Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Dogs

When we arrived on our property we decided to get some dogs, to keep us company. So going to the local SPCA we were fortunate to find two dogs who were housed together in the kennels, they were such misfits and yet such kindred spirits, I haven’t seen animals that have complimented each other so much.

We named the male Foster, a black mongrel. He was abandoned by being thrown over a fence. But despite his mistreatment he loves people and I am sure that he thinks he is half human; he even tries to join into the conversation with a peculiar sounding “arrwaa”. He loves to follow people around but he especially adored his adopted sister and they both loved playing around their back yard barking, chasing the monkeys and baboons that passed through from time to time. But unfortunately they also chased the other game away as well. One night they came face to face with a porcupine which stood his ground rattling his quills, I managed to call them off and the porcupine trotted off most indignant. Bella a brindjal feral female which we are convinced is crossed with an African hunting dog as she was rescued running wild in the bush miles away from civilization, a farmer reported them running amok. When she came to the SPCA she was skin and bone. She has the blue eyes of a wolf and completely confused with us simple humans. She was her own person and a true spirit dog.

They used to come back from their daily tours with the odd wound be it from a thorn or branch. Foster seemed to be the more accident prone and came back one day with a swollen eye; he had obviously come face to face with a spitting cobra but after a couple of days after eye syringes it subsided. It is no surprise that he came upon the snake as his favorite pastime is chasing lizards over the rocks. One day we heard them barking franticly and fortunately we were close at hand. They had rounded on a cobra with its hood open trying to defend itself, Bella had bitten it and was going in for the kill when we manage to call the dogs off and we had to put the snake out of its misery. Foster also managed to get himself caught in a snare; luckily he’d got snagged around his back legs and not his throat. He was a bit tender for a while but was soon up to his old mischief. Bella was definitely the more bush wise, only ever coming back with a few scratches from the trees. We keep a sharp eye out for snares now!

Their back yard

The last incident with Bella was a day that we don’t really want to remember. The dogs had gone out for their early morning walk, when we heard their barking and commotion which was a normal ritual, especially if there were monkeys about. They came back for breakfast and all seemed well. I went to open a path on the property and the dogs came along as usual. Foster followed me and Bella went on her solitary walk about. After an hour or so Foster began to look woozy and started to teeter about, so I decided to get him back to the house which was a little way off.He then was sick and collapsed. I called my daughter and we rushed him to the vet. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to find Bella. When we got to the vet he had stopped breathing and the the vet realized he had been bitten by a snake. Fossie was put onto a ventilator and started on intravenous anti venom serum. He had to stay on the ventilator for most of the day. We went home and waited to see if he would recover. On returning home I went to look for Bella because she still had not returned to the house. We had hoped that she was fine and would make her way back home. I found her not too far from the workshop in a dried out dam , dead with the same symptoms as Foster. We were all absolutely gutted as we could have saved her as well if we had know where she was. We assumed that she and Foster had rounded on a Mamba that morning and the poison had taken a while to work.

Foster came off the ventilator that night when we went to visit him and in his groggy way was pleased to see us , he had come back from the dead. Our gratitude has to go to the vet who was so concerned for his welfare. During the night he had a relapse and the vet phoned me as to what to do as everyone was sure that he would not survive. There is no rule as to how much serum it takes to counteract the venom, so she recommended one more vial to which I agreed. Fortunately it was the right thing to do as he went on to recover with no ill-effects.. (After the ordeal was over the vet had told me that when Foster had gone into a relapse, she had phoned a Professor in Pretoria for advice and he had recommended using another vial. When she told him Foster had survived he was most surprised, as it is unusual with an animal so advanced with poisoning to survive. We are convinced Bella’s spirit was there egging him on. ) By the end of the second day she said that we could take him home but he must have his rest. It took a few days before he started being himself. But it was a good two weeks before he realized his sister wasn’t coming home. He would go and stand outside seeing if she would come bounding back or go on a walk about looking for her while pricking his ears up listening for her.

On their walk about

Foster is now dog of the house and, having taken the role over from his sister, he portrays some of her traits.

He now has some chickens to keep him company, no substitute for his sister, but his tolerant and curious nature keeps him occupied. He does have a friend down the road whom we visit every now and again who is about the same size and temperament. They do the man thing on all the trees and bushes and have the odd run about. I am sure he will find another soul mate. Only time will tell.

Bella’s tombstone which was made by Tamlyn.