Well, I‘ve had my puppy Kieffer for a whopping eight months already. Time sure does fly when you’re busy chasing after a wild puppy who loves to play keep away! Kieffer has grown into his ears only slightly over the last several months and still resembles a bat, or Dumbo, or a rabbit, depending on who you ask. At least a three times a day I find myself asking, “Kieffer, why are your ears so big?” He usually responds by pricking them up to their full height and furrowing his little brow into rows of wrinkles so that he looks as though he’s thinking really hard about what his response should be.
Kieffer hates rain more than any animal I’ve met. He is the complete opposite of Zappa, who stands outside in the craziest of rain storms, as if to test the quality of waterproofing on each of his blankets. And then there’s Karma, who dives into the pond or any body of water she can find, even if it’s close to freezing outside!
If it’s raining and it’s time for Kieffer to go out for a pee, he will first spin around, away from the door and high tail it for the kitchen table where he hides underneath and whines until I come to retrieve him, leash in hand. Then, resigned to his wet fate, he flattens his tail underneath his belly and pins his ears back like an angry horse. He will often make one last attempt to save himself from the droplets by unsuccessfully digging his claws into the tile flooring. I even bought him a raincoat, but it does little to appease him. Finally, once outside in the rain, he flattens his ears so they stick out straight beside him like wings. He then proceeds to whine and batt angrily at his ears every few steps. My friend Glynis came up with a theory as to why he hates the rain so much: his massive ears act as giant rain funnels. And it’s true. His ears are so big that if he doesn’t flatten them out to the side, the rain literally pours down into them.
I have yet to determine what Kieffer’s breeding is, but every customer who comes into the tack store that I work at has to guess at his heritage.
“He must be part bat!”
“Dingo. For sure he’s got some wild dog in him.”
“Those ears! Must be rabbit in him.”
“Look at his little wrinkly forehead! Is he part Basenji?”
“Gosh, he can just balance on those hind legs, eh? Has he got some Meerkat in him?”
But my favourite insight of all came from a little girl who could not have been more than 5 years old. She was sitting at the bus stop with her siblings and as Kieffer and I walked past, her eyes grew wide and incredulous. She stood up on the bench and pointed definitively at my unusual looking pup.
“WHOA! THAT IS A BIG CHIHUAHUA!”
Over Christmas I decided to look up the one breed many people had speculated he might have in him: Basenji. I was surprised to find just how much he does resemble this African hunting dog, with its large ears, wrinkly forehead, tendency to stand on its hind legs like a meerkat, and ability to play tirelessly. At the very bottom of the breed description, my eyes paused. It stated that the Basenji is the second least trainable dog, beat only by the Afghan Hound, according to Stanley Coren’s book The Intelligence of Dogs. Well, that explains a lot!
The pup and I have had our struggles over the last few months; there were a few times where I seriously questioned where my brain had taken off to the day I decided to add a puppy into my crazy life of school, horses, full time work, farm sitting and trying to run a business. Despite the many misadventures—such as jumping out of my moving car’s window (thankfully I was very slowly pulling out of a parking lot when he decided to make his daring escape), scarfing down dinners of cow paddies (the manure pile is behind our house), being stepped on by my horse (miraculously he escaped without any broken bones) and chewing through all three seatbelts in the back of my car (a feat accomplished in 10 minutes flat)—we somehow survived the last eight months. He even learned how to sit, lie down and give a high five on command. While he still has to stay in his kennel in the car (I’d like the driver and passenger seatbelts to remain uncompromised if at all possible) he’s now regained his off-leash privileges (they were revoked many times after the cow-paddy-dinner incidents) and he has learned that if the window is open in the car, it’s for fresh air and not to test if his ears are indeed large enough for him to take flight.
The little gaffer is growing up so fast and maturing into a lovely dog. He’s very careful around the horses ever since he got stepped on by Zappa (they still sniff noses each day so I think all has been forgiven). And while he may have some of the “least trainable” breed of dog in him, whatever mix he is, he’s proven so far to be one of the most unusual and entertaining dogs I’ve ever met!