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.