Sunday, August 9, 2009

Basenji Escape Artists

Today we have a guest blog from BRAT Director and Vice President, Liz Newton.

Visiting my parents at their lovely lake home, accompanied by our three adolescent grandsons, requires extensive planning and packing. Last week I loaded up the boys, our three basenjis, senior poodle, the grand-dog standard poodle, and all the necessary gear to keep everyone happy and safe. The gear included crates, two x-pens, zip ties to secure the pens, a tarp for shade and tent stakes to secure the pens to the ground.

The x-pens provide quite a nice “play house” for the basenjis where they can watch the numerous squirrels and yet not have to be tethered to the plastic coated steel cables that I keep at my parents. Our basenjis wake up at the first sound of someone stirring and my parents greet the day around 5:30 AM and take their coffee to the patio leaving all the doors open. I learned years ago to secure the basenjis on leashes before leaving the bedroom. Failure to do so has led to many bare-footed chases in PJ's around the yard to catch a squirrel-chasing basenji.

It was that practice of tethering the basenjis to the cables however that led to one early morning escape. I led Blaze to her cable and fastened it to her collar just as she saw a squirrel. She took off like a lure courser and ran hard hitting the end of her lead with such force she straightened out the D-ring and was out of sight in the three acre yard in less than thirty seconds. I followed, in PJs and sandals, as she rounded my sister’s house, next door to my parent’s home. Worried that she might have left their property and ventured up the lane where I had been taking them for daily walks, I ran to get dressed and enlisted the help of my oldest grandson who also gets up at dawn. We walked looking between houses, searched a neighbor’s wooded property and the nearby horse pasture without any sightings of Blaze. After going about a half mile up the lane I decided that she surely would not have gone that far without being distracted by something interesting enough to pause and inspect. So we returned to my parent’s yard to find her treeing squirrels, and not at all interested in being captured. I taxed my coffee-craving brain for something that would entice her to come to me and the only thing I had in my pocket was my cell phone. I dialed a sequence of numbers to make the phone beep and said “Blaze, look at this!” Being a curious little basenji she came close enough to sniff the phone and I quickly grabbed her.

Lesson learned: Inspect the D-rings on collars to be certain that they are welded. If not they can easily be opened by a small basenji running full-speed.

Also, last week it was reported to me that a basenji in Wisconsin had escaped. Her owner walks her with a retractable lead. The handles on these are easily pulled from the owner’s hand if the dog bolts. That is exactly what led to a former puppy mill basenji, Sophie’s, escape. The secondary effect of being loose when attached to a retractable leash is that the dog has this plastic thing “chasing” them which further frightens and makes them continue to run. Sophie was found safe and sound after two days and nights loose in a remote area.

Lesson learned: Always use a “wrist strap” with retractable leads. And don't make loud noises around puppy mill basenjis.

Any long time basenji owner has dealt with a few escapes most of which won’t be repeated as we learn and make adjustments.

If your basenji does escape, ask for suggestions for catching them from Basenji Rescue and Transport and other basenji owners. Don’t give up the search as many basenjis are found safe, even days after their escape.

Liz Newton


  1. Lets talk about the great escape in Minnesota. We are only rookies working on Basenji rescues 2 and 3. We live in the country on a large wooded acreage and "walk" the "livestock" while seated on my ATV. They run and run and run. I ride. Makes for well behaved Basenjis... sort of. Number 2 is our little girl Chloe with intense hunting instincts. And as (bad) luck would have it, she broke her "Extenda Leash" and was gone into the swamp after who know what. I circled back to the house, grabbed a new leash and then went back to the field and drove the ATV in circles in the open field. It wasn't long before she came out of the swamp in response to the familiar sound of her Polaris ATV. Captured.

  2. Oh, boy, do I know the importance of slipping my hand thru the loop of the leash so that it is around my wrist, grabbing the knot. The leash is then easy to wrap around my hand if I want to shorten it. We walk around the block for 15-20 mins., two or three times a day, occasionally running (I run, she jogs). A secure hold is of utmost importance. A. Sherman

  3. Our Basenji Joe's brother Snoopy was tragically killed after his owner accidentally dropped his retractable leash. It snapped back, spooked Snoopy, and he darted into the path of an oncoming car. It's a sad story, but one we can all learn from.

  4. i'm new to puppy mill basenjis...why do loud noises bother them so? i have a beautiful male (4 year old stud) rescued earlier this summer and now my 'forever' guy....he absolutely does NOT like noises....

  5. I feel compelled to share the story of a pretty, petite 6 month old Bgirl I had the pleasure of fostering this summer (Koda) for one week before she was adopted. What a little sweetie with quite the adventurous spirit! While working in the front yard one day - with the foster pup and my two older B's lounging in the back yard, supposedly contained by my chain link fence and relaxing in the sun - I suddenly heard the jingle of tags on a collar. I looked up and to my amazement, here came little Koda! Now, this was truly a puzzle to figure out how this petite, tiny...and I mean LITTLE - Bgirl got out of the fenced in yard. All areas were checked for possible escape routes and none were found. So, I placed her back in the fenced in yard and walked back some steps to see what would happen. That little lady climbed right over the fence as if she were human in all of 20 seconds! I've never seen that....especially from such a tiny, little thing! The wall must have seemed never-ending! And the thought of her collar getting caught on her way over was terrifying to me...I'm glad she found her forever home only a day later!

  6. Puppy mill dogs are unfamiliar with normal household noises such as vacuum sweepers, garbage disposals, etc. They also have an exaggerated startle reflex due to insecurities and poor socialization. They do need to be exposed to noises but in a controlled environment so they can adjust. However, when being walked on leash, the caregiver needs to pay 100% attention to them and their safety. Multi-tasking easily leads to accidents. Just this weekend a foster basenji was found dead by a highway after having escaped a few days earlier when her foster caregiver took the trash to the dumpster when he was walking her on leash. When the lid slammed she bolted, pullling the leash from his hand.

  7. I've only had one mill-foster myself...she didn't know how to go up and down stairs, in and out of doors...every noise freaked her out. It was such a sad thing...When we went for walks, she luckily would stay right by me...out of fear, I'm sure. She would poop and pee right along the smelling/circling... just whenever. Stayed very close...but yes, loud noises were not well-received. I did see improvement within 3-4 months of having her in the house with me and the other 2 B's. Puppy mills suck.

  8. I'm fostering a 2y/o boy from a recreational breeder. He is the sweetest thing, but he is very jumpy and doesn't trust us human folk very much. The other day, all three dogs got loose (my two and the foster). Mine were found pretty quickly, running together, investigating some dogs a few bloks over, but I was petrified that Austin would be lost for good. We called the cops (who are VERY familiar with our Basenji antics by now) and drove the streets. An hour later we got the call, Austin was found about a mile away, safe and sound. WHEW!
    The NEXT DAY it happened AGAIN!!! Mark walked out the back door to find the dogs gone. Mark rushed to the gate and there sat Austin, waiting to be let back in. Apparantly his adventure from the day before was enough. Ha! We figured out that the latch had issues and we fixed the gate that day. Everyone is home safe and SECURED. We silly humans need to watch those gate latches.