffered when he lost his buddy Jake and he was suddenly the only dog in the house again.  (Anyone who says dogs don't grieve is an idiot. Willy cried and moped for days after Jake died. Only Vixie's arrival managed to perk him up.) 

Although we'd only planned to bring one more into the family, Bonnie and Donna were too special to let them go.  When I snapped that photo of Missy and Bonnie asleep on Sunday, and when I sat there this afternoon watching the four of them running a Basenji-500 so fast it almost made your head hurt to watch it, and when Donna walked up to me and spontaneously granted me a kiss on the cheek for no apparent reason other than she felt like it ... there's just no way I can let them go. I figure God had them sent here for a reason, and who am I to argue with Him? :)

The passages below were taken from my blog, The Original Musings.  Comments are welcomed over on the blog.

30 January 2006

And a few broken hearts.

That's what it costs to have your poor old basenji euthanized when he has liver and kidney failure: $44.00. And a few broken hearts.

Jake, who turned 13 this past December, was acting strange the last day and a half. We knew he was declining and had started making plans to get another dog, so that Willy wouldn't be alone when the inevitable happened, and so that Jake would get to meet the new dog. We figured it would make things easier on Willy and on us. And maybe it wouldn't seem so much like we were "replacing" him if we did it before he died.

We thought we had a bit more time.

Honestly, until Saturday night, he didn't appear to be in any distress. Beginning Saturday night, he started twitching from time to time. Sunday morning he seemed to rally and the twitching stopped. He went outside several times and seemed to be fine again. He mostly hung around near me till I left to go to the hospital to be with Caleb. Missy gave him his very favorite type of dog food, not knowing it would be the last meal he ate. The later it got on Sunday, the worse he got. Missy had taken him up to bed with her and when he started twitching again, she brought him back down, and then began the vigil. He wouldn't eat or drink (and this was a boy who loved food), he just laid around.

In the wee hours, he started twitching almost constantly, and at one point Missy picked him up because he seemed to want off the sofa. When she lifted him, he sprayed her and half the room with diarrhea. While we waited for the vet to open, he was laying on the sofa and he messed again -- and he just laid there in it. Jake was a fussy old guy, and he hated being dirty. And he'd NEVER have an accident on the furniture.

We knew then that it was going to be bad news.

Darin had him in to the vet's this morning, they took him ahead of everyone else, because it was clear he was in bad shape by then. He'd started peeing and it just kept pouring out of him, Darin was soaked.

The vet said that he was going to die either way, but the longer we waited, the more painful it would become for him. So, what do you do? Took about 15 seconds for it to work. They told us the animal cemetery people could come pick him up and cremate him for us, but we wanted to take him ourselves. Missy sat in the backseat with him beside her, she didn't want him in the trunk.

We came by the house first to let Willy sniff him and hopefully understand that he wouldn't be coming back. After he had thoroughly sniffed him over, he nudged him with his nose a couple times, and then got out of the car and walked back into the house. He's moping around and wants to be with people. He's crawled into bed with Amanda and Tim who are catching some sleep before they're back to the hospital.

I keep wondering if Jake knew how very much we loved him. I hope his last few years were happy. And I really hope he's up there in Heaven romping around and doing the SPED doggie thing for Sammy.


I sure am gonna miss that old dog. So's Missy.

31 January 2006
What do you figure the odds are ...

aka: God answers a prayer

So ... earlier Monday evening, Missy and I were sitting here trading off crying spells, missing Jake. Amanda and Tim were at the hospital. Darin and Willy were in bed asleep (Darin works nights and Willy rarely misses a chance to sleep -- plus he, too, is all sad and mopey now without Jake).

Missy was so depressed and overtired (neither of us had slept since yesterday -- we were up all night with Jake and then couldn't sleep afterwards -- that she skipped out on her private lessons tonite. She was running on grief, I guess, because something was keeping her going, but it sure wasn't energy or pep.

For the last three or four years, Missy has wanted to someday have a basenji/shiba inu mixed breed dog. Ideally, she wanted a female and she wanted us to get this unlikely combo as a puppy, so that it would never have been abused or mistreated as both of our basenjis were by their former families. Today, she started talking about wanting her "dream" dog and I told her not to get her hopes up, that basenjis are rare to begin with and then to find one mixed with a shiba inu would be really unlikely.

We went onto one of the basenji rescue pages (the one we got Willy and Jake from didn't have any) and filled out the paperwork to get on the waiting list.

And then, when we couldn't stand it a minute more, we got in the car and went to SICSA (sort of a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats -- they're wonderful). When we went in, we told them we just wanted to look at the dogs, maybe play with or pet one or two of them, just to take our minds off Jake. They told us that was fine, they understood and any dogs we wanted to see would appreciate the special attention.


There are three rooms of dogs at SICSA. The front room has small dogs, puppies and small-medium sized dogs. The middle room has larger dogs, and older pups that are going to be large dogs. And the back room has the monsters, the ones that look like they're half horse.

We wandered around, petting dogs, commenting on the ones we liked, the ones that were noisy, the ones that looked sad, and so on. After going through all three rooms, we decided to go back to the front room and have another look. There were a couple that had caught our eye the first time through -- one was a chihuahua-jack russell terrier puppy and the other was a four-year old beagle mix named Barney. Barney was such a friendly (and loud!) dog -- his eyes were definitely pleading "pick me! Oh, please pick me!" We weren't going to pick him, but we were definitely going to pet him.

On our first go thru the room, we'd noticed that one little dog near him was all curled up in a little ball. She was (we thought) solid black and she seemed frightened. Her name caught our eye, because it was "Annette" which is my mom's name. Because she was so timid and all curled up with her back to us, we hadn't really paid her that much attention.

When we came back in the room, Missy was petting Barney and I was looking at the little gal in the upper cage. She turned over and yawned, and I noticed that one of her paws was half white, with little black spots on it, like Willy's belly. I said "Missy, look! She's got basenji spots on her paw!" Missy looked, but continued petting Barney for the moment. She said "I'll pet her in a minute, Barney really needs some loving here."

Then I read the puppy's date of birth -- 11-17-2005. Missy's birthday is 11-16. I said "Missy! She's only two months old and she was born the day after your birthday!" Missy got up and began petting her, but Barney again comandeered her and she returned her attention to him. The kid has a heart the size of Texas for animals.

And then I looked at her breed. In the "breed 1" slot was "basenji" ... and in the "breed 2" spot was "shiba inu." No, I am not kidding. Missy started crying when I told her and then she said "thank you God!" Up she hopped, with a final hug for Barney and told me, "I want her, mommy. God put her here for me! She's my prayer come true!"

Now, honestly, what do you figure the odds have to be? Not just a basenji/shiba inu mix (which is itself rare), but one that's a girl AND a puppy as well. And in SICSA on the very night we happen to be there.

We went out and told them we'd like to see her. The lady took one look at our faces and asked "do you want to fill out the paperwork?" Oh, yes. Yes, we did. We filled out the paperwork, and then I went and got her out of the cage while Missy waited in the little play area they'd assigned to us.

When I set that little gal on the floor, she went straight to Missy. She's bouncy, her little tail was wagging a mile a minute, and she absolutely loved the hell out of us -- and we were wrapped, totally. The puppy was absolutely thrilled with Missy, she kept running from Missy to me, then off to get a toy and then right back to Missy's lap, where she'd stay for a few minutes and then bounce up again and make the circuit a couple times before pouncing back on Missy's lap. When she tired herself out, she snuggled up to Missy and took a little snooze -- stretching up periodically to lick her on the chin or cheek. Missy was still crying a little bit, but they were happy tears, and she kept telling me "Mommy, God answered my prayer! He really did!"

We talked about puppies and how they like to chew (which she demonstrated more than once, much to Missy's delight!) and how nothing will be able to be left on the floor till she knows her boundaries. We talked about how she might very well tear a few things up before that's learned and how she'll need special attention till we get her trained and she starts to lose a little of the puppy exuberance. (And how she'll no doubt run Willy ragged and maybe FatBoy will lose a couple of those extra pounds he's got around his middle!)

Missy said "oh, I love her! Please, we have to take her, God put her here for us!" and I took my cell phone out to call daddy and let him know we were about to commit to The Puppy™.

We wound up spending about 45 minutes with her before we reluctantly put her back (they were already closed, which is why we couldn't adopt her tonite). She cried when Missy returned her to the cage, but Missy promised her we'll be back Thursday to get her. (They're closed on Tuesdays (vet day) and Wednesdays (spay/neuter day -- our little gal is already spayed and micro-chipped, incidentally) so we can't pick her up till Thursday.)

She also spent a few more minutes petting Barney and promising him that someone will come along to take him home too. I almost think he understood her -- he settled down and quit whining, anyhow!

We'll be taking Willy (and daddy!) with us on Thursday so that Willy has a chance to meet her on neutral territory and then ride home with her. That's the same way he met Jake -- we took him to Charlie's house and then Jake came home with us.

Amanda and Darin are happy just based on our descriptions of the little doll. She's flat-coated like Willy and looks more like a basenji than a shiba inu except in the face. She's got the basenji furrows in her brow, the extra skin and the dainty feet, although hers are huge compared to Willy's. She's got one mostly white paw with basenji spots on it, and one that's about a quarter white with a couple basenji spots. She's got a white chest and a white area that looks like she's wearing a diaper on the underside of her bottom/belly. Between the two white patches, she's got a thin stripe of white running right down the middle, sort of like the crossbar on an "H". Don't know yet if she's got the vocal chords of a basenji or a shiba inu, but other than the crying when we put her up and some squeaky growling when she was playing tug-of-war with Missy, she never made a peep, so I'm betting it's the former.

We came home, told Daddy all about the soon-to-be new arrival, and cooked dinner. Then Missy sat down and began searching baby name sites for a new name for her -- because she's only two months old she's not accustomed to "Annette" anyhow, and we already have one Annette in the family! About 12:30 she finally wound down and fell asleep in the chair while talking about names. She was arguing with me over whether it could wait till later as she nodded off.


We still miss Jake -- horribly -- and I'm sure we will for a long time. He wasn't "just a dog" to us, he was a friend, a companion and in some ways, a member of the family. When I was in the kitchen, he was on the little mat in front of the sink, watching my every move. When I filled my insulin syringe he'd sit there and watch, and I'd have to show him (every time!) that it wasn't anything he wanted, it was just a syringe. If I sat on the sofa watching tv, he'd get up with me and curl up against me till the movie was over. He followed me around -- constantly underfoot! -- and every time I turned around, he was grooming any bit of me that wasn't covered with clothing. When I was too busy to pay attention to him, he'd either lay there and wait patiently, or he'd go find someone else to love on for a while. He loved to play with Missy, and Amanda could get him going like no one else. Darin was his buddy, and Jake trusted him implicitly. I can still see him dashing to the door to welcome us home, that big goofy doggy grin on his face and that tail going back and forth so fast his butt wiggled with it.

He'd get so excited over bites of people food he'd be unable to sit, his butt would just keep hopping up and he'd yodel and whine and up-down-up-down-up-down with the butt the whole while trying to get his share. When he had one of us to himself, he'd growl a low, deep throated rumble at Willy if Willy tried to slip in and steal our attention away from him.

He never wanted anything more than some attention, some scratching on those special spots that made him almost purr with pleasure, a bite of people food here and there and to be with us. You could sit and talk to him and he'd nod wisely, even though you knew damned well he only had 4 working brain cells, he had eyes full of love and that silly tail to tell you just how much he loved you.

As I tried to explain to a friend of mine (not a pet owner), this little gal won't be able to take his place -- not by a long shot, but she can help us get past the loss and longing by filling some of the holes that are left now that he's gone. He always hated it when one of us was sad or disturbed about something, he'd do anything to cheer us up, so I'm certain he understands why we need someone to help us bear his loss a little. This little 5 pound bundle is a definite people lover and she could charm Satan himself, so I know Jake would approve; and I know Willy, who's got the basenji variety of Missy's heart, will adore her.

And now ... maybe I can sleep too. News from the real world can wait till later and maybe the "family blogging" can slow down for a while.

I just have to get past that empty pillow at the foot of my bed.

02 February 2006
Puppy pictures posted!

Right here, in the 2006 family photos album. Isn't she adorable?

Every time Missy sits down, she gets a lap full of puppy. The sweet little thing even curled up on her and took a nap. Missy's in seventh heaven -- and the entire family is captivated with her, you just can't help but adore her, she's so wonderfully bouncy and pleasant. She tried to eat Tim's goatee and went after Darin's beard. She's got Amanda wrapped already.

Missy chose the name "Vixen" for her -- "Vixie" for short. She's decided Willy is her best buddy. Mind you, Willy isn't so sure about that, but the puppy is! So far, he's put up with her climbing on him, chasing him, gnawing on his ears, chewing his tail and tackling him at a full run every time he lays down.

The one thing he won't tolerate quietly is her stealing his treats. She swiped one earlier, and he growled up a storm at her. She cocked her little head and furrowed her brow at him, but didn't relinquish the treat. Her tail was wagging the whole time as she just looked up at him. He sighed and let her have the treat. Big ol' softie.

She's gonna wear that extra weight off him in no time. She's already had him running in circles around the house chasing her -- or being chased by her.

She's just what we all needed!

October 20, 2006

Basenji Style

Missy had some pizza earlier this afternoon. She left the paper plate with a couple slices on top of her monitor -- up, out of reach, where no basenji could get it -- and went upstairs to do something.

I heard a noise behind me and spied Abby (aka Tidbit) up in Missy's chair, stretching as far as she could trying to get the pizza.

This was a definite Kodak moment.

Two photos under the fold.


Stretching ... almost there ... so close she can almost taste it ...


And she nabs it! Score!

January 22, 2007
Bonnie and Donna

We recently (January 13) took in a pair of foster basenjis for BRAT. After some serious discussion, a good bit of prayer for guidance and a bunch of negotiation, etc., we made the momentous decision to adopt them into our family.

I've spent my free time in the last two days setting up a website at, which explains what all happened and how we came to adopt them.

Blogging will resume again, now that we've got all that settled.

If you know of anyone who might be willing to toss a few bucks our way to help pay for Bonnie's surgery, I'd surely appreciate it. We're not made of money (don't I wish!) but we couldn't allow anymore upheaval in their lives, or even worse, allow her to be put down for no crime other than being sick.

Anyhow, have a look at the site and feel free to come on back here and discuss. And tell us how nuts we are if you wish! Right now I feel too good about giving these darling little gals a forever home and a forever family to take offense.  Note - we've taken down the site at since Bonnie has had her surgery, which BRAT paid for.  I'll be moving some of the items from that site over here, the rest of it is already duplicated or irrelevant. 

February 2, 2007
Heaven help us now

The dog gets much smarter, we're gonna be in REAL trouble

Vixen, who turned 1 in November, has known how to open the screen door (push the handle type) since last summer.

Today, we learned that she has figured out how to turn the door knob and open the main door if it's unlocked. She uses her paws and pulls back as she's turning it. It takes her a few tries to get it each time (so far, anyhow) but by God she does it.

She's been very intently watching us use doorknobs the last couple weeks here, which is what she does when she's trying to solve a puzzle or figure something out. We were joking about how the opposable thumbs thing was the only thing keeping her in line.

Guess the joke's on us!

February 6, 2007

REALLY snowing!

It's coming down hard -- has been all day. They say by morning we'll have four to seven inches. We probably already have four inches, maybe more. (I'm terrible at judging snowfall -- one year I thought we'd had about eight inches and it turned out we had 21. Obviously, I'm not good at this!)

At noon, one of the directors of Missy's dance academy said that the academy would be open, but attendance was voluntary due to the snow. At 5:00 that went out the window and they closed the academy entirely. Our county (Greene) is under a level 2 snow emergency. Montgomery County (where the academy is) is only under a level 1.

The tracks left just an hour and a half ago when the dogs were each forced outside to do their business are now gone. You can't even tell anyone's been out there.

Vixen doesn't mind the snow too much -- the hokkaido in her, I guess. The three purebred basenjis are another story entirely. Donna practically has to be thrown out the door and you have to slam it shut fast, otherwise, she bolts right back in. Willy has to be forced out, kicking and screaming all the way. Poor Bonnie is so small she's half buried in it! We cleared a short path away from the side door so she could get out there without wading in snow.

Assuming the city comes and plows our streets -- we can't even get out of the driveway right now -- this weekend Missy and I will be making a short jaunt up to Lima to move two basejis along the way to a new home in Michigan. Missy's tickled -- we'll be a part of the basenji underground railroad!

I'll post some snow pictures tomorrow, once it's done and we see how much we really got.

February 8, 2007
Bonnie, The Optimist

And The Mega-Rawhide™

As always, click on the photos to see them at full size!

Never let it be said that basenjis aren't optimists.

Following a busy night tormenting Willy, Vixen and Donna, Bonnie settled down on the sofa in the basement (aka the basenji sofa) to play with the Pikachu and the Chubble skin. After a while, though, that got kind of boring.

She looked around for something else to play with ... and that's when she got ambitious: she decided to tackle The Mega-Rawhide™.

First, she had to drag it up on the sofa. Unfortunately, I was laughing too hard to get the camera for that part of the show. She finally got it up there and held it down so she could get busy with it.

She overlooked the inconvenient fact that The Mega-Rawhide™ is as big as she is. That's what God gave her hind legs for, after all!

Apparently no one ever told her she couldn't do it, so she gave it her best shot.

Check out that mighty jawspan!

Eventually, someone's going to wear the daggone thing down enough to get an end loose so they can really get going on it. I can't wait to see the tussling when that happens!

Amanda and Tim bought it for Vixie and Willy for Christmas. They figured they'd go nuts with it -- not that it would be too big for them to tackle.

After Bonnie gave up on it (for now, anyhow!) she went and stole a pig's ear from Willy. And the tormenting is back in full swing, with all four of them running after each other trying to get the pig's ear from whoever has it at each moment (usually Vixie). Never mind that there are four other pig's ears laying around -- they all want the same one, because that's more fun! I swear, these dogs are more entertaining than just about any television show.

14 February 2007
Another "awww" moment ...

Courtesy of the basenjis

When we first got Bonnie and Donna, we were told that they were very bonded to one another, and totally devoted to one another. Nothing we've seen since then has changed that impression.

When Bonnie went in for her surgery, Donna was very sad. When Bonnie came home from her surgery, Donna spent a half hour sniffing her and then proceeded to groom her. Bonnie's almost as sweet as Vixen is, and, like Vixie, she's got a mischievous streak. She's the littlest dog in the house and she uses that to her advantage. I never get tired of seeing the cute things they do -- all of them, not just Bonnie and Donna.

But this ... this was just too sweet. This was as sweet as the night Bonnie shared a stolen tortilla chip with Donna. All the dogs had tired themselves out and had crashed on the sofa. That's Bonnie on her back, and Donna holding her. (Go on, say it ... "awww!") Willy is the lump up behind them. Vixie's the sleek black mountain lion at the other end of the sofa.

(Click on the photo to enlarge it)

Click here for a closeup of just Bonnie & Donna

Happy Valentine's Day! Hope you have someone just as cuddly as Bonnie to keep you warm.

more photos in the gallery!

warning! attack dogs!

sort of like owning a saturn

willy hates her. no, really.

©2002-2011 by Kathleen Helms. All Rights Reserved.