Like a Duck to Water

Alan has recently sent me this wonderful account of his December holiday.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.


Over the 2011 December holidays we spent a few quiet days at my Mom’s farm in the Dinokeng area (and if the truth be told, some loud ones too!). This gave young Zulu and I a chance to go on a lot of adventure walks in the Bushveld and some group walks with Paddington, Baloo, Jack and Peppa in tow.

Quiet time at the Farm

On our first day our friend Les (Peppa and Jack’s owner) and Jack joined Zulu and me on an amble down to a small dam a few hundred metres from the house. It has a nice small beach and even though it’s a bit over-run with Water Hyacinth, I thought it would be as good a place as any to get the little guys swimming. I waddled in to about waist deep and even though the day was as hot as Hades, the water was not, and I was glad I did not have a brass monkey with me.

I was just managing to coax Zulu towards me when Jack (now around 14 or 15 weeks old) glomped over my intrepid aquanaut and dunked him just as he was working up the courage to embrace his heritage as a water dog. These four-leggeds can really make you pay for small lapses in judgement and try as I may I could not get Zulu in the water past his chest for love nor money (or even Al Fraser’s jowl drenching dried wors) for the next 10 weeks!  By which stage, in total desperation, and much to Mike and Di Holman’s amusement, I took to swimming out into the Knoppies Dam (and not for the first time!) to get Zulu to follow me in.  Still, as I write this, Zulu is 27 weeks old and he persists with his unique brand of “puppy style” swimming which looks a little more like cat drowning than an otter gliding effortlessly along, a style, Louise tells me, is in his maternal line and I have no doubt that he will find out what his tail and back legs are for in the fullness of time.

Out of the water, the little guy’s confidence was growing by the second (a real chip off the old block) and he was boldly trekking out to explore the next butterfly, dandelion and on one occasion a rather startled leguaan that took his fancy. Fortunately he seemed to respond well to the sound of sheer panic in my voice and came bouncing back to me to see what all the fuss was about. So the next time he went trudging off I hid behind an old concrete water reservoir, and as soon as he felt alone he came hurtling back to look for me and from then on he started to keep an eye on me rather than the other way around!

Some more friends joined for a New Year’s bash, and at one stage we had a pack of six labs, two short two-leggeds (Simon and Becca), eight taller two-leggeds, all in various states of inebriation, and one Englishman who did not drink but suffered from acute cynophobia which I am a little embarrassed to admit amused me no end!

Jack and the Zulu Impi instilling Pure Dread in the Heart of an Englishman!

Zulu got to walk past herds of Impala, Hartebeest, and was almost but not quite totally unsteady when a duiker got up from under our feet but luckily I managed to grab the little bugger before he got going (Zulu that is, not the duiker). Like a true Zulu Impi, he started to toughen those soft Sandton paw pads on some real Thornveld. He also got to watch (while he was on lead) Paddington quarter and flush a covey of Franklin.

Fur Blind behind the Acacia on the Left

Life is not all biltong and birds for a young dog and the poor little pup was crated, in the car on game drives or on lead next to me for most of the time, much to Simon and Becca’s bemusement. Both of them gave me a stern talking to about my uncharitable behaviour towards Zulu and I must say I started to feel a bit like a canine equivalent to Ebenezer Scrooge, especially when Jack, Peppa and Abby kept whizzing passed in a yapping ball of rolling fur, but Les and Storme (Abby’s owner) had never had to go into line with the Paddington Express at “heel” and I would rather avoid the tribulations in my trials with Zulu.

Between my hangovers and his periods of incarceration, Zulu and I had two weeks’ worth of adventure walks, walking on a loose lead (or a not so loose lead when the Franklin broke cover!) and he had started to run sight memories in slightly thicker cover (15 to 20 or so metres) but most of all we are trying for the ever elusive grail of self-control (for the pup too!).


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