Basenji Q & A
“This is a most captivating and intelligent breed, but not for everyone. Not a dog that tolerates being left alone all day while his owner is at work.”
CECILY RAPPÉ I have been in the breed since 1982. Starting showing in 1984 and bred my first litter in 1986. I have bred on a very limited basis as my dogs are house dogs and I wouldn’t be able to have them stay that way if I had too many. I pride myself on quality rather than quantity. Before a breeding I have an image in my head as to what I believe the breeding will produce, keeping in mind that the grandparents have a lot of influence on the outcome. I also believe some of us have that gut feeling for a good breeding, which you have or you don’t. Of course, of upmost importance is having a great bitch to start with. The bitch line is so important in anyone’s breeding program. Our breed’s temperaments have improved so much in recent years and I believe we breeders as a whole have worked hard to reach that pinnacle in all of our breeding programs. Hats off to all of us. My advice to judges would be that our breed “reads” you in a split second. Your approach can make or break your experience with them. If you are apprehensive, the Basenji will wonder what’s wrong and the trust is broken. Also I believe an open palm, rather than your knuckles, for them to sniff represents you are open to them. A little scratch under the chin is also very helpful. They don’t do well with over the head approaches. If you approach them with confi- dence and respect they will, in turn, trust your motives. They have survived for thousands of years by being cautious. This breed has old souls and that is what endears me to them. They are also free spirits. Just watching them takes my breath away in how they move, their elegance, curiosity and their love of life. They are affectionate without smothering you and know what makes you tick. They enjoy teasing you with their antics which can be very frustrating but keeps you laughing in the end. Basenjis are definitely indoor, outdoor dogs and make great bed- fellows. They want to know what you are doing and this causes anxiety for them when they don’t know where you are. They do well with consistent habits and ways of life such as where you are at certain times of the day, your work schedule, etc. I pick my puppies at eight weeks and mostly I evaluate them on the ground by how they move and carry themselves. Is it correct for the breed? Do they exhibit the qualities that make them a Basenji? In other words, I look at the overall dog rather than “parts”. Parts are important but one can get stuck if they don’t look at what a dog has to offer in the overall. I have many favorite dog show moments. One that comes to mind is when my Bred by dog, CH Zindika’s Johnny Come Greatly JC’ was being naughty in the Winner’s dog class at the National. He kept jumping up and grabbing my skort. He would not gait in a straight line as he was having way too much fun playing like this. Thank God the judge was patient. I rolled them up to keep him off my leg which made me look ridiculous but it got the job done. The audience was laughing at the spectacle. He went onto WD and BOW to finish his championship. He later became the winningest Basenji of all time with 59 all breed Best in Shows. To this day his record has yet to be broken. He had a great sense of humor and his temperament made him a great ambassador for the breed. I’d also like to share that I am winding down in the breeding department but have found some folks to pass the baton to that I am grateful for. They have the breed’s best interest at heart and are an asset for the future.
I live on two acres outside Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I am retired after 25 years working in academia, first at the University of Arizona, then at Northern Arizona University. Outside of dogs, I have a vegetable garden, follow politics and I enjoy showing, breed- ing and ring stewarding. This is my 50th year in Basenjis. I showed my first Basenji in 1969 and bred her the next year. The secret to a successful breeding program is linebreeding. I know it’s not the trend these days, but I was mentored by the real old-timers and establishing a clear linebred line that reproduced the same type, litter after litter, was the goal for everyone back then. My advice to a new Basenji judge? Don’t be afraid to choose the dog that is a little bit different, if it appears to match your under- standing of the standard. Don’t just pick the best dog that is of the same type as most of the others—take a close look at that different one. Look for details such as almond eyes, small ears, short muzzles and ultra-high tailsets. What is it about the breed that makes them irreplaceable in my life? They all read my mind. We are connected like the Na’vi in the movie Avatar . How much time do I spend per week preparing for exhibition? Almost none, lol. Keep up with the nails, smooth out the tail with a little trim with the curved shears, if necessary. Some lines have beautiful sleek coats, no undercoat, a quarter inch long. This is ide- al. Others have varying hair length and varying degrees of under- coat. These require more grooming, most probably stripping. But Basenjis are generally shown fairly natural and whiskers and dew claws are often not removed. What is the breed’s most endearing quality? Intelligence. Emo- tional intelligence, if you are in tune. Is the breed’s temperament ideal for indoor life or are they most- ly an outdoors dog? Perfect for indoors, they want to be with you, have you in sight, always. Very clean indoors. A happy Basenji can be left loose in the house when you are gone, but that may involve having two or more. How do I place my puppies? Referrals only. At what age do I choose a show prospect? This varies. Many an ugly duckling turns into a swan. And many a gorgeous puppy heart- breakingly ends up with an off bite, or one testicle, or some other late developing flaw. I try to watch the puppies a lot around eight to nine weeks and make preliminary judgements. I re-evaluate at six months and then at a year. My favorite dog show memory? The most recent: looking up and seeing my Chui on the JumboTron at Madison Square Garden when he was in the Hound Group B at Westminster. I gasped, the image was huge and he was sailing across the screen. This is a most captivating and intelligent breed, but not for everyone. Not a dog that tolerates being left alone all day while his owner is at work. No, they don’t bark, but they can make a blood-curdling racket when unhappy and neighbors will complain. I look for homes where someone is home most of the time or there is another dog as a companion when the owner leaves. This breed is a keen natural hunter and will run out the front door if given the chance. On the other hand, you couldn’t ask for a better dog in the wilderness, trotting along the trail with you or curled up around the campfire or in the sleeping bag in the tent. Also, I swear they are telepathic.
S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2019 • 325
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