Friday, January 25, 2013

Doubting Daisy

Minnie, the thin Fat Dog, died not long ago. She’d been a great pup, but her time was up; our short-lived pets tend to teach us how to grieve – unless they’re parrots or giant tortoises or elephants, of course.
Minnie left Ruby behind, together with Dink the last of the Kaartman pets [see previous blog]. Rubes is a sawn-off rescue mutt who at times [when her hair is long] resembles a brillo pad. I acquired Ruby while Mrs Kaartman was overseas. On her return she studied Ruby, then famously asked, “Is that the best you could do?”
Is that the best you could do?
Minnie died and eight year old Ruby was left alone. She seized the day as street doglets will, and within a week had established herself as a sedate lapdog, moving swiftly from 5 to 7kg and hardly deigning to greet the postman any more. But we have always had two dogs, one older to teach the young ’un, one younger to jack up the older. To cut a long story short, it was not long before Daisy arrived.
Daisy is a rescue dog loosely described by the Authorities as a ‘boomer’, ie resembling something out of Dr Seuss. Hair, ears, feet, tongue, tail all over the place. She was lovely. Within a week she was thoroughly bonded, loved a cuddle, sat when ordered, completely house-trained, came when we called, chased a ball and always brought it straight back, got on with Ruby, barked correctly at the postman, sat up and begged for bones on demand.
But suddenly – in the last day or two – I am in doubt. Daisy has steadily dominated Ruby; now she chases her off the food bowl with violent snarls. She has attacked her over a bone, little harmless eight year old Rubes attacked by an eleven-month upstart. Daisy digs holes in the lawn. She swims in the vlei and comes home smelly ... but that’s not all.
She’s coprophagic .
Look it up. I can’t bear it, and I dunno how to stop it.
Suddenly Daisy has lost her sunny sheen. For me, anyway.
I am a dog owner in doubt. Daisy has been returned once before to the doghouse by a less-than-gruntled human. A second return means ... well, that she would probably be headed for the boneyard.
Do I owe her a life after just five weeks of pethood? Aren’t I more fond of deeply-cowed Ruby? Can I learn to live with coprophagia? What’s to be done?
I’ll have to think about it. Meanwhile, Daisy, be careful. Very, very careful.
As careful as a wild, feckless boomer can be.
Be careful, Daisy
Kaartman, Jan 2013

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Another Tortoise Tale

Amongst a plethora of dogs, snails, frogs, and hairy rain-spiders Chez Kaartman also hosts a tortoise, a small female rooipensie tortoise named Dink, aged about 28 years.
If Dink had a male tortoise he’d be called Humper. Humper and Dink could have been called Bert and Engel, but that subtlety escaped us when the naming occurred.
Like most tortoises Dink spends most of her day asleep in her bony house, emerging mornings and evenings for a cruise around eating mostly precious garden plants. Dink is something of a gastronome: the rarer and more difficult a plant is to grow, the more likely Dink is to eat it.
Not long ago Dink discovered that the Kaartmans enjoy summer breakfasts on the outside stoep. Summer is spaanspek time [spaanspek: a small, sweet melon. The name means “Spanish bacon”, alluding to the imagined breakfast diet of Iberians]. There is probably nothing as ravishingly delicious as a really good spaanspek, an opinion with which Dink clearly concurs. Roll out the spaanspek and she comes racing across the lawn, scrawny neck outstretched. At the edge of the stoep she fixes her black, beady eyes upon us and waits with chelonian patience for her bit.
Dink comes racing across the lawn
At a recent breakfast we offered Dink a slightly vrot nectarine instead. She attacked it with gusto, ripping the soft sweet flesh to bits with her sharp little beak, swallowing great gobs of it with peristaltic throaty heaves.
A slightly vrot nectarine
But a tortoise has a problem. Living in a bony box might be a good way of surviving falling objects, etc etc but it has certain restrictive effects. Like eating. You can’t gorge if you’re a tortoise. You can’t binge eat or bloat. You would literally pop, a messy way to go. Dink left the last bit of nectarine uneaten, pulled in her undercarriage and sank back in a sort of digestive daze.
It was at this point that we – some might say cruelly – pulled out the spaanspek, and offered a piece of its juicy skin to Dink.
Now, as you might know, rooipensie tortoises tend to live in dry climates where fresh water is hard to come by. Consequently they are able to store water in their bodies in a special bladder, and they have been known to live on this supply for up to a year without drinking. If you pick up a wild skillie it will wee all over you – it releases its water bladder to put you off and persuade you to leave it alone. Don’t pick them up – you may inadvertently kill them if they can’t replenish that water supply before they dehydrate.
Dink squared up to the spaanspek, but she was full. And that’s when a most extraordinary thing happened.
I have never read of this in any herpetological reference – please let me know if I am wrong in suggesting that Dink’s behaviour might be something of a new discovery!
Dink uttered a small, squeaky cry – the first sound from her that we have ever heard. Then she wee’d. Water simply poured out of her until she was sitting in a prodigious, smelly-ish puddle. She finished off with a pretty large defecation, too.
Space inside her box thus created, she consumed the spaanspek skin.
Sounds a bit like one of those Roman orgies, hay. The Romans made defensive “tortoises” out of interlocking shields – they called them “testudo” too [“tortoise”] – but whether a Roman testudo employed the same processes as Dink at orgies I cannot say.
I certainly hope not.

Kaartman Jan 2013