These days, Pippin is a lot less beastly than he used to be. I don’t know if it’s that he’s just gotten older (he’s a little older than 11), or if it’s just finally dawned on him that it’s in his best interests to do what he’s told. That took long enough. Whatever qualities you may see in a Basenji (or in his case, a Basenji mix), learning quickly is not one of them.
I’ve posted about this before, but according to the great book The Intelligence of Dogs, Basenjis rank second only to Chows, if I recall correctly, as the “least trainable dog”.
Wikipedia has a great article about Basenjis. Even if I didn’t know Pippin was a Basenji mix, I could have figured it out just from this article. Basenjis “dislike wet weather”, “like to climb and can easily get over chain wire fences”, and groom themselves like cats. They can stand on their hind legs, like Meerkats. You couldn’t come up with a better description of Pippin if you painted a picture. On the disliking wet weather part, Pippin will absolutely not go outside if the grass is wet, since he might get his precious little paws wet. Meanwhile, as long as it isn’t thundering, the Doberman will barrel out, even if it’s pouring rain.
The occasion is that this morning, I needed to get something from my car. Pippin was right there at the gate to the fence, and I said “Stay”. And he did. When I came back, he was still there, and I said “Get back”. And he did. It’s hard to explain what a miracle that was. Two miracles in a row, even.
It used to be that Pippin was a darter. Given any tiny window of escape, he was off and running. (Not that he couldn’t have climbed the fence if he really wanted to).
My favorite story about Pippin is, many years ago, I took him and my then-Rottweiler with me to visit a friend in Jacksonville. We stopped at a rest stop somewhere near Lake City. A large and very beautiful one, as rest stops go. I let them roam for a while (on a leash of course) and then went to buy a bottle of water from a machine. I was holding the leashes in my left hand while I put my dollar in the machine, when suddenly the weight on my left hand seemed lighter. I looked down, and I’m holding one Rottweiler, and an empty collar. I never even felt him wriggle out of the collar. They are quite stealthy.
Pippin was nowhere to be seen. I was deathly afraid that he would run out in front of one of the semi trucks in the parking lot. So I walked the Rottweiler around some more, and eventually Pippin showed up out of nowhere and started trotting along beside us. But every move I made in his direction caused him to dart away again. I was stumped. What to do?
I finally decided I would leave him, and continue to Jacksonville. Then I would call the authorities to go and find him and capture him. As soon as I opened the car door, Pippin again appeared like a flash of lightning from nowhere and jumped in the back seat. Happily grinning and panting, like This was fun, can we do it again? Somehow I managed to keep from killing him.
I don’t think he would do that these days. But I’m not taking any chances.