One Sunday, just after lunch, the phone rang and Stephanie said she had to dash off and would explain later. She arrived back a little later with… a really tiny dog of indeterminate breed. It was about the size of a small hamster and looked like a cross between a hamster and a rabbit with its fluffy white fur.
There’d been no discussion and I was more than taken aback.
Firstly, although I like all animals, I’m no fan of lapdogs and barking handbags. Secondly, how would this tiny creature fit in with a wolf and a staffie? A friend had a minature Yorkie and, while Akela was fine with it, there was always the danger she would step on it! Both Akela and Kenya are senior citizens now — heading for 14 years of age – and not always too sure on their feet. And then there’s Akela’s habit of pawing anything and everything — with enough force to squash a hamster.
Beezus, the new “dog,” was tiny. His legs were the size of one of Akela’s nails. Of course he was cute, a tiny bundle of thick fur. But would he survive the roughness of Akela & Kenya, weighing in at 100 times his weight?
Well they were inquisitive and cautious, but started off by trying to avoid him. I’m sure they sensed our concerns and rather kept away. Slowly we allowed them to get closer and Akela frequently lay down, to get a better view and be less intimidating.
The difference in sizes and strengths made its point one day. Akela lay down in front of Beezus, and Beezus sprung forward (he did seem to hop like a rabbit at the beginning) just as Akela swung her paw. Beezus went tumbling… and lay dead still. I rushed to pick him up and there wasn’t an iota of movement. I was terrified and preparing to rush to a vet. I stroked his chest and massaged him, but there was no response. I breathed into his tiny mouth and he squawked, and slowly started moving… and I felt his heart beat.
He’s doubled in weight and size since then — with most growth in his ears and tail — and, after what seems like a long time of always watching the animals while they’re together, he seems able to more or less hold his own now.
Neither Akela nor Kenya are vicious or aggressive animals. While we lived in Hout Bay some years ago, a group of pet bunnies escaped from a hutch somewhere and were rambling around the weir at the end of the property. My two went up to sniff them and then left them alone. Neighbourhood dogs descended on them a little later and killed them all just for the fun.
Akela’s behaviour to the puppy has been fascinating. Firstly, there were her growls whenever she went near him. I learnt when she was young that Akela’s growl has a very different meaning to a dog’s growl. It’s a sound to get attention, and she’d come up close to my face snarling, but then her tongue comes out to kiss my cheek.
But with Beezus, her snarls and growls became something else. They grew into the sound of a gentle wolf howl, and one could see the telltale way in which she pursed her lips, ready for a full-on howl.
And then there was the performance every meal time. After she had eaten, Akela would fetch Beezus to take him outside and then regurgitate a small amount of food. The first time she did this, Beezus run up to eat but Akela took his whole body between her jaws and moved him aside. She licked at the food and then allowed him to eat… her first lesson in manners to the tiny dog.
Since then, he’s allowed to eat as soon as she regurgitates. Beezus knows not to bother either animal while they eat. He’s allowed to eat from their bowls after they have finished.
Maybe, just maybe, Beezus will grow up to be a well-mannered dog after having been raised by a wolf!