Before I return this book to the original library from whence it came, I’d like to offer up an extended quotation. I admire the prose for its acuity and gentle, plain elegance. By quoting at such length, I fear that I may be flouting copyright, but given the relative rarity of this book, I think the description deserves to be shared.
Much of the charm of Basenjis lies in their individuality and in their extreme intelligence, and one would need a whole book to do justice to them. […] At times no dog can be naughtier than a Basenji, but no dog has brought apology to a finer art. How can one be cross with an animal which lies on its back with both hands folded over its eyes, or stands on its head turning somersaults, or peeps round the door watching the reactions of an indignant owner, yodelling loudly when it finds the moment of retribution can no longer be averted?
Though affectionate and demonstrative, Basenjis are not slavish in their devotion; there is too much curiosity in their make-up, and they are not content to take things for granted. […]
We do not want the Basenji to loose [sic] its originality; it is still the unspoilt dog whose brains have not been bred out, and it would be a tragedy if their popularity caused them to be commercialised and mass produced. Though they can be kennelled in a small space and can manage with very little exercise, they need freedom and home-life to develop a character which is unique in its charm.
Every Basenji owner can tell amazing tales of their intelligence — they have been known to pick up a cup of tea without spilling it, covering another dog up with a rug whilst asleep, turn black coals over so that the red side gives out more heat, or hand an ash-tray to a smoker.
This little African dog has come from its jungle homeland and not only invaded the Englishman’s castle, but his heart. After a few days they are no longer dogs around the house, but a fascinating lovely part of a home. In fact, they are dogs, cats, children, and the essence of the wild all in the form of a little red imp.
Source: Veronica Tudor-Williams, Basenjis: the Barkless Dogs (1946; Bradford and London: Watmoughs Limited, 1966 reprint) 58-9.
My copy is on loan from the University of Mississippi, of all places — perhaps significant because Goodbye, My Lady, the 1954 film about a Basenji, was originally set in Mississippi. It is already overdue and I am loathe to part with it, largely for its collection of beautiful archival photos. However, this is public property and should go back so that it can be accessible to other readers, perhaps you.
… This concludes my dog-blogging for this week. Tomorrow afternoon, the House of Two Bows will be welcoming an old friend who is near and dear to the entire pack here, both canine and human. Tomorrow’s visitor is the only other person aside from the Doggy Daddy and myself who can claim to have spent significant time with Bowdu since he was a puppy. She is also no stranger to Bowpi, having shared a bed with her before.
So tomorrow is just as fitting a time to break my daily blogging streak. Less blogging, more bellyrubs and books on Saturdays and Sundays as this graduate student gets back on track with her studies. My canine contemplations have gotten the best of my attention and emotions for months now. This may not change anytime soon, but I have a whole lifetime to indulge in dog stories so I might as well pace myself. My comprehensive exams, however, need to be completed by May 2011, and I’m afraid Animal Studies is not one of my fields!
(And yes, Bowpi’s pricked paw is completely better.)