“But what IS Phoebe?”

Phoebe is many things. She’s a companion, a friend, a protector and above all else, a loved and trusted family member. But I know that’s not what people mean when they ask this question. What they really want to know is how to classify her and pigeon-hole her by her supposed ‘breed characteristics’.

The answer is that she is an AfriCanis. Most people don’t know much about the breed, and because it’s only recently been added as an “Official” breed by the Kennel Union of South Africa (KUSA), people still tend to refer to her as a “township dog”, or more generally just as a “mixed breed Rescue dog” even after being told about her breed history. She’s so much more than a hodge-podge collection of other breeds – she’s unique and fits the wonderful characteristics of the AfriCanis to a “T”.

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

Phoebe: Proud and Beautiful AfriCanis

 

I’ve briefly touched on her breed specifics before during on Day 11 of the Blogtober Challenge, but felt this deserved more information on the little known facts of this wonderful breed.

I was going to try to explain the breed in my experience, but I found this excellent historical summary from the AfriCanis Society that explains in detail in a way much better than I ever could:

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(This is attributed to Edith Gallant at the AfriCanis Society of South Africa facebook page)

“Subject: Revised draft of letter – Difference between AfriCanis and “township dog”

Let me try to explain the difference between an AfriCanis and a so-called township dog.

The AfriCanis is the traditional rural African dog found in traditional isolated tribal lands, such as the interior of Zululand, the former Transkei, Sekhukhuneland and Vendaland.

The apartheid regime kept such rural areas marginalized, and people living in these areas, notably in the former ‘Bantustan’regions, were relatively isolated. This isolation was extended to their dogs. From colonial times, white people looked upon these dogs with contempt, and any dogs found trespassing were shot. It is largely because of the isolation enforced by apartheid that these dogs, having been kept separate, still exist.

These dogs have also been called ‘Nguni dogs’ or ‘Bantu dogs’, because they migrated with the Early Iron Age Bantu-speaking people into southern Africa. They also occur in northern Botswana, Namibia,  Zambia, Mozambique and Swaziland.

More information can be found on the AfriCanis Society’s website under ‘History’ (see http:// ………

The AfriCanis are not identified by standardised physical characteristics. They are a landrace and not a breed. They have not been selectively bred for their looks, but rather they exemplify survival of the fittest and are well adapted to the demands of their environment and their custodians. They differ from region to region, for example, they are generally taller in the desert and smaller in more forested regions. These dogs occur in a great variety of colours, as do the Nguni cattle. Genetic DNA research has found a specific DNA marker for the AfriCanis that differs from any other dog (see under ‘literature’ on the website). In the very near future we will be able to test individual dogs to see if they carry this marker or not.

AfriCanis are all-rounders. In the traditional tribal lands, each day they help herd boys bring the cattle to and from the grazing lands, and the dogs fiercely guard the animals in their kraals at the night. The dogs live alongside the farm animals, and although they are excellent rat hunters, they do not hunt large prey alone. Traditionally, they assist their owners when men and their dogs hunt for the pot.

Dogs in the rural areas are seldom tied up. Although they sometimes roam, each dog has an owner and each dog is named. Dogs are allowed to go to visit another homestead if a female is on heat. But if owners whistle for their dogs, they immediately respond and return home. Most commonly, the dogs are to be found lying around the homesteads, often keeping company with older women and children. This is a totally different environment to that of a township.

What is a ‘township dog’?

A legacy of apartheid, townships are urban or peri-urban residential areas housing people from different cultures and origins. Historically, under apartheid townships were zoned for Black and Coloured people. When moving to urban areas, people from the countryside did not usually bring their traditional dogs with them, leaving the dogs in the rural areas with their families. In instances where rural dogs did come to the townships with their owners, in due course they would breed with dogs roaming in the township areas. Dogs in the townships come from a variety of backgrounds and include a variety of breeds and cross-breeds of all shapes and sizes as well as some traditional AfriCanis. In the townships these dog interbreed and the ‘township dogs’ that result over time are not traditional Africanis dogs, though some can be described as the AfriCanis type or an AfriCanis-cross.

I hope the above explains the difference between an AfriCanis and a township dog, and that not all cross-breed dogs from the townships should be described as being AfriCanis.”

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For more information you can also check out the Official AfriCanis historical reference page here.

I hope this has given you more insight and a deeper curiousity for these wonderful dogs. I can truly attest to the fact that you will never find a kinder, gentler and more loyal companion than an AfriCanis, so if you’re looking for a new dog to add to your family I urge you to look for one of these amazing dogs!

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Blogtober Day 11: What kind of dog are you?

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Cooper says:

I am a Labrador x Basset Hound. My Mom did some research on the internet, and apparently this is quite a popular cross breed, that even has a name: The Bas(s)ador.

At first sight I am quite strange to look at with my Labrador head, 3/4 Basset ears, Lab body, and short little Basset legs – complete with the “ballerina” front feet pointing out. But I think all these qualities put together make me beautiful and handsome at the same time!

Check out how handsome I am!

Check out how handsome I am!

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Phoebe says:

I am an Africanis. I was recently officially recognised as an emerging breed by the Kennel Union of South Africa. My breed is often confused with other mixed breed dogs that roam impoverished areas, often referred to as “township dogs”, but we are different because we have specific traits, genetics and a long history of living harmoniously on the African plains in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Aren't I beautiful?

Aren’t I beautiful?

You can click here for more information about me and my breed.

It is my experience that the Africanis is a marvellous pet and house dog. Guided by its instinct of subservience it will steal your heart before you realise it. – Johan Gallant, President of the Africanis Society of Southern Africa (September 9, 2005).

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Mom says:

Yes, “Rescued” is my favourite breed,as the picture on top says. But I assure you, I’m not one of those people who thinks that ONLY rescue dogs should be taken in. All dogs and breeds deserve a good home, and I’m not against (legal, responsible) breeding. In fact, if I have to be honest, I will always have a soft spot for German Shepherds, as I grew up with them most of my life. I would get a pure breed one again in a heartbeat if we had the space and need to grow the family…. but of course, a rescued pure breed GSD would be even better 😉

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You can check out the full Blogtober 31 Day Dog Blog Challenge here

Blogtober Day 1: Introduction and photo of yourself today

Cooper says:

Hi everyone! Welcome to Day 1 of the Blogtober Challenge! My name is Cooper, and I’m a Labrador x Basset Hound dog that was rescued by my wonderful Mom and Dad in May 2014. I have lots of character, and love being around people and the animals that are my family, though don’t really like any cats and dogs outside of my home.

I’m looking forward to spending the next month with you all!

Hi Everyone!

“Hi Everyone!”

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Phoebe says:

Hello! I’m Phoebe, and I’m an Africanis dog who was rescued by my Mom in November 2012. We’ve come a very long way together to overcome all of my many fears and foibles, but I think we’re doing well!

I’m just as curious as you are to see the interesting things that come up this month!

"Must we take a photo now? I'm busy playing with my toy!"

“Must we take a photo now? I’m busy playing with my toy!”

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Mom says:

I’m so glad you’ve popped in to check out the first day of the Blogtober Challenge! For the rest of the month I’ll let Phoebe and Cooper take over the narration of the challenge, and only occasionally chip in with more information if needed.

To find out more about Phoebe and Cooper, as well as the reason for this blog, you can check the ABOUT Page.

You can view the full 31 Day Blogtober Dog Blog Challenge here.

Finding Phoebe – #42 Register as a Foster Parent

“Whoever said ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ never owned a dog”

This entry on the Bucket List was originally meant to be about registering as a foster mother for children. Real, human children :-). It still remains a firm goal, but in the meantime I also became a foster, and then adoptive, mom to a beautiful being of the K9 variety. She has brought me so much joy so I think she rightfully deserves a spot on this list of my big achievements.

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Now, I was never meant to have Phoebe in my home. How she eventually got here and became part of the family is best described as a tragicomedic “series of unfortunate events”.

Our story began when my best friend and companion of many years, Anouk (husky x chow) unexpectedly passed away. I was shattered. I vowed that I wouldn’t get another dog because I could never replace her, and I just didn’t want to put myself in a place where I could love another dog so much again. And besides, I have 3 cats ranging from age 8-16 years, so why get another pet? But after a few months passed I realised that I was lonely and missing the companionship that only a dog can give.

I knew I didn’t have the schedule (or the unending patience) for a puppy, so I started looking around at shelters. I knew I would “just know” the right dog when I saw it. My only criteria were 1) Older than 2 years 2) preferably a larger dog 3) Must be good with cats.

And then one day I saw the perfect dog. Or so I thought. Her name was Lavender. She was reportedly good with cats, 3 years old, and had a slight problem with her back legs as a result of an injury when she was a puppy. She was from Botswana but after a some kind of complication that shelter had to close down and the 40 dogs residing there were taken to a shelter in Cape Town.

I duly contacted the shelter, filled out the adoption forms and waited to hear when she would come. I waited a week, a month, two months. This shelter is great at caring for any abandoned and sick dogs, but they have a HUGE problem with admin, which has been so frustrating in dealing with them from that day till today even (but that’s a rant for another time!). Normally I would’ve abandoned the quest for this dog, but there was just something about it all that seemed so right.

Flash forward to three months later. I was told that Lavender would be on a plane and arriving at my home in the second week of November. This flight was pushed back another week, and as I eagerly waited for her at the airport, it turned out that she had missed her flight because the organisation hadn’t arranged the proper size crate, but I was assured she would be on the next flight.

"Lavender" (aka Phoebe) arrives!

“Lavender” (aka Phoebe) arrives!

And then, she arrived!!! Very nervous, and full of fleas, but I could easily handle that with a bath and good old fashioned TLC. Celebrations and jubilations!!

But something was wrong. She was nothing like the dog I had expected. First thing Monday morning I called them to ask about her missing vet information, and was greeted with tentative, worried questions about how “the dog” was doing. I smelled a rat. They then confessed that they thought that perhaps I had been sent the wrong dog – possibly “Phoebe”, Lavender’s far more active, excitable, and non cat-friendly sister! Oh dear! I was in a state!

To make matters worse, even though they were so apologetic, they couldn’t arrange a flight for her to go back to Cape Town for at least a month, and no other dog foster parents were available in my area. Could I please just foster her for a month? A dog that I know nothing about, and that might eat my beloved cats? Sure, why not?! (she said in a moment of anger and confusion)

So now I had Phoebe. What was I going to do with her? She had severe separation anxiety and was terrified of every new sight, sound, and person. All I wanted was to make her feel safe and happy but she was always so scared and worried. I was in a perpetual state of worry. But she loved the cats, they became inseparable best friends, and to be honest, I think this glimpse at how content and loveable she could be is what made me keep trying.

I was now officially a reluctant foster mom, who was considering becoming an adoptive mom. But Phoebe still wasn’t right. Her anxiety was manifesting in self destruction which worried me and made me feel powerless. One night I sat on the floor with her just crying because I didn’t know how to make her feel better and had to honestly consider sending her back to the organisation that was so terribly administered and caused all of this, but she at least had her siblings there and could play with them if she went back. Was it wrong of me to even consider keeping her here?

But I just wasn’t ready to give up on Phoebe just yet. So I wiped the tears away, and searched the internet in earnest. I found an amazing dog behaviourist who was willing to help. She asked a thousand questions, researched Phoebe’s life and gave me so many small, but invaluable tips by explaining in detail Phoebe’s breed traits, behaviours and responses. Within a day of that first consultation I felt more confident, and I could already see the positive changes in Phoebe.

Phoebe became happy. Really, really HAPPY.

There were still a lot of problems, but it felt like I could actually face them with her. I also enrolled her in a basic dog obedience class with the dog behaviourist, and she just flourished! I cannot sing enough praises for the behaviourist who came to my aid. Phoebe is an older dog, with a past I don’t know everything about, so she’ll always struggle with certain things – men’s voices, other dogs who come too close, me being away from home for longer than 8 hours, but that’s ok, we’ve both learnt ways of accepting that and figuring out ways around it.

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Phoebe still attends dog Fun Classes every week, which she loves (even if she is still overly reactive). We’ll see how well we both manage to cope with her dog-reactivity, but I am certain with hard work we’ll overcome that challenge too.

For now, Phoebe and I are just happy we found each other – even if it took a rather harrowing and convoluted journey for us both to realise it!