Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

Following on from last month’s rant on escalating security problems … in addition to installing all the normal precautions of alarms, motion detectors, Kevlar PJ’s for the kids, response teams and a rather natty shark pool under the new glass floor of my office, it was decided that we should supplement our aging trio of terriers with a large calibre guard dog to patrol with the watchman at night. As if poor Gary Moonga doesn’t have enough on his plate trying not to accidentally Mace and Tazer himself, whilst simultaneously being bushwhacked by three small boys.

And so I contacted Lusaka Animal Welfare Society and was told by the elegant, outgoing Claudia that there were some likely candidates at the pound and that I should go down for a look see. I am ashamed of not doing more to support LAWS who do a fantastic job in Lusaka of not only educating people in animal welfare, rescuing abused and abandoned animals (a surprising number of which are simply left behind to starve by end-of-contract expatriates, who should know better) but also assisting local authorities every year in a huge anti-rabies campaign which has to date accounted for over 6000 animals vaccinated. They also offer free spaying of animals, working alongside a US based charity (Spay is the Way) and have neutered over 1000 dogs and cats for owners who could otherwise not afford this. Check out their website if you are thinking seriously of getting a pet.

I arrived at LAWS to the usual yapping and howling but was happy to see that compared to my last visit they were not overwhelmed with canine residents, which I took to be an indication of improving animal welfare standards in Lusaka and not the proliferation of Szechuan restaurants. I was met by Hestie who has taken over from Claudia and is equally dedicated and committed to the charity. Given the number of visitors to our farm and that many are children we would prefer not to be mauled by a savage dog (most in fact), we needed something imposing enough to make a would-be burglar think twice, but habituated enough not to attack our staff, family or guests. I finally settled on a 2-3 year old Boerboel bitch which seemed very calm, was in good condition and with whom I had something in common … a disdain for cats. (Well! They started it!). To clinch the deal her name was Beulah a fine moniker carried by many a redbone and blue tick coonhound, especially one, who legend has it, followed a decades old fox track from Mississippi to NYC until she cornered a fox fur stole in a second-hand store.

I took Beulah on trial and drove home to her mournful baying from the canopied pick-up and installed her in the kennel run with her blanket, food and water and strict instructions to all staff and offspring to keep well away until we got to know her. I introduced my three terriers through the wire and she graciously ignored their snarls with a “no comment” turn of her rather noble head, which I took as a good sign. Over the next 36 hours I walked Beulah several times on the lead and she was surprisingly docile and well mannered for a formerly abused dog. She soon became quite devoted to me and would come to a whistle, which is more than I expect from my kids, but I kept her away from them and the dogs for the first day and a half. On day two I was horrified to see Milo, my 14 year old Jack Russell had burrowed under the wire and was prancing around her in a state of obvious arousal. Hats off to the old chap for his Heffneresque aspirations but I was concerned that he was going to end up starring in an act of consumptive oral sex. However Beulah was not only flattered by his attentions, but acting subservient to a suitor who weighed less than her well proportioned hind leg, to which the same had attached himself in both a physical and emotional sense.

The incipient love affair made me less cautious than I should have been as the two canoodlers spent the next morning in mutual adoration in my office, and by lunchtime Beulah appeared to be calm around the family and immune to any sideways glances and curled lips from Daisy (our crotchety 12 year old terrier).

I should have been more circumspect when the following morning after a night on patrol with Gary my other female terrier came back with a puncture wound in her back you could’ve teed up a golf ball in. Gary told me the dogs had been playing fetch but when Gypsy got the ball first Beulah fetched the whole terrier. He said however that there had been no malice in the bite.

I went out shopping and came back to find the pack of dogs lounging in the kitchen courtyard which was a little surprising as I had left Beulah in my office. The pawprints on the laptop and the broken window frame should have given me a clue to the panic she felt at being cornered and the lengths she would go to, to avoid it. Stupidly again, I made a bad call and taking the dogs to different areas of the courtyard gave them each a bone and jumped in the car to leave. Five seconds, one fierce growl, one godawful squeal later and I was back in the courtyard where Daisy had walked past Beulah and been grabbed in her massive jaws behind the skull and shaken like a rat. I threw Beulah back in my office which she proceeded to trash and went back to the front door mat where poor Daisy lay, semi-conscious and limp. There was no blood, no visible sign of injury but she was paralysed and could not even raise her head. Liza was the only Vet answering her phone and she gave her usual calm and excellent advice on treating Daisy for shock and we got her warmed up and calmed down. With a three year old in the house who is used to taking liberties with small tolerant dogs, Beulah had obviously failed her foster test and I took the shamefaced creature back to LAWS before she could perforate any more of the family.

Sally Jellis of Leopards Hill Veterinary Services took over Daisy’s care and having X-rayed her and kennelled her for three days told us the prognosis was not good. There was no damage to spine or internal organs, that we could see but there had been massive compression and bruising of the spinal cord and only time and TLC would tell. It seemed a poor ending for a dog who’d been with us since before we had children, who had survived elephants, baboons, leopards, snakes and hundreds of encounters with drunk Australian backpackers, who had accepted her slide down the pecking order as the kids arrived and tolerated their manhandling. We carried her from soiled bed to fresh bed, fed her titbits and opiates as required and watched her legs flail and shiver in uncontrolled spasm. She had feeling in her limbs but no control over them.

After ten days or so she was able to get herself in a prone position on one side and after two weeks we found one morning that she had dragged herself away from her bed to pee elsewhere. Three weeks after the mauling, she stood up on her own and now, just a few days later she is able to walk, stiff legged albeit, a hundred yards, and is helluva pleased with herself, as we all are. She may never run like a whippet again but she is happy and mobile and free of pain.

And in case you’re wondering I hear that Beulah has been spayed and is recovering well in anticipation of going to her new home, with a tall, strong bachelor, to whom I have no doubt she will be loyal to the death. So happy endings all round and no shots fired.


by Jake da Motta

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