The Rip Van Wrinkler, Volume XV, Issue 4, November 2011

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Happy Girl

by Marcia Woodard
photos by George Woodard

{Ed. Now that the basenji community is well on the way to saying goodbye to fanconi,
I thought to reprint this for you all.}

On the heels of the Fanconi direct gene test announcement, Susan suggested a reprint of my story and Gazette column about Zoey, who we lost to this hated disease in 2009. I am grateful for the chance to memorialize Zoey; in the naming of the victims, past and current, in both remembering and practicing vigilance, we can move on to the next phase of Basenjis without Fanconi. I’m still getting used to the concept; it feels good.


Here's a show photo of Zoey from 2006 with her breeder Kathy Britton 

Please see pages 7 & 8 for more about fanconi syndrome

We had four short years to learn from Zoey’s positive attitude.

She had Fanconi and passed away from kidney failure in July. Zoey had VIP status at our local ER, so she was surrounded by friends. Zoey’s ER celebrity stemmed from an incident about a year after we adopted her: she ate a bad sock and ended up hospitalized for two weeks. She came “this close” to the end several times, after two surgeries and an endless abdominal infection, and then she came home happy as ever. We will never forget the feeling of snuggling with her in the front seat of the car on her release day; we sat in the parking lot for a long time passing her back and forth between us and cooing in her ears. We were so lucky: Zoey taught us about eternal optimism and the value of enjoying every day.

Before Zoey died, we had made plans to pick up our new puppy. We delayed the pup’s arrival for a few days but had to bring Chloe home just five days after Zoey passed.  We weren’t ready. Still grieving, we felt a new pup would seem like an insult to Zoey’s memory, and we feared resentment.

I think you know what happened: puppy Chloe delights us.

She’s a songstress who has so much to say that you’d think she had a lifetime of experiences to share
(see her sing on YouTube).  We discovered we could grieve and fall in love simultaneously.

Below is a happy column about Zoey that was originally published in the February 2006 issue of the AKC Gazette.

Zoey: What’s Old is New


Last September, my husband George drove from our home in Seattle to the Basenji specialty dog show outside of St. Louis. On the return, he had company: a five-year-old, black-and-white Basenji bitch, Zoey.  George was the next-to-the-last leg in returning Zoey to her breeder, Kathy, in Oregon.

 A few months before the dog show, Kathy saw a picture of a Basenji for sale on the internet: “She looks familiar.” Kathy had been searching for Zoey for 3 years. A breeder in St. Louis provided a foster home until George could furnish transportation to the West Coast.

I received a phone call as the travellers crossed from Nebraska into Wyoming.

“She’s such a nice dog.”


“She’s so quiet.”

I’m thinking that if we can barely manage four dogs, then why not five?

“She’s really soft—like bunny fur.”

I bought another dog dish at PetSmart that afternoon.

The adoption of an older dog is like having a relative come to visit: you either click with them or you don’t. A five year old arrives with the suitcase of their personality already packed, and Zoey’s bulged at the zippers. She’s an enthusiastic Basenji; on her, the sensory characteristics of the breed stand out in comic relief. She reminds me why I fell in love with these dogs.

Basenjis worship at the altar of any heat source—their bodies slack with pleasure—and a warm human body elicits moans of contentment. On Zoey’s first night, I didn’t sleep much because of her serious commitment to this gratification. When she circled, seemingly to curl up next to me in bed, her goal was to get half her body on top of me. She pushed against me constantly. When I pushed back, she settled in like a Mastiff. She also hogged the comforter. And each time she rearranged herself, she added a cat-like, turbo thrust of her legs against my back (which woke me up so I could hear her sigh with satisfaction). In the morning, I was hanging onto the side of the mattress like some bad falling-off-a-cliff dream and freezing. Zoey was snoring.

Goats and pigs may be more selective eaters than Basenjis. All our dogs are scarf-down, snorkel feeders; even so, Zoey finished her dinner first from the get-go, and she maintains her blue ribbon standing.
George has clocked her at 12.5 seconds for a half cup of kibble.

Basenjis also have a “no pain, no gain” attitude towards food. Zoey waited a week before displaying her embrace of this philosophy so as not to overstep her boundaries as the newest arrival. When George boiled sugar and water to make food for the hummingbirds, he left the mixture on the stove to cool—with the lid off. By the time I caught Zoey standing on the burners with her head in the saucepan, lapping double time, the hummers had lost two cups.
Zoey scrambled, did a gymnastics-style dismount off the counter, and wagged her tail.

Basenjis’ admiration of odors is evidenced by their attempt to “wear” the smell: to roll in it thoroughly so the scent fits like a glove that’s one size too small. One morning, I tossed a used washcloth on the floor, and Zoey bounded over and dove head first on the small square. The tags on her collar tinkled as she twisted onto her back and wriggled forward while simultaneously grinding into the floor.  She was like a cat high on catnip, a horse rolling in the dust, and the whites of her eyes were in high relief against her black coat—her mind transported to the planet of pleasurable smell.

I’m thankful Zoey arrived to renew my appreciation for a breed that embraces sensory stimulation at the highest level.

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