That’s not fair!

I’d rather be running

That’s not fair!

I’m sorry my boy, cancer is brutally unfair.

Why can’t you take me along for the ride then, it’s better than lying here.

Because it’s so difficult to get you into the pickup. I can’t help and Marianne is not strong enough. That’s how you hurt your leg last weekend and look how far it’s put you back. I know how much you like getting out but I needed to take Roxy and Tia for a run to get rid of some energy.

I wanted to come with you to work on Thursday too.

I know, I know. I remember how much you liked coming to the office with me even if you didn’t do much when we got there.

Us Ridgebacks have good eyesight so it was always great to see what was going on from the front seat. And I dig get to chase the odd chicken when you weren’t looking.

Jenni also liked coming along for the ride, she’d often see francolin before I did when we were out on the farm.

I’m not going to run again am I?

No, I don’t think so. I am building a wheelchair to support your back leg. That will allow you to run.

So that’s what that thing is. Not sure I’ll like it.

Please try, you will be able to move much quicker.

Oh, I do miss running! I can still run in my dreams.

So can I.

You haven’t always used walking sticks then?

No, when I was young I could run. I wasn’t as fast as you of course  but I did enjoy it.

Wow, I’d have loved to go running with you!

We can run together in our dreams.

Yes, we can. That will be fun.  I will slow down for you.

 

 

 

The bad news

A regal fellow

It’s not good news my boy, the cancer is back.

Oh. That’s disappointing. Is that why I find it so difficult to run?

Yes, it’s weakening the bone in your back leg. I’m so sorry, I was hoping you’d get another year at least.

Oh, so it’s going to be quick then?

Yes, a few weeks at the most if we don’t redo the chemotherapy.

What will that give me?

A few more months at the most.

What about the side effects?

The vet couldn’t really say. They might be bad or not and there is still the risk that the leg could break.

Like happened to Kharma? I don’t want that!

No, that would be terrible.

Please don’t cry, you’ve given me a good life. I’m sure you’ll make the best decision for me.

But we were supposed to grow old together!

Ah, well some things are not meant to be. I’ll always remember the running, it was so much fun – what I was born to do. I was fast wasn’t I?

Yes, 50km per hour at a burst. I wasn’t so impressed with you running and barking at the truck.

Ah, well, us Ridgebacks need a little danger for excitement.

What do you think of the photo?

I like it. It’s me – quite regal! Print it out to remind yourself of me.
You will be there at the end for me?

Of course.

Rub my ears won’t you?

Yes, I’ll do that.

 

 

 

What’s this virus thing about?

I find this difficult to get and depressing

What’s all this corona virus thing about?

Well, a virus is a very, very small thing that causes disease.

All of them cause disease?

No, most do nothing at all. We just live with them without knowing it. They are not even alive.

But this corona virus is a problem not so?

Yes, but only if you are a human. Animals don’t get it.

That’s a relief. But what happens if you get it?

Probably very little, but as an asthmatic I could have a problem.

What? Could you die?

Yes, if I am unlucky and don’t respond to the first line of treatment. It varies but about 2% of people in my age group die if they contract the virus.

You could go to hospital and get healed!

Zimbabwe is not a great place for that. The hospitals are not well equipped.

Oh. Can’t you protect yourself?

To a point. Try and stay away from other people and lots of hand washing.

Don’t people wear masks and gloves?

Yes, but they are largely useless. The masks that do work are only used in hospitals and need special fitting and frequent changing. Viruses stick to gloves too so they need to be changed all the time which most people don’t do.

So I don’t need to take precautions then. That’s a relief. Is this why you are not going out much? I like it when you stay at home.

Yes. Right now we are not allowed to go to work except in special circumstances. The idea is to reduce the spread of the virus, which is know as covid-19.

Is it going to work?

Probably not. It’s not being strictly enforced.

That sounds bad. Is it going to be bad?

Probably. Not just in health terms, also in economic terms – lots of people will lose their jobs.

I think I’d rather hunt lions, even though I’ve only got three legs. Will you keep your job?

I think so, but it could be a tough time. Don’t worry, we’ll look after you.

 

What does it all mean?

That’s heavy stuff

So this cancer thing, does it mean that I’m not going to get old?

Probably, we don’t really know but the vet things we can get you another 2 years at the most. Maybe more if we are lucky.

Two years is a long time in dog-years though. That doesn’t sound too bad. But what about my leg, will it grow back?

No, I’m afraid not. That’s where the cancer was so it had to go to hopefully stop it spreading.

Wow, I’m glad you didn’t tell me that beforehand. Having a leg amputated was hectic!

Sorry my boy, the other option was to do nothing and if we’d done that you probably wouldn’t be talking to me now.

So three legs it is. A bit difficult to chase on three legs but I don’t think I do a bad job of it.

You certainly are coping well even if Tia out runs you.

Hmm, yes, that is a bit difficult to stomach.

Now that I’ve finished the chemotherapy, will I have to go back for anything else?

The vet says he wants to see you in a few weeks for a checkup; to see if the cancer has spread to your lungs.

I’m not sure if I want to know the answer to that.

Nor am I.

All this treatment, it was expensive wasn’t it?

It was a lot by today’s standard. But you are worth it.

What do you mean by today’s standard?

Well, back in the days when we used real US dollars I had a lot more money.

So what’s happened?

The government stole all the money.

Wow, that’s not very nice, what have they done with it?

Who knows, used it to spend on themselves and have a bigger collection than the next person.

Well, you still have me. And here’s to luck.

Yes, I still have you. Here’s to luck.

A good morning rescue

I didn’t always smell like this. I used to have a home and a family to love me.

Me: Phew, he did smell a bit.

Zak: That’s not surprising if he’s been living of the rubbish dump. Tia smells a bit sometimes.

Me: She does eat anything.

Tia: Well, I’ve been there – I had to survive off my wits for 2 weeks.

Me: That was then, now you are well-fed.

Tia: No I’m not, I’m starving. I barely survive from one meal to the next!

Zak: Well, the avocados are there for the taking, you just have to get there before I do.

Tia: He’s hairy just like me!

Me: Much better behaved though. He was very gentle when I gave him your biscuits.

Zak: You gave him our biscuits?

Me: Well, not all of them. But I think he needed them more than you do right now.

Tia: Do you think he’s just lost then?

Me: I don’t know, he did jump into the car like he’d done it before. I definitely think he’s been someone’s pet before.

Zak: Or he knows who to trust. We are pretty good at judging humans like that. He was very lucky to be on the road just as we came past.

Roxy: So what will happen to him now?

Zak: Oh hello Roxy, glad you could join in the conversation.

Roxy: No need to be sarcastic, just all this talk of food and scrounging makes me feel ill.

Tia: You definitely are a bit odd with you picky-eating ways.

Roxy: Some of us are a little refined you know.

Tia: I can’t help being blond.

Me: Ok, ok, ok. The SPCA picked him up from the vet where we left him and he’ll have to stay there for 2 weeks in case his human recognises him and collects him. If not he’ll be put up for adoption.

Roxy: I hope they give him a bath.

Zak: And some food.

Tia: Maybe you should take him an avocado.

Me: They are not supposed to be good for dogs. But maybe some biltong.

Chorus: What? Our biltong?

Me: Hang on, who buys the biltong?

Marianne: Me actually.

 

 

Biscuits donated to a typical Zimbabwean

I gave away some of your biscuits today.

You did what?

Well he was a Ridgeback, in a sense.

Really, a black and white Ridgeback. Didn’t think such a thing existed.

Well not really but he has got a ridge.

I guess so. Where did you find him?

In the industrial sites. He just wandered into the premises where I was buying some overalls and stuff.

Was he hungry?

Not as much as I thought he’d be.

Friendly?

No, not really. Very cautious. He came within a metre or so but wouldn’t take from my hand.

We Ridgebacks are bred to be cautious of strangers. What did you do?

Well the rescue organisations won’t come out unless they know the dog will still be around when they get there so I went as asked around if he was known. It seems that he does hang around that area quite a lot. He didn’t stay long and was walking out when I got back to the car.

He needs a home.

There are lots like him around. Just getting  by and hoping for better.

Sounds like he’s a typical Zimbabwean.

Goodbye Kharma

Warm. She was always warm and cuddly.

puppy-love

Happiness is – a warm surrogate mother.

Soft ears, puppy ears even when she was older.

Playful.

playtwo

First games

Loving. Very expressive eyes too.

Art of the raised eyebrow

Art of the raised eyebrow

Cheeky at times.

no-chance

Don’t even think of it Zak!

She was just putting you in your place.

And clever.

Well yes but I did cheat her out of an avocado. Once.

That tail, that full-body-tail-wag and the Kharma smile, with her ears rolled back!

smile

The Kharma smile

Yes, she was always so pleased to see you. 4 minutes or 4 days, it was all the same to her. She was just pleased to have you back.

And she was so gentle with you – tolerant.

Yes, she would always play with me.

And she was the first to play with Roxy and Tia when you didn’t want to know them.

play1

Kharma, Zak and Roxy playing

Well I did find them annoying, at first.

She wasn’t much of a runner.

runtogether

Stepping out – whilst Kharma was still the quicker of the two.

No but she’d get that look in her eye and flick up her front paws and then she’d try and knock you flying.

Come on, there's running to be done!

Come on, there’s running to be done!

Yes, that was fun. But that last run…

Not your fault my boy. The cancer was already in her leg and made it weak which was why it broke.

Is that why it took so long to heal?

Probably. But in the end it was another tumour that stopped her from eating.

Aww. I’ll miss her. She was such a gentle lady. And well-behaved too!

rightful-place

Gentle Kharma

Yes she was. Those big soft eyes and the ability to fit in anywhere. She could also be very manipulative. Especially with Helen.

training-helen2

Training Helen

She loved you.

first-love

Just the two of us

And I her. Before you were around I’d come home and she’d do several circuits of the house at full speed to show her delight. And if I’d left her inside she’d stand on my mother’s dressing table to look out of the window and check if it was really me.

Her claw marks are still there…

When she first arrived she was so nervous. I let her out of her crate in the Land Cruiser and a few minutes later she’d disappeared. Didn’t know how I was going to tell Cheryl.

tsetsera

Out and about in the Tsetsera mountains

Where’d she gone?

Back in her crate in the Land Cruiser! It took her a long time to settle down but then suddenly she just accepted me and I was home and she was my best friend for 7 lovely years.

farm-walks

Kharma in her prime. A good looking and gentle girl.

She didn’t go alone did she?

No my boy. I held her and told her how much I loved her – all the way to the end.

You’ll be there for me too won’t you?

Of course I will. Of course.

Goodbye sweet Kharma, we love you.

My brother, Duncan, and Kharma two days ago.

My brother, Duncan, and Kharma two days ago.

The last day. The eyes say it all.

The last day. The eyes say it all.

The M word

On hearing the news...

On hearing the news…

Oh boy, is that heavy stuff.

Which is why you have to rest your head on the chair?

I just wasn’t expecting it, that’s all.

Well, think of it as a permanent version of the current situation.

Wow, that sounds good!

My thoughts exactly. Want to hear the story?

Hey yes!

You know we’ve bought a house together? Well, we were having this conversation about writing a will together to ensure that whoever “goes” first leaves the house to whoever is left – it can get really complicated otherwise. So the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Or we could get married. But you don’t believe in marriage”

Marianne: “Well maybe I’ve changed my mind”

Me: “So you’d consider it then?” (doing some serious fishing here)
Marianne: “I might”
Me: after a long pause “So will you marry me then?”
Marianne: “Yes, I will!” (also after a significant pause).

Weren’t you nervous?

No, not really. She wasn’t looking shocked and I could see her starting to smile.

Wow, that simple huh?

Well the actual ceremony was something else. It took a while to get Marianne’s ID sorted out (she’s on a German passport) and then we had to go and book at the Magistrate’s Court in town. They have a room there just for the purpose with a whole lot of tables where the couples to get married sit with their witnesses and the magistrates come around and read the vows and sign the documents.

On the day we arrived at 6.45 a.m…

Oh, so that’s why we didn’t get a walk. Some priorities.

Well, the courts open at 8a.m. so they are supposed to be finished by then. So, as I was saying before you interrupted; we arrived early and Felicity was there to pin on Marianne’s corsage and my buttonhole.

Hmm, I did notice you wearing some strange garments.

They are called a jacket and tie and were compulsory. You should have seen the others there – 3 piece suits for the men and full-on wedding dresses for the ladies. We had to wait around a fair bit and when we got into the marriage hall (though “hall” makes it sound a bit grand) we were seated at a table complete with a white table cloth, white chair covers and a satin cloth decoration. Then someone came past and asked us if we liked the colours. Marianne replied that yes, it was fine. Then we were asked to pay for it all! We brushed them off with the excuse that we hadn’t brought any money so the chair covers were unceremoniously pulled off the chairs and the table cloth removed and moved to where people would pay for them. It was only at 7h30 that the magistrates started doing the rounds, reading out the vows and signing the documentation. But first one of the magistrates welcomed us and told us how, if we wanted, we could get a divorce and even if our partner was unfaithful we could sue the third party!

What a way to start.

The couple in front of us had a really good magistrate who looked like she actually enjoyed what she was doing and went out of her way to make the ceremony memorable but our magistrate was bored before he even started and stuck rigidly to the text. Marianne got the giggles and I forgot her names.

How could you do that?

Well, Marianne is not her first name it’s Debera and the magistrate was using her surname first which was a bit odd for a marriage ceremony. After we’d signed the various certificates we had to put our fingerprints on one of the forms and there was nothing supplied to wipe our fingers on.

I’d have used the tablecloth.

Well we didn’t pay for one but fortunately Marianne had tissues. Then we had to get out of the way for the next couple.

What, vacate the table?

Yup but it gave us time to watch the other goings on. Couples were kissing for the camera and posing by false wedding cakes.

Geez, that sounds about as romantic as a day at the cattle dip!

Well we did have a celebratory breakfast afterwards at Valdemeer’s restaurant opposite Arundel shopping centre which was fun. A few close friends and then the reception will be in February.

Lots of guests?

I haven’t counted but yes, I think there will be quite a few.

Lots of food of course.

Yes, I thought you would anticipate that angle.

Hey, us Ridgebacks have our priorities right!

Wedding breakfast

Wedding breakfast

The chase

Back from the chase

Back from the chase

A good chase then, give them something to worry about did you?

Oh yes, I really had them on the hop! It’s why we Rhodesian Ridgebacks are feared the world over.

Which is why they were flicking their tails at you?

Of course, it’s a reedbuck’s way of surrendering. You know, the white flag and all that.

I think it’s more like flicking the middle finger that we humans do.

Really? Well, they need to think that they are winning.

Why?

So they won’t mind being chased again tomorrow!

Tia

tia and i

Tia and I

So what do you think of Tia?

Well, she’s not a Ridgeback.

Nor are you a Ridgeback technically speaking.

But what is she really?

Probably a Golden Retriever cross. We don’t really know as she was hanging out around my work for a few days.

What does she retrieve?

When hunters go hunting ducks and other birds she would go and get the birds that fall on the water.

But there are aren’t any ducks around here!

Nor are there any lions. But I did find a kitten in the road two days ago.

Very clever but kittens don’t count.

But hey, she’s also blonde!

And doesn’t have many manners.

No, I think she’s had a bit of a hard life but we are working on the manners. She’s a quick learner.