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A couple weeks ago, I did a home visit on behalf of BRAT. This is a standard part of many adoption processes where a rescue representative pays a personal visit to your home. It is not about scrutinizing and judging your lifestyle; rather, I see it as a way to get to know the applicant(s) a little better on their own terms and their own turf, a part of the education process (for both sides), and a general safety measure for all involved.

After checking with the potential adopters first, I brought Bowpi, since they were interested in integrating a second basenji into their home. It was an ideal situation to bring Bowpi along to test their female’s reactions to another dog. It’s also always fun to see how Bowpi responds to her own “kind,” since some of her behaviors don’t translate very well into Shibaspeak.

Photo taken by Pauline L.

Granted, you can’t just march into any home where a dog is already residing, and expect their hospitality (or lack thereof) at first encounter to tell everything about how living with that dog is going to be. However, I think Bowpi’s particular temperament makes her a fantastic candidate to bring along for home visits, even while acknowledging that every case will be different.

She’s not the most confident Basenji, but she is friendly and can be quickly set at ease with the right personalities and under comfortable circumstances. Because she doesn’t promise to love everybody she meets (though chances are greatly improved if they know to offer treats!), her response to strangers tells me a lot at the outset.

30 January 2011

Her first impulse upon meeting new dogs, as I’ve mentioned before, is to raise her hackles (which I understand is common amongst Basenjis) and approach with caution. But even — especially when — the other dog approaches with a more offensive stance, Bowpi seems adept at nullifying any potential confrontations. A couple times at the dog parks, we’ve run into other Basenjis whose people warned that they were not so good with other Basenjis, but then they managed to get along with Bowpi. I think she exudes some kind of vulnerability or serenity that usually calms other dogs, or at least those with a normal range of responses.

Hackles and wrinkles
30 January 2011, Bowpi (below) meets Jenna (above).

An ideal meeting ground between strange dogs is always on “neutral” turf. But in the absence of such a place, a canine assistant with a neutralizing personality is a great help. I would not have begrudged their Basenji if she was unable to accept Bowpi, given the brevity of their introduction. Some dogs just need a longer adjustment period with new dogs — like Bowdu, which makes him a poor candidate for this same task, so I left him at home. But my sense is that if another dog’s first instinct is to react violently against Bowpi, if this non-confrontational dog can provoke an extreme response in another, then the candidate may have difficulties with the majority of other Basenjis who probably tend to be feistier than ours. Basically, there’s a scale of possible reactions, from extreme fear to nonchalance to extreme, territorial attack. If the other dog’s response falls somewhere between those ends, it’s a sign of good things to come, assuming the adopting family is prepared to put some effort into integration.

By the end of this particular visit, the two Basenjis were able to share couch space together (see first picture). This bodes well for this family’s future adoption prospects!

I’m proud of our little Sweet ‘Pi and her consistent, placid personality. She just makes things easy.