Lilac and Lime

Contrasts in colour, contrasts in life – Mary Bruce

The trials of a dedicated dog

Butch was a young adult when he came to live with us. I’m not entirely sure of the circumstances but understand that an aversion to the local postman had something to do with his departure from Durban. We were living at Botha’s Hill at the time and Butch made numerous moves with us before finally dying as an old man while running back through the plantations at Ferncliffe to be at home with Mom.

There are lots of memories associated with him, all of them overshadowed by his complete devotion to Mom.

He came to us with a number of established and intriguing quirks which he never lost. One was his refusal to set one foot out of the gateway onto the verge, although there was no gate to prevent him from doing so. Another was his behaviour whenever he was given a bone ; instead of being demolished as one would logically have expected, he was observed to take these trophies to a clearing in a nearby shrubbery and then retreat behind one of the bushes. The reason soon became obvious : the poor dog next door could see and smell an apparently unaccompanied bone and it consequently wouldn’t be long before it appeared next to the bait. There inevitably followed a scaled down World War.

Butch was generally known to the family as “Squeaky” because of the tendency of his vocal chords to give out when he was particularly pleased to welcome us back from any outing. He would circle and show his delight openly, but could only produce a sequence of squeaks from the sound department.

Although Mom was always his primary person, he had a deep affection for us – which we sometimes simply didn’t deserve. It wasn’t that we were lacking in feeling or affection for him, it was simply the way things sometimes turned out.

It came out a couple of weeks ago that none of us has forgotten one of poor Squeaky’s bathtimes. We had a big galvanised tin bath that was used for the ceremonial removal of fleas, dirt and dryness from our dogs. It was half-filled with jugs of hot and cold water and then the victim was assisted into the torture tub. They stood while we poured water over them, rubbed in the shampoo and then sat down while we washed it all off again. On this occasion Butch didn’t sit down. So we assisted by pushing his rear into the required position. He returned immediately to the upright position. So we instructed him to ‘Sit’, which he wouldn’t do. Once again we assisted him and he shot back to full leg stretch even faster than before. It was only on the third attempt that we realised that what was to us pleasantly warm water was much warmer to his unaccustomed regions. And he still loved us afterwards although he probably qualified to have his thoughts washed out with soap too at the time.

And then there were the ten days Mom spent in hospital recovering from surgery. We visited each afternoon and, having since had stitches myself, I only now realise what we must have put Mom through on this day. Dad has recently taken to adamantly denying the story, saying the food was hot, but the rest of us clearly remember it differently. The night before the visit in question, Dad had made ‘white sauce’ to go with supper. I am not sure why it didn’t appear on the table but something must have been wrong because it found its way en masse into Butch’s bowl. Much to the eternal delight of the family line, Butch, ever keen to use up scraps, sped up to the bowl – and then stood and barked at it. He never ate it, even when we had stopped laughing enough to check again. Hot pot? maybe not.

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