Homie’s Charmed Life

19th Jan, 2024

Written by Aly Goedvolk

Professional photography by Robynne Prinsloo Photography

Anyone with pets knows that if anything is going to go wrong with one of them, or one of your toothy or feathery or scaly friends needs help, it will always, but always, be on Friday night, Saturday night or Sunday night. Especially if you’ve gone away for the weekend.

There should be a name for this phenomenon along the lines of Murphy’s Law. Perhaps Predictable Pet Pandemonium, or Pet Panic Predicament. This is why pet insurance is becoming so popular, I’m sure of it.

Zweggie’s little secret

Anyway, it was in this way that I came to be present at the birth of Homie and his nine puppy siblings. Friends of my housemate, Terri Hill, and me, who live in the same street as we do, had recently taken pity on yet another Transkei stray who spent most of her time traipsing the streets for morsels of anything edible. They already had five dogs, but Corlia Perry and Valie (Wilhelm) Vallengoedt, being who they are, took her in. Little did they know that the dog, whom they named Zweggie, had a boyfriend, Optel, and they’d been going on dates and doing what dogs will do if given half a chance.

So, naturally, and again completely predictably, just as Zweggie had bonded with them and their other house creatures, it transpired that she was pregnant. Of course, the estimated date of arrival of the litter coincided precisely with the only weekend in years that Corlia and Valie had booked off to visit family in Durban. Corlia’s uncle was staying in their house for the weekend, but she’d asked Terri and me to be on standby in case D-Day fell over that weekend, which obviously it did.

Labour and delivery ward

For reasons that became clear to me long after this night, they’d named this dog Zweggie (it’s short for iSwekile, which hilariously – or not – means both sugar and diabetes in isiXhosa), and on the Saturday night at 10pm Terri and I received a panicked call from Corlia that Zweggie was in labour and the uncle had no idea of what to do or even if it was progressing as nature intended it to. Entirely unsurprised by this information, we packed some birthing essentials and snacks and walked down the road to Zweggie’s aid.

And boy, did she need it! We arrived to find a virtual combat situation under way, with poor Zweggie trying desperately not to give birth because she was surrounded by the five other hounds, which is in contravention of rule number one of animals giving birth. In addition, the uncle was watching an actual combat movie with the volume such that Terri and I had to speak to each other using a kind of sign language. Surely anyone would know that gunshots and bloodcurdling screams aren’t conducive to an easy or peaceful delivery?

We took charge immediately, banishing the uncle and other hounds to another section of the house, turned off the TV and assessed the situation. Within three minutes of calm, Zweggie popped out the first little one. Pure black. And another. Then a dark-grey one. Then a light-grey one. Then light-brown, followed by three assorted mixes. Last two, pure white with black dots on their little behinds. It was as if poor Zweggie had run out of ink. And so within three hours there were ten, all healthy and well. And soon to be in need of homes…

Homie strikes gold

Corlia and Valie prevailed upon all their friends who were in a position to take on a dog, as one does, and soon enough, after much begging, pleading and cajoling, all the new arrivals had homes to go to once weaned.

This is when Homie struck gold. Since Terri lives but 200 metres down the road, she visited the pups often and took her time in selecting her future fur ball. Over the next 12 weeks she narrowed it down to one of the white-and-brown mixed-bag puppies. She felt that he suited her laid-back and adventurous nature, and would in time make the perfect travel buddy. And so began the charmed life of Homie.

Homie will luckily never know what fate would have awaited him had we not intervened. Being one of the smallest of a large litter, probabilities are he’d never have survived the hazards of being born in a bush, a ditch or under a bridge somewhere, where Zweggie would’ve been forced to give birth.

Instead, when he was old enough, he was welcomed into Terri’s cottage, and over the next few months grew into what looks a little like a long-legged Jack Russell. Of course, he had my many hounds to contend with, but as they’re accustomed to there being a puppy of some sort in the house – be it in the “hospital wing” or waiting for adoption – they didn’t give him too much of a hard time.

True love

Says Terri, waxing lyrical about Homie: “I’ve been more than unfortunate in relationships and have dated far, far more than my fair share of dogs, but little did I know that the man of my dreams would be of the actual canine species. He doesn’t answer back, he doesn’t cause drama, doesn’t eat me out of house and home, and is always delighted to be with me. And, where other men never listened when I told them I needed space – they did the complete opposite, crowding me – Homie is attuned to my moods and gives me all the space and time I need. He simply curls up and waits for the storm to pass. He’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a man and more.

Future suitors beware: the bar is now so high that I doubt anyone will make it, and if by some unlikely chance one does, he’ll always play second fiddle to my true love, Homie.”

Living a charmed life

Now Homie is two and is a fixture of Morgan Bay life, here on the Wild Coast. Where Terri goes, he goes. She trained him well, having witnessed the chaos of my untrained batch of hounds, and he grew up on treats of biltong and dried wors, which enticed him to do tricks like jumping through hoops and actually listening to his mistress. I used to wake up to the sound of Terri instructing Homie to “Hop, Homie, hop” and, within no time, she had him jumping through a hoop, which begs the question of how stupid my dogs must be, because they don’t even understand “shut up” in any language, and I’ve tried all the ones available on Duolingo.

With Terri being a single mom to Homie, one of my younger, less stupid hounds, Miguel Cervantes, stepped up to the plate, much like Nanna in Peter Pan, and showed him the ropes of dog life and how to fit into the hierarchy.

Anyway, the well-behaved Homie is therefore welcome at all social events and restaurants and, because Terri pet-sits for many people in Morgan Bay and the nearby Kei Mouth, he has little mutt friends wherever he goes. Of course, just as people are, he’s fonder of some than others, but never a dull day passes in Homie’s life. He goes to bowls twice a week with Terri (yes, young people are playing bowls these days), our spayathon fundraiser quiz evenings, the forest market every Saturday (where there may well be more dogs than people), a pre-breakfast gallivant on the beach daily, a morning swim in the dam (where he has fast become the quickest dog in the water), and dinners at whoever is hosting one.

What he didn’t enjoy much initially was his first long car trip – to Stellenbosch, where Terri is originally from – mainly, we think, because he didn’t understand the purpose of such a long car ride with no apparent end goal. However, he’s now a seasoned traveller and is preparing for a cross-country adventure in February with Terri.

Oh! The things he’s going to see and the friends he’ll make!

Interestingly, for an only dog, he’s not clingy, and quite enjoys his alone-time when he can get it, much like his human, and doesn’t deign to join in the dog choir that my dogs put on every single time I leave the house. He just looks on in condescending amusement. At two, he’s very independent, and he has his own bedroom for when he needs his space, which is often since he knows all and sundry in town and has such a vibrant social life but is so sweet that he’s more than prepared to share whatever he has with them, be it a delectable piece of Stellenbosch wors, a piece of smelly driftwood, or a piece of delicious old fishing rope. He just gives and gives and gives.

Sometimes he encounters one or two of his siblings, although it’s hard to know if they recognise each other or whether they remember the Night of the Long Labour. One certainly hopes not. Terri and I definitely do, and it’s hard to believe it was two years ago already, but what isn’t in doubt is that Homie, of all the pups, landed with his proverbial bum in the butter.

Meanwhile, Zweggie and Optel have been sterilised, so they won’t be breeding machines ever again. But some dogs just can’t be confined, and Zweggie and Optel are two of them. Like people, dogs can also be drifters and grifters, and they still do their daily rounds in search of something delectable, chasing birds on the beach, and playing the paupers to holidaymakers. They look nothing like their litter, and the litter look nothing like each other now that they’re grown, which is why we in Morgan Bay just refer to them all as our “Transkei Razorbacks”. It has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

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