Have you ever met a basenji? We ask that question at least once in response to curious looks every time we take our quartet out walking. These barkless hounds from the Congo are still fairly uncommon, probably because they are “different.” It’s an attitude thing. Catlike, they have their own agenda and live on their own terms. Ours sit on windowsills, keeping track of the world, oblivious to us for hours, but their aloofness is deceptive.
They don’t do well without compatriots. Canine compatriots. Alone, they become bored, and bored they become destructive. They have a reputation for unstuffing couches, climbing fences (yes, climbing) and other irritating habits. We’ve had ten of the little beasties, always at least two at a time, and have rarely encountered those behaviors. One fence climber, one leather chewer, one dirty laundry thief is the tally for the ten, though toilet paper is fair game for all. Angels, they are not, however, nor are they easily trainable, which I’m sure contributes to their somewhat tarnished reputation. When we took our first group to school, the trainer’s favorite comment was “That’s pretty good for a basenji.” They aren’t dumb; they just aren’t that interested.
They aren’t bad. Just misunderstood. We are addicted to them and have been a home for our breeder/friends retiring dogs, plus a couple of rescues, for twenty years now. Yell at them and you’ll get nowhere; praise them, and they melt. They climb into bed with us, sit on our laps, and at least one of them is in the same room with us wherever we are.
Last but not least, they yodel. Barkless, they are; mute they are not. They talk, growl, howl, and if you’re lucky, yodel. You can listen to this uniquely basenji song at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxaU9d1THv0. But you have to be lucky. In twenty years, Dex is our first true yodeler. We’ve surprised a yodel out of one or two, but none like Dex, who celebrates with song when we discover a pack-mate who’s managed to shut herself in the storeroom or garage. And there’s nothing, but nothing, like being greeted with a howling song of joy when you arrive home after a long day.
Below is Dex and his girls. I’ll be introducing the others as we go along.
By Judith Kirscht
This post first appeared in Patricia Bloom’s My Magic Dog blog.