Well, the trouble is, when I got my first one I didn't know that.
Our family dog was a Shetland Sheepdog, and we had had him since I was 7 years old. When he was 14, and fell ill, I had to make the decision to put him down. I was devastated, and that was when fate took over. I hadn't really planned on another dog. I really wasn't at a good place in my life to take care of one. But then I saw a Basenji for sale in the paper, and I couldn't resist! I had read James Street's book, "Goodbye My Lady", and I had been captivated by the magical dog of the title, but I had never actually seen a Basenji. Finding that ad in the paper seemed like an omen. I had to go have a look…..and of course I brought her home.
Here she is at my parent's house back in 1966. Note the loose dog with not even a collar on.....in an unfenced backyard in the city.
I used to walk her off leash in the city, and she was reliable. I also took her to the place where I boarded my horses.
She used to follow me when I rode. That was fine in the fields and woods, but I had a difficult time convincing her to stay off the road if I went down the sideroads. One memorable day she zipped off into a barnyard we were passing. I yelled at her and she came back alright…..half dragging, half carrying a chicken! Once I separated her from the chicken.....which was mad but not hurt....I headed back to the road, but Val felt we needed that chicken and went back after it. I finally hoisted her up on my horse, climbed on behind her, and rode far enough away that she stayed with me and forgot her dreams of chicken ownership, or whatever she had in mind to do with it.
Val was the best Basenji I ever had, but I didn't realize at the time she was unique. Her temperament was wonderful. She was good with everyone, and especially loved children. "Back in the day", nobody trained their dogs with treats, the reward was your praise, and there were consequences for disobedience. I trained Val the same way I had trained other dogs.....and she responded well. I smacked her when she was bad and praised her when she was good. She was reliable in the house, and never gave me any grief when I took her with me......and I did that a lot. Strange people, strange house, no matter. She behaved! And she wasn't one bit dog aggressive, either.
My girlfriend and I jumped in her VW beetle one fine day and took Val and her Boxer bitch up to the lake. We went swimming, leaving the dogs loose on the shore, and they both followed us into the water and swam with us. The other memorable aspect of that trip was that we had to run with the windows open all the time because of my friend's flatulent Boxer!
I treasured Val, but I also figured out, a bit belatedly, that I was in no position to have a dog. I was dating, working full time, and leaving my girl with my mother far too often. I would have kept her regardless, but I got lucky and found a family with three children that wanted a dog. Val fit right in, and while she was glad to see me when I visited, she was content to stay in a home with children. I kept in touch with them for all of Val's life, and she had a happy and good one. They spent summers at a cottage on an island, so Val continued to have lots of room to roam. There was a little incident…..one Easter morning the kids across the street had been given a rabbit as a gift. Val spotted the rabbit, dashed across, and disgraced herself by dispatching the Easter bunny! I am glad I wasn't around for the aftermath of that one!
Only after I acquired my next Basenji in 1975 did I discover just how unusual my first one had been. None of the others have ever quite measured up, and looking back I wish I could have enjoyed her for all of her life instead of just a brief part of it, but I know in my heart anything I could have given her could not match the joy she had with those three children.