Wednesday, September 14, 2011

We Are Family

It's official, as of September 4, 2011. Shaka and Audrey are adopted, and after four months their foster home is now their forever home.

When my first basenji Bow crossed the Rainbow Bridge in March after a battle of more than a year with brain tumors, I knew that I did not want to rush out to find a replacement. She could not be replaced. I told myself that I should give it at least six months before even considering another dog. I even contemplated other breeds -- Whippets, Ibiza Hounds, Carolina Dogs and others. All appealed to me, but I kept coming back to basenjis. While open to fostering and transporting, I wanted to really think out what characteristics might next one would have. I felt it would be impossible to adopt another red and white female since she would remind me too much of Bow or that it would be asking too much of her to try to "replace" Bow. The idea of a pair entered my mind, but I was not set on that. Tricolors appealed to me, but when I looked at them it was as if I saw Bow hidden under a partial shroud of black.

Whatever happened, I was intent on thinking out and planning my next adoption so that I would have the "perfect" basenji whatever that meant. My main objective was to be mindful and careful and not rush into anything that would result in a bad match for me or the dog.

Barely a month after Bow's departure, I got the call to rescue Shaka and Audrey (then known as Shacka and Crybaby) who after a couple of days on the street had landed at the Solano County Animal Control facility. When those two came charging out of the kennel it felt like the closest I will ever come to childbirth. Audrey was so frightened and unable to make eye contact except to give an occasional glance of "Please don't hurt me," and Shaka gave an intent stare of sizing me up and seeming to give a look of trust. I've yet to meet a basenji with such an intense stare. His auburn eyes have a unique greenish tint to them that is also unique. Audrey's coat looked more like that of a porcupine than a basenji, and she was very underweight. The white in both of their coats was dingy and dusty.

They came to me under desperate in pretty melodramatic circumstances. But from that first day, I was deeply touched by what I felt was a sense of great appreciation on their part to be treated with respect. They may have been confused, frightened and dirty, but they clearly had an enormous capacity for love and learning.

Over the course of our four months together, the changes have been gradual and dramatic. Audrey now always greets me with a wagging tail and joyful eyes, her coat is now even and silky smooth after three months of supplements and getting her weight back to normal. Shaka was gregarious from the outset but a bit pushy. He has learned to do a perfect food bowl sit, and they continues to be very proud of his "shake" that he was able to do the first day in the household. Audrey has completed basic obedience class, and Shaka will finish his this Saturday.

Four months later, I think back to our first night together and how Audrey seemed to be such an especially fragile case. She was suffering from kennel cough, and more than half of her ears were covered in mange. After going through the loss of Bow, I felt that seeing another sickly basenji girl suffer was more than I could take. I was intent that I would give her and Shaka safe harbor until a long-term foster could be found but would not let myself get too involved.

Looking at her four months later, with both the mange and cough distant memories, I realize how both of them have helped me heal from the loss of Bow and honor her legacy.

From the first day I knew they were diamonds in the rough. They are now the jewels in the crown.

My goal of finding the "perfect" basenji may not have been attained, but over the course of our four months of getting to know each other it was increasingly clear that we three are perfect for each other. That is why I set September 4 -- what would have been my parents' 63rd wedding anniversary -- as the adoption date.


  1. It's funny how these things always happen... and later we learn that they happened for a reason. Maybe your ordeal taking care of Bow in her sickness helped you "prepare" for taking care of Shaka & especially Audrey when they were most in need. Maybe you received them when you did because some part of you knew that engaging your parental instincts would be the only way to help you heal. I don't know.. but I'm so glad to hear that you've adopted them! They couldn't have asked for a better home, or a more loving dad. What lucky little basenjis they turned out to be!

  2. Well, I for one am glad that you adopted them so that we will be treated to more blog entries about how they're doing. =) Congrats on your new happy family.

  3. This story brought tears to my eyes, as did the photo ( Shaka reminds me SO much of our dear basenji boy, Simba, who had the same eyes and the same intense gaze, and Audrey has a look of our current girl, Lady.) You've done a good thing. I'm sure Bow is very proud.

  4. Lucky you and lucky Shaka and Audrey, I am so happy that you are now officially family! I know that Bow must be smiling.

  5. ohhh thanks for the nice story!