Monday, June 6, 2011

Update on the Wimauma Florida basenjis

Hi, everyone,
Pam Hamilton and I have been very busy over the last year and a half with the basenjis of Wimauma, Florida. Pam has raised the pups and given the adults much TLC. I have coordinated all of them and placed the majority in loving, forever homes. Only a handful remain in their foster home. This is our first update in quite a while.
- Debbi Johnson

Greetings World!

It has been a long time since we've had a Wimauma update. It is getting harder to do updates. So much has been written - what am I repeating? Everyone is so spread out now and following their own paths. Keeping them all straight is exercising my brain.

Puppies are all grown up, making mischief all over the US in their forever homes. The adults, who have patiently waited while everyone
and everything else took priority over their rehabilitation, have been making tremendous progress. There are just five left in my home and one in a foster home in TN. Level-headed Nema, who is fostered in TN, is probably the most flexible and easiest to integrate of the remaining adults.
The remaining five in my home, who are now all integrated with the city kids, are the least experienced with "worldly" things. While we and our guests are constantly amazed at the progress they've made, I have to remind myself that they are not normal and that I shouldn't expect too much from them when they are out of their safe haven.

Adina (often shortened to Dina) moved to her new home not far from her foster home in the middle of "winter" in Florida. She made one great escape, and was thankfully caught within hours. One of her foster basenji hosts, Scooter, called to her in the middle of the night with his soulful song she had heard so many times. Once she was drawn close with the song, she was soothed by the presence of Portal, a foster basenji hostess who sat and followed obedience commands next to Dina in the foster home. It was all a familiar routine that brought Dina
comfort and made her recovery possible. Her new owners have made one little change that has assured her security in the future. Dina is a very lucky girl to have found such a loving home that will work so hard to help her grow into her new life. I am lucky that Dina is still close enough to visit.

Foxy and Lulu also moved to their new home in the middle of winter. They were very lucky to find a home willing to adopt both, so that they had the comfort and familiarity of each other in their new world. Unfortunately for them - and their new mom, this was one of those years that winter really hit hard in the Atlanta, GA, area, their new home environment. It was hard for them to settle into their new home when one cold, miserable storm after another rolled through the area. Snow and regular freezing temperatures put a cramp in the lifestyle of
basenjis that were well-adjusted to sunning in Florida. Springtime has brought relief to everyone, so the girls are finally beginning to feel at home and are enjoying lounging in the yard and on the balcony regularly. I enjoy regular updates of their latest "brave" activities.

Koka was the next to find her new wonderful life. She had made so much progress and had changed so much in our home. This sweet, loving girl, once referred to as "Snappy Mom" became "Sappy Mom." As one of the last moms to whelp, she had spent all of her time with us in the house with the "city kids." It was hard to let her go. She became very cuddly before moving onto her forever home, regularly burrowing in under an arm at night. She even climbed onto my father's lap when Pepper, one of Kenyatta's exuberant, huge "pups" was in his lap. She
has certainly overcome many of her inhibitions. In her new home, she has become a good playmate for her new two year old b pal, Blazer, and is enjoying their large yard and the attention of two 10-11 year old children in addition to the adult humans.

Hogan and Chiku were the next to leave the nest, fortunately together. They have only been in their new home a couple of weeks. They left another hole in the pack - the remaining b's were a bit subdued for a couple of days. Hogan had been the self-appointed greeting committee to all visitors. Once known as "the growling cot," Hogan was the first Wimauma adult, outside of the moms, to approach me for attention. Chiku has been the petite cutie of the pack and had really come out of her shell recently. They had just learned that it was okay to be on
the furniture - it was not necessary to jump off if I looked from the other room. My helper b's, Portal and Chloe, escorted Chiku and Hogan to their new home, to help them settle in. They are adjusting to a well-insulated house with "proper" windows that provides an unsettling silence to two little basenjis that are used to constantly hearing the sounds of the great outdoors through the old windows and uninsulated walls and ceilings. They made much more progress in their settling once they realized that squirrels exist in their new, big, nicely manicured backyard.
Isha is the last one who left her comfortable, familiar home in Washington DC and headed north to NJ and her new forever home. She, too, had a slight taste of freedom when she slipped out of her collar the first day with her new dad. JR, her foster dad for the last year, swiftly made the trip up north again , valiantly coming to her rescue After she was sighted, the sounds of her former canine companions enticed her into JR's car. JR loves Isha and will really miss her. She is acclimating to her new home and has become extremely fond of Dolce, her new basenji companion.

Hogan's and Chiku's departures meant that the third sibling, Nadra has been left behind. Ali had been spending more time with her prior to the departure of her siblings, as if he knew she was going to need some extra support. Portal has been quick to jump in and fill Nadra's days with play. Nadra has adapted well and continues to make great progress without Hogan's fantastic example. Once she gets over her habitual avoidance reaction, she really relaxes and enjoys some rubbing. A major sign of progress is the eye contact she will now maintain with us. Nadra had her first walk out of her safe zone this week, just to the sidewalk and back. While this may not seem like a big deal, it was without any fear nuggets popping out the back end - a major accomplishment, since just three days ago, a vet visit had her popping nuggets before we even left the house! Ali also had his intro walk this week. While his legs can become quite rigid while he wears a harness, his reaction overall was very good. He remained quite calm through the whole lesson. Ali can be a bit of an attention hog - once
someone starts stroking him, he doesn't want them stop. He loves to rest his head in my hand.

Pogo has been stepping up to fill Hogan's paw prints. He has become very friendly with us, coming up to say hello regularly. Pogo has been out for walks for a week or so. He has a very interesting style - he is a bit of a drama queen. The whining and jumping/lurching/weaving/dodging is quickly diminishing. Though he may be whining, he is trotting forward with his tail up and well-curled. Each walk is less stressful than the one before it. He goes to the front door to join the others that will accompany us for a particular walk with less
hesitation each time. When we get back, he is strangely attached to me, as if he still needs the same guidance after the walk that he gets while we are out in the neighborhood. He responds so well to me - a wonderful thing in a b boy that has shown the potential to be very dominant.

Fana and Mosi have had some experience off of our property, but have demonstrated that they need more confidence-building away from their safe zone. I have watched them skinny out of harnesses when walked by someone else to get back to their haven. They spent a brief amount of time up in "cold country" where it was determined that it was not the right place for them. They spent a few days out running free, followed
at one point by a couple of coyotes. Thankfully, they returned to the home playing "Wimauma basenji pack songs," where they were captured. They were delighted to return to their tropical paradise filled with rats and squirrels - and no snow! They have fit right back in with the pack. They have been quite affectionate and were the first of the remaining Wimauma adults to accept affection while they remained relaxed on a chair or futon. Mosi may still act a bit reserved, but quickly warms up to the attention. Fana is a real parrot - she will mimic what she sees others doing. If someone is enjoying attention, she wants and enjoys it too. If someone is acting reserved, she will follow suit.

Now that the Wimauma adults have been integrated in with the city kids, they do not have access to their old digging grounds. Den- digging has been replaced with suntanning and gnawing on Nylabones. An S-Shape, "souper" size Dental Chew has become the preferred toy. It is huge and a perfect toy for these super-strong basenjis. It is quite entertaining to watch a petite girl like Chiku run around with this huge toy in her mouth that is bigger than her head. I thought the Galileo souper bones were big. Their new yard space also doesn't provide them with the same hunting opportunities, though there are always plenty of squirrels taunting them from a safe distance and rats that will run along the tops of fences and through trees into the night. Prior to joining the city kids on the tame side of the fence, the Wimauma adults had demonstrated amazing hunting prowess - 2 birds
(a bluejay and/or a grey dove or jay - Dina ate the evidence, swallowing one whole to make sure the job was done before I could get to her to retrieve it - fairly big birds), 2 moles, 2 squirrels, 4 rats, 1 baby snake and countless lizards, all relinquished to us (except one bird and several lizards) - or left for us as presents. Now they long to make contact with just one of the critters taunting them daily.

The remaining adults are becoming more affectionate every day. Even Nadra, who has been the most timid and shy of the pack, comes up to us for affection inside or out. It is still easy to trigger a retreat in them, but I've noticed that it is more out of habit than need. I see them pause, then return for affection. They have also been improving with visitors, even though the number of visitors has greatly tapered off. When triggered with fear, they have amazing control of their bodies and can "turtle" their necks to prevent a martingale from tightening, allowing them to slip out. Of course, like many basenjis, they can easily slip a harness, so the key is to lift them by their harnesses before they get the chance to wiggle. When a handler's reactions are correct, they quickly settle down. They are very tuned into someone they trust. Here on the property, they are now becoming
helper b's. We have had new fosters join our pack, bringing in baggage and troubled thoughts. The Wimauma adults have such superior basenji
social skills that they have helped anti-social b's quickly fit in more easily than other fosters have in the past when we haven't had such a large and well-socialized group. I had been concerned about having them around smaller b's - ours, and the new ones coming in, are as much below breed standard size as the Wimauma adults are above breed standard size. The Wimauma adults are so respectful that there has been no issue.

It gets harder every day to think of them moving to a new home - the umbilical cord is growing stronger and they fit in so well here. Any new home must really be a perfect fit, must follow handling directions and routines, and must keep in touch very regularly - expect to be part of our family. This is a very special group. I am delighted that those in their forever homes are with patient, caring folks that keep in touch with us so frequently. Thank you to so many people that have helped to make their rescue and future secure.

- Pam Hamilton


  1. Wow, fantastic blog layout! How long have you been blogging for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your web site is great, as well as the content!

  2. Thanks Pam. I really wish I could see you in action with all of these guys.I think Pogo is so handsome but can't take him. (3 male Bs already.)

  3. I use a martingale as a back up to a harness. They work against each other when trying to back out.