Going away

Dear Zak,

Themba has adapted well to the role of office dog when he gets the chance. Like you he does enjoy the ride and chasing the chickens who have very quickly summed him up as a threat. Indeed, feathers have flown but there were no casualties to my knowledge.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback Centennial went off better than we were hoping with at least 35 dogs at the Wag Zone on the day. Themba was still recovering from his kennel cough, which fortunately turned out to be mild, so didn’t go. There were few problems, just some “bad language” between males vying for dominance. Someone was filming and put together a video here which I thought was done rather well even if I hardly recognized myself! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYnzm1S-u24&t=8s

Training is going rather well too. I put together a video for the kennels where he and Tia are staying whilst we are in England so hopefully they will do a bit with him whilst we are away. It’s a bit slapdash but I think they’ll get the idea what to do.

We are leaving on Sunday but will drop Themba and Tia off tomorrow midday. Marianne is already in a tizz about leaving him there but he will be fine. Did we leave you there once? It’s Rose van der Ruit’s place outside Ruwa and is some 30ha so there’s plenty of space to run. Who knows, he may even enjoy the break!

Love you as always…

Winter’s closing gasp

Themba traps the warmth

Dear Zak,

I think summer might just have broken winter’s grasp. Last Friday there was ice and frost everywhere at the Wag Zone. Like any good Ridgeback Themba likes his sunny spot by the back of the garage which you also frequented.

I have been busy collecting and tidying up photos for the Rhodesian Ridgeback Centennial which is next Saturday at the Wag Zone. I didn’t have the final say in the photos chosen and the collage below is not the final by a long way but you certainly feature my handsome boy (and Jenni, Kharma, Tina, Roxy and Themba). So far we haven’t had a great response as rather a lot of people are choosing to go away in the school holidays rather than attend an important occasion like this. Odd priorities.

They are all there, the special RRs of mine!

Despite all his training Themba is not great with other Ridgeback males. Two weekends ago I took him along to the Wag Zone whilst I took photos of other dogs and got rather provocative with another male. It was all a dominance thing and no real aggression but I’m not at all sure I’ll take him along on the day, especially as all the dogs need to be on leashes. I’ll decide on the day depending on how many other dogs are there. I know you would have been beautifully behaved!

Love you as always.

Smiler Girl

Big, gentle Roxy

Dear Zak,

There were three biscuits as usual on the sink this morning. I unlocked the back door but there was no gentle mouth by my left hand when I let it fall to my side, waiting to take the biscuit from it. Roxy was not there. My Smiler Girl is gone.

We took Roxy to the vet yesterday morning after a particularly energetic visit to the Wag Zone where I took these photos. She’d been diagnosed a month or so back with liver cancer and Marianne had to giver her chemotherapy drugs as well as a very complicated diet in light of her pancreatitis. At first she coped but recently had become very picky and was eating less and less and losing weight. The vet redid the ultrasound scan and the news was not good – the cancer had spread and was aggressive. The decision was made to stop the chemotherapy, bring her home and spoil her with whatever she really liked to eat for the few weeks she was estimated to have left.

Around 10 p.m. last night she became very distressed and was clearly bloated and in a lot of pain. We rushed her back to the vet who diagnosed gastric torsion (which saw the end of Jenni all those years ago) and Marianne made the decision to let her go. She was not even seven years old. Poor girl, she did not have good luck with her health even when she was younger.

I will miss her big, goofy smile with ears curled back that greeted me when I came home. Smiler. Run free soft girl. I stroked her soft muzzle one last time then we laid her to rest next to you my boy.

Run Smiler

Themba – the dog on a log

A dog on the logThemba’s training is bearing fruit

Dear Zak,

I really think all Themba’s training is starting to mean something! Yesterday I took him to work without Tia for the first time. He behaved, sort of, if one discounts peeing on my truck tyres, Fabian’s motorbike wheel (twice) and barking at people he knows. He did stay within 10 metres of me while I walked around the nursery and even went up and down the stairs all by himself. Yes, you learnt to do that while you were still a puppy but Themba is different in a very Ridgeback way. He even got into the cab of the truck without having to be bribed.

On the way out to Emerald Seedlings he sat in the back area behind the seats just like you used to do – looking out the windscreen to see what was going on. It didn’t last long but maybe in time he’ll get the idea.

Early morning walk at the Wag Zone. Marianne, Themba, Roxy and Tia rooting around in the grass.

Roxy, poor girl, is not well. The vet thinks she might have pancreatic cancer but he cannot be sure with the imaging equipment he has. Always on the chubby side now she is thin and struggling to keep the weight on. She still in good spirits though and enjoys outings to the Wag Zone twice a week. We haven’t been to ART Farm since I’ve been in hospital. One day, maybe, Themba will learn to run with the truck like you used to. I used to love watching you run.

Miss you as always…

Themba – getting possessive

Themba (right) and Lunde get to grips Ridgeback style

Dear Zak,

It’s been a while since I last wrote; by way of excuse I’ve had lower back surgery so haven’t been doing much with Themba. He has been entertaining us though and just after I got out of hospital he did make me very proud.

Marianne had gone out shopping and hired a retired nurse to come in for an hour or two to keep an eye on me as I was not mobile at all and needed help to get to the bathroom, especially as I had a vacuum dressing device attached to my back which had to be carried around with me.

Themba was on the be next to me when the nurse came up the passage. Neither of us had met her before. Themba was not impressed and started barking even before he could see her. It wasn’t aggressive barking and fortunately she was unfazed but he was still not impressed. He even growled when she got me to stand up from the bed. Then Mike the electrician came in to fit a surge protector on the solar inverter and he barked at him too even though he has met him several times. I was so proud of him!

Feeling very pleased with himself having told-off the nurse and electrician for getting too close

I have only just started getting around in the car by myself so we haven’t been going to ART farm. Marianne has been going to the Wag Zone twice a week with the girls and Themba. They inevitably come back dirty. Tia of course cannot resist going into the ponds and now that they are low they are very muddy.

This morning I had a meeting to discuss the upcoming 100th anniversary of the local Ridgeback Club. We are known as the parent club because Rhodesia, as Zimbabwe was known then, is where Rhodesian Ridgebacks were first bred and the club was formed in Bulawayo back in 1922. A gathering is planned on 13th August at the Wag Zone where people will bring along their dogs for a photo shoot and general celebration of the “national dog”. I don’t think such a title exists anywhere in the world though curiously the South Africans like to claim the Rhodesian Ridgeback as theirs!

Pearly whites – just for show

Lunde, who is owned by the chairman, and Themba got on and played while the rest of us discussed the business. Themba has met her several times before but initially was very defensive of “his” car and took a while to get out. Fortunately Lunde is very friendly and ignored the growling and barking. Later Lunde heard something to bark at and Themba, ever the fierce lion hunter, chose to defend me from the safety of my lap!

The fierce lion-hunter shows his true colours

Ah well, discretion is the better part of valour.

Love you as always.

Themba – what flavour was it?

I think I prefer hearing aid flavour

Dear Zak,

This morning Themba ate my hearing aids. I’d forgotten to put them in and after breakfast when I’d said to Marianne “What did you say?” once too many times I went to look for them. I’d placed them under the bedside light on the erroneous assumption that I’d remember to put them in first thing and forgot to do so. They weren’t there and a frantic search under the bed to no avail indicated the culprit.

We found the remains of the right one on the spare bed with no battery to be found. The left was minus the earpiece but otherwise OK. Themba was not flavour of the day. A phone call was made to his vet who reassured us that he’d come across dogs who’d swallowed small batteries several times before and it had never been a problem. I guess we’ll be examining dog poop this afternoon for confirmation though it could have easily fallen into the grass outside and we would never been able to find it.

We went into the office today so that Marianne could get a handle on changing prices on the computer whilst I’m in hospital for a back operation. Themba came along for a bit of stair climb training which he failed dismally on the last attempt. Getting up was a bit problematic at first involving a number of treats though I think by the time we left he was getting the idea. I remember that Kharma showed you the way when you were a puppy and you were so pleased with yourself that you went up and down several times before we left.

We went out on Saturday to cousin Wayne’s birthday party. It was the first time we’d left all the dogs completely alone. All potential chew toys were removed and power supplies switched off. All appeared well when we got home some four hours later though the kitchen dustbin had been knocked over. It was only later that evening that Marianne noticed that Themba had a small puncture wound on his left cheek. Roxy was of course blamed and threatened with dire consequences even though it really was a minor wound with no blood evident and no punctures above it indicating that she’d actually bitten down on his head. We had not heard anything coming in so presume that Themba had got over-excited when the gate opened and a scuffle had ensued.

On Thursday I am having a lower back operation. I think it qualifies as “routine” but for the first time in 43 years and 11 operations I have to admit I’m feeling a bit anxious. Not about the actual operation – I have total trust in the surgeon – but in the aftercare and potential of an infection. Still, it has to be done as the issue has been a long time developing and now something needs to be done. Marianne is going to have to handle the dog exercising by herself. There is a dog park some 15 minutes away where we go once a week. It’s not big but has enough space for everyone to get a good run around and there are three dams to splash around in. There are other dogs to meet too. Tia of course gets on with everybody, Roxy is a bit nervous and Themba has an annoying habit of barking incessantly at larger dogs. He’ll have to adapt because Marianne won’t go to ART farm by herself. I did love watching you run there even if your habit of running at the truck was disconcerting.

Love you.

Themba at six months

The half birthday

Dear Zak,

Themba has gained his half birthday! No more midday meals, he gets what the others get now. That doesn’t mean that he’s slowed down growing. I used to think he wasn’t going to be a big dog and I still don’t think he will be as tall as you but I do think he’ll get to Roxy’s size. We have no idea how heavy he is but he has long ago surpassed Tia – mind you, she is not a heavy dog.

We got a trainer in this week as we were having difficulty getting him to jump into the back of the truck, which he can do easily enough when he feels like it, when we are going somewhere. Coming home is another story; he just sits and looks uninterested. I have taken him to work on two occasions and had to get Fabian to lift him into the cab when it was time to come home. He struggled with the stairs too. Did them once and never again. Not like you – you were so pleased with yourself for working it out (actually, it was Kharma who showed you how) that you kept going up and down them until I called you off.

Now we are using the upturned crate to get him into the truck that we used for both Kharma and you when your cancer got too bad. He’s got the idea and even got into the truck at the Wag Zone on Thursday morning. We’ll see if the trend continues as the trainer said that now he’s becoming a teenager he’s likely to get difficult. A Ridgeback difficult? Never!

Actually he’s pretty good. We had two long recalls at the Wag Zone which we were impressed with. Now I just have to get him used to the idea that not everything is his!

Are you sure those are not for me?

He had his first bone this morning. There’s no real reason we waited this long. We made sure Roxy was not around and Marianne said she did her usual drama queen act; carrying her bone around the house and whining until it was taken away. I did watch Themba in the garden in case he thought of going to see what Tia was up to (she’d have given him plenty of warning to push off) but he was engrossed in his and made a good job of sorting it out. Then we did a tour of the garden where I picked some mealies that he thought he’d like too (above).

Giving his first bone the attention it deserves.

We are coming to the end of the rains although there is a bit predicted for later in the day. The fence around the muddy corner of the garden has been taken down and the trees have grown well over your grave so it’s a really shady spot now.

Miss you as always.

Themba the otter

Webbed paw and all…

Dear Zak,

We think Themba might be crossed with an otter. He even has webbed paws (actually all dogs have partially webbed paws) and has taken to swimming like, well, an otter!

We got the fence around the pool taken down a couple of weeks back as he wasn’t looking like he’d be very keen on swimming and I thought that even if he did fall in he’s big enough to easily get out at the steps, we’d just have to keep an eye on him. He was certainly interested in the fish ponds though. When Tia swam he’d dip a paw or two into the water at the steps but nothing more. Then one day he got right into the pool – all four paws. Then he was right in and he’ll swim most days after tea in the afternoon. He gets quite carried away and will swim right to the deep end and back.

You were never a fan of water and Kim hated it but would swim after me if I went into a dam. Jenni of course would run through any puddle she could find and though she’d go into the night storage dam I never actually saw her swim. Kharma was indifferent to water.

Waiting to go, anywhere will do.

Themba has also picked up on the waiting in the car tradition started by Tina. So far I have only taken him a short way into Avondale to pick up seeds from my supplier. Like you he likes to come along for the ride. This afternoon he barked at the person who came to delver the seed. I pretended to be a bit cross but was secretly quite pleased that he was feeling a bit territorial. He can get into the front of the truck easy enough and into the back if he feels like it, which is once so far!

He will be six months old in three weeks time. We haven’t weighed him recently but he’s at least as tall as Tia and I should think 25kg or so. I don’t think he will be as tall as you. He has a bark that I think will match yours and uses it a lot when playing with Tia but with Roxy he’s completely quiet.

Love you as always.

Themba – Where has the puppy gone?

The gas machine is no longer a puppy

Dear Zak,

We haven’t weighed Themba this week – he is simply too heavy for Marianne to pick up. That makes him over 20kg, so really he’s not a puppy any more. The behaviour is still there though and he has developed an alarming affinity to steal and destroy toilet rolls which are no longer safe on their holders (or anywhere else for that matter). He’s also starting to chew furniture which reminds me of Kim, my first Ridgeback, who chewed some borrowed furniture when I was working in Chinhoyi way back in 1991. I was mortified but fortunately the owner found it funny. I suppose this is just the start of the teething process. He’s lost a few of his milk teeth but I can’t easily see any adult teeth coming through. It doesn’t help that holding him still must be a lot like holding an eel still, nearly impossible.

Since the last blog there has been a few altercations (one sided) with Roxy. I thought she wasn’t herself so we took her off to the vet and yes, she was in pain from the spondylitis in her spine and that was likely making her grouchy. So she’s been on anti-pain medication and CBD oil which helped Kharma so much in her final months. No more punch-ups. So far so good.

The training is coming on well. He can now jump up on a log on command and will leave a treat for a while at least. Not up to your record as yet but he’ll get there. His obsession with food does exceed yours though and is a bit of a problem when it comes to getting him away from the kitchen door at meal times. We are going to have to work on that one as getting past him without him barging through must be controlled. Kharma was of course the Barge Queen!

We got in a slow-feeder bowl from South Africa which has slowed his feeding down considerably but he has not learned to respect other’s food. Last week it was raining at meal time so Tia was given her bowl by the kitchen sink. Themba left his food, ran over to Tia’s, and stuck his nose into her bowl. Unfortunately she did nothing. Roxy, as you found out, would not tolerate that. We haven’t even risked giving out bones on Sundays so far but I’m going to persuade Marianne that we cannot put it off any longer.

I developed the Covid ‘flu this week. The symptoms are relatively mild but I’ve had to isolate into your bedroom. Themba was delighted as he gets to sleep on the bed with me. In the main room we have discouraged that, not least because there will be no room on the bed once he gets big but also Roxy is not keen on sharing her sleeping space. During the day it’s not a problem but night time – no! The downside for me is that he farts a lot. Marianne has been buying chicken “matumbos” i.e. guts, in an effort to reduce the meat bill which is substantial but we’ve decided to give it a break and see if that makes a difference. They smell bad enough when cooking never mind after being processed by Themba. Right now I’m thinking we should have called him BOC or HandiGas.

I was looking at the background photo on my phone this week. Of course it’s of you my boy, looking regal as ever. I wondered if I could ever change it – I certainly don’t have the courage to let you go just yet.

Love you as always.

Four-square

Themba standing four-square and showing his potential

Dear Zak,

Themba has had a busy few weeks since I last wrote. We went back to see Fynn who was delighted to meet us again and they had a boisterous time until Themba suffered the ultimate indignity of being “beaten up” by a cantankerous old sausage dog! No contact was made but Themba yowled long and loud. How embarrassing. Well, that was the end of the play date and as it was a Friday afternoon it was time to make out way back home again.

We also had another play date with a Labrador, Ollie, of six months. He was clueless. It didn’t start well with both him and another adult Lab mobbing both of us before we’d even got out of the pickup. It took a while for things to settle down.

Ollie is not much bigger than Themba but has absolutely no idea about play etiquette and kept running straight into Themba and knocking him over. Themba eventually got fed up and told him so. Not an entirely wasted session as he has to know how to deal with dogs who are like Ollie!

Where has the little puppy gone? 16.5kg and growing…

Themba is still maintaining a weight gain of a kg per week. Now he’s 16.5kg and the little puppy of eight weeks ago is long gone. He still has that cute puppy waddle but is running more like an adult dog now – no scampering. We got him a special bowl with lumps in it to slow down his eating which I think was even faster than yours. It’s slowed him down a bit but he’s working out how to speed the gobble up again.

Roxy and Themba seem to have come to an agreement; she growls when warning and he takes notice. There haven’t been any confrontations this past week so hopefully the snap-and-yowl is mostly behind us. We are careful when food is around to keep them separate but have yet to cross the bone bridge. We’ll get to it along with swimming pool awareness training.

We took the whole pack to a newish dog park in Highlands yesterday to get a bit of exposure to meeting other dogs and for quite a while were the only ones there. I guess it was early for a Saturday. Some Beagles arrived just before we left and all was fine though Roxy seemed a bit anxious. She’ll get used to it.

A warm, hairy chin-rest in the form of Tia. Life cannot be too bad.

Training is going well though Themba has learnt to anticipate when he is going to be called by either Marianne or myself. We’ve even tried code words such as “Thursday” or, “after this command” but he even recognizes those and bolts to the next person before we’ve finished. A clever little boy. Mind you we are using very high value treats; biltong bits.