In August of 2006 I met my best friend. He was no older than 5-6 weeks old and as small as the average rat, walking towards me through short dry grass in the frosty cold of a Highveld winter’s morning. He had come walking out from a kaia or back rooms / annexe of a rather run-down bar about a block from the shelter. There was no sign of his mother or siblings. I called someone to ask about the puppy. A short while later, armed with the owner’s permission for the small creature to join me at the shelter where I was staying at this time, I returned to the bar with another resident. I had virtually no money at this time and he negotiated with the people at the kaia to sell us the puppy for R30. Evidently he must have been stolen, as he was by no means a street mongrel but virtually a pedigreed Min Pin, although I had no inkling at the time what breed he might be. But it was love at first sight for me and I had to have him as he had tottered through a chilly lawn to say hello to me. He was so small I could put him in the neck of my t-shirt with ease. He couldn’t even get up steps or a brick. He came into my life at a time when I really needed companionship and unconditional love. Cuddling up to him at night was therapeutic. A pet is one of the best ways of improving your state of mind and emotional recovery as you channel your love to another living creature.
He had a friend at the shelter, as another resident had a small black dog named Bruno and the two of them had plenty of space to run around and fraternize, as the shelter was situated on very large premises.
He had the narrowest of narrow shaves one Saturday afternoon when we were setting off to collect grocery donations for the shelter. He slipped under the gate to the street and began following the car. The elderly driver spotted him in the rear-view mirror, then exclaimed that he had gone under the wheels of a pickup. We made a hasty u-turn with the enormous, unwieldy old tan-brown Cressida station wagon and raced to the scene. The pickup had stopped to check on him before driving off, evidently satisfied that the puppy had sustained no injuries. Benji’s brush with death was so close run that he had grease on his coat from the wheels. I quickly locked him in my room so we could go and fetch the groceries. He was absolutely fine and probably in a better state than I was!
His next close shave about a year later was when he developed biliary. The old lady who managed hings in the house noticed that his gums were white and remarked that he would never make it now and that I had probably left it too late to seek treatment for him. I had to carry him to the vet as he was too weak to walk. While lying on the vet’s table he espied the resident feliine out a corner of his eye and gave a half-hearted but insistent bark of disapproval. He got the necessary jab from the vet and the two of us were soon ready to return home.
Many Afrikaner people around Pretoria swear by using Reckitt’s Blue or Robin Blue (bright blue blocks of laundry starch – very scarce to obtain in the 21st century – had to try about five little shops before finding any) grated into milk as the perfect remedy to give sick dogs. This curious blue dairy mixture somehow worked its particular brand of mysterious healing and helped him get back on his feet quite rapidly. After a few days he was his normal mischievous self.
As Pretoria has many attractive small streams as well as a range of rocky hills with pleasing views, I took Benji for numerous lengthy nature walks. On one such occasion we were hiking along one of Pretoria’s numerous spruits and I misguidedly took Benji’s lead off, thinking all would be well. He immediately made a beeline for the smelliest pile of rubbish I’ve ever seen and rolled happily on his back in it like a beer-addled pig. He stank to high heaven and I was so upset with him that I plunged him under the cold water at the outside washing trough as soon as we reached the shelter, partly as a punishment for deliberately pursuing such a repulsive reek.
One afternoon when Benji was still a puppy he ran out of the Wendy carrying off my cell phone in its soft blue pouch in his mouth. I ran after him but in the few seconds it took me to reach him, some opportunist had already taken the phone and it was nowhere to be seen. Despite some suspicions on my part the phone was never recovered. On another occasion I was out for a walk with a friend and we had a meal at a restaurant before returning to the shelter. I suddenly realise my cell phone was no longer with me. We retraced our steps to the restaurant but no-one there had seen it. About twenty minutes later we saw it lying peacefully in a dark corner next to a traffic light – it must have been there around three-quarters of an hour but fortunately no-one had noticed it. I must have got mixed up on the way back from the roadhouse, when we were looking at some old classic cars in a rather run-down garage window, and somehow thought the t-bone I was holding in a serviette – Benji’s reward for my temporary absence – was my cell phone.
On another occasion while Benji was still a tiny puppy he fell and began yelping nonstop as puppies sometimes do after an unwanted fright. A small girl came up to see what was the matter and in my usual muddled meltdown state during a crisis, I pushed her hard causing her to fall and so she began crying and yelling as well. I felt really bad and didn’t know how to respond when her mother, hurt by this, asked me why.
Sorry I never got to take any pics of the Little Rascal as a puppy but I could definitely not afford a digital camera or camera phone at that time….
Through all the many ups and downs during a time of much stress, Benji was there for me at all times and all I needed was to feel his lovely soft brown fur beneath my hands, or to cuddle up to him like a living teddy. He currently lives with my mother and stepfather and on the occasions when I sleep over, he always sleeps in my bed. I always try to take him a treat. He’s especially fond of all things carnivorous, especially biltong and chicken, as well as the choc drops specially manufactured for dogs. I wanted to post a video of him at this time, but for some reason the wrong video wants to upload. As soon as I have these tech problems sorted out, I’ll post it! – watch this space.
Benji still behaves like a puppy most of the time. Despite the whitening of his face and the unfortunate ravages of advancing years he barks with excitement as he chases birds, plays hide and seek with my young niece, or commands centre stage at all times, resisting all attempts to befriend my mother’s parrot or even accept that feathered fellow as part of his household. He’s the Min Pin who thinks he’s a Rottweiler, a great dog with a naughty streak as obvious as the ridge of darker fur that lines his back.