“Lots of people talk to animals…. Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem.”
Ink sketch and watercolour wash in Moleskine 200gsm watercolour sketch-book
I am Jacko, a Foxie/Jack Russell cross, living at Ga-Sethlong, a beautiful home on a small-holding on the edge of the Cradle of Human Kind in Gauteng, South Africa. I was born on the 1st September 2005, to a healthy litter of 7, with 3 brothers and 3 sisters. This is my story.
When I was about 4 weeks old, I remember catching a glimpse of the world for the first time – a confusing array of brothers and sisters and blankets (up until then, it was my Mother’s smell that guided me to her warmth and that wonderful, warm and satisfying taste of milk). There were strange goings-on, with faces popping in and plenty of oohing and aahing. For a couple of days this carried on, but this was home and was comforting in a strange way.
Then, when I was 5 weeks old, in the dark of one night, a hand grabbed me from my Mother’s side, whipped me into a bag and swiftly I was spirited off to a strange and unknown world. I was beside myself! Where was everybody? Where was my Mother?! I cried all night long, getting a couple of smacks in the process, to my utter horror.
I spent an utterly miserable night, shivering in the strange bag, rough and cold on my skin. I slept fitfully, waking often and calling for my Mother, but to no avail.
The next morning I was unceremoniously hauled out of the bag and carried by the scruff of my neck (I struggled profusely, but just got a smack for my efforts from this unkind stranger) to the street corner, where the stranger was offering me for sale to all the passers-by.
The streets were bustling with activity and strange smells and noises and several people stopped and petted me. Someone prodded me with a sharp object and pulled my ears, to see “if he would make a good watch dog”. They laughed scornfully when I yelped and struggled to free myself from the grip on my neck.
We spent most of the morning standing there and I endured a couple of hours of being passed from one person to another, hoping for a kind hand or word, but was just handed back roughly to my tormentor.
I was starving and a cold wind was howling around the buildings. I tried to snuggle closer to the stranger but was roughly tucked under his arm while he lit a cigarette.
By this time, the stranger was desperate to get rid of me and when a man stopped and enquired if he could hold me, the stranger impatiently handed me over. The man fondled my ears and stroked my back with his warm hands. My heart leapt at this act of kindness and I licked his fingers, eliciting a smile from him. The man haggled with the stranger for a while and they obviously settled upon a price, because the next minute he wrapped me in his coat and carried me to his car.
When we got to the man’s car, he took off his jacket, wrapped me in it so that only my head stuck out (it was SO warm!) and we drove off. We drove for quite a while but even though I was starving, I felt warm and somehow at ease.
When arrived at our destination, the man lifted me out and carried me into his house. There we were met by his wife and he told her about the unkind stranger and how miserable I had looked when he saw me. She cradled me in her arms and immediately gave me some warm milk to drink. I lapped it up! It wasn’t like my Mother’s milk, but I decided it would do for now. The man’s wife (I discovered her name was Maree), made a warm bed of blankets for me on the couch and I immediately fell asleep with Maree sitting next to me – warm and content, but dreaming of my Mother and making soft little yelps in my sleep. I hadn’t slept since the previous night I had spent in the bag, cold and unhappy.
When I awoke, a new life started for me. I received unconditional love from Maree and Dave and soon the memories of my Mother started to fade. I have a special blanket of my own, which is soft and furry like my mom and sometimes when I’m curled up in it, I still have visions of my mom and get the urge to suck and paw the blanket.
I was also introduced to Maree and Dave’s other dog, Tyson, a HUGE Rottweiler, and at first I was very cautious. But Tyson soon made it clear that he was quite happy to see me and we now have a wonderful time in the garden playing tag or just being silly. I think he was a bit lonely before I came along.
Now I spend my days in the lovely garden, revelling in playing games with Maree, who buys me lots of toys, my favorite being my red ball.
I also make sure that the Ducks and Geese and Pheasants don’t stray too far away – there are some very unkind people out there! And I’ve discovered that I’m an EXCELLENT watch-dog! I hear every strange sound and warn Maree & Dave immediately of any impending danger.
As I said, there are some real nasties out there!
My favorite is when we all go out together. Maree lets me fetch my harness and leash, which she then puts on me, and we’re ready to go. I normally look out of the window and love the strange smells wafting past – I then also growl at any suspicious looking characters that look like they’re getting a bit too close for comfort. At our destination, I’m then allowed to explore every nook and cranny (still on my leash – Maree is very fussy that I might get lost or something). After some of these outings I’m really exhausted and then have a good sleep.
At night, after supper, we all watch TV with intervals of short games, naps and snacks. When it’s bed-time, Maree fetches my blanket, which goes on top of their bed in between the two of them and we settle in for the night, me with an ever-vigilant ear. Maree says I still have dreams about my Mother because I sometimes cry in my sleep, but I can’t remember anymore – just a faint glimmer of a childhood that was rudely cut short. But Maree says just as well the horrible stranger stole me, otherwise we wouldn’t be together today …