Pets and Living on Kruger (Part 1)
Pets bring such joy, but living on Kruger can be a challenge when you have pets. Over the years we have had many wonderful animals, which I pay tribute to in this blog, and some pretty remarkable stories to go with them.
We used to have a bulldog called, Drummond (which we nicknamed Drummie), he was the naughtiest dog in the world, and no matter how hard my grandparents tried to train him, he point blank refused to listen. Drummie had the heart of a lion; he used to pick fights with enormous monitor lizards, which fought back with their tail as a weapon. And often, he would sneak through the fence in to Kruger (Back when the fence was only a couple of meters high, and wasn't electrified).
My Gram would stand outside the house, and shout at him to come home, and he’d know he was in the dog box. Then he’d take a massive detour and sneak back through the fence, hoping she didn’t see him.
One day, he found a waterbuck family, with a calf, and ran towards the calf barking his head off. The male waterbuck, which as you can imagine was absolutely livid, went for Drummie with his enormous horns, and shoved him in to the ground, pushing him in circles. The dog yelped and ran away unscathed. Hoping that Drummie had now learnt his lesson, life continued.
One day, one of the staff members had to go down to the river, to check on our water pump. Drummie snuck down to the rivers edge, and unfortunately that was the last my family saw of him. A crocodile took him that day.
Ferdie, was a St Bernard owned by the butcher in town, and everyday when my Gram taught ballet in the school hall, the dog would visit her and spend the afternoon there, until eventually one day, the butcher gave the dog to Gram. He told her, he wasn’t able to spend enough time with the dog, and that the dog really loved her. He also offered to provide meat from his butcher for the dog, and so Grammy took it. It lived a very happy life on Kruger, but sadly one day caught Biliary (which is caused by tick bites), and succumbed to the illness.
Higgie, was also a St. Bernard and he was absolutely beautiful, he was Gram’s little shadow and followed her wherever she went. But as you can imagine, it’s no easy task having St Bernard’s on Kruger, especially because of the heat. They tend to get a lot of hot spots, and matted hair, so Higgie had to be constantly shaved. Sadly, Higgie was bitten by a rinkhals (spitting cobra) one day. The poison ran through him so quickly, that Gram and Gramps weren’t even able to get to the vet with him, before he passed away.
We had a beautiful female bulldog called Shari. She was my nana’s dog, and when she passed on, the dog was left to my Gramps. She was gentle and loyal, and Darryl and I used to have a ball of a time playing with her. In those days, we’d leave the doors open of our house at night, so she could go in and out as she pleased in case she needed the loo.
One morning we woke up, and Shari was nowhere to be found. We were so worried that someone had stolen her, and all of the staff and us, searched the property. Later that day, we found some tracks, leading to our wild fig tree, and under it, to our horror, the remnants of our dog.
To this day, we are still uncertain as to whether it was a leopard or a hyena that got her, but we think it was a hyena. We had a restaurant on the property at the time, and the hyenas used to hang around the back of it where the garbage bins were, often. We were devastated and after that, swore that we wouldn’t have any more dogs.
It was a different time then though, and the fence wasn’t what it was today. It didn’t really keep the wildlife out at all. It was only a couple of meters high with 3 or 4 strands of barbed wire.
Since the death of Shari, Gramps has always said he wanted another bulldog and Gram has always shut the idea down, until Christmas 2018, when she finally caved, and we decided to surprise Gramps.
Mom and I went to Pretoria to choose the Bella Lump, and then a week later, when all her vaccines and the chip were in order, mom brought her down to Ellie Walk. She came in to the house with the tiny Bella in a pink blanket, and gave it to my Gramps. He just cried. He picked up the adorable little lump and brought her to his face, and loved her. It was the sweetest thing ever. Never did Grammy think that she would also become super attached to the dog as well, but here we are, and honestly Bella doesn’t leave her side.
Our property has a much larger fence now, which is electrified, so Bella can not get in to Kruger, but also, we have built a fence around Grammy and Gramps’ house as well. She lives in the house, and should she need to go out at night, someone goes with her.
Bella is extremely spoilt, but she just has so much love to give. The monkeys drive her nuts; the little ones especially see it as a game and love to tease her. All the little creatures of the bush fascinate her.
A few days ago, I found her pressing her nose up against a forest shrew; she was gentle and had no intention of hurting it. She also loves to observe lizards, and little spurfowls that sneak through the fence to scratch about in the soil for snacks.
In the winter when there is loads of game on our side of the river, like impalas, kudus and waterbucks, she just stares at them curiously, as if to say, “what are these weird looking animals”.
She also loves Patches (our cat), and squashes him at every chance she gets. We are trying to teach her, that she is a lot bigger than him and if she sits on him, she could injure him. But it's hard for her to resist the soft, fluffy cat.
She has even seen lions, but I had to put her inside as she decided to be brave and bark at them, and I was a bit nervous. You can read more about that here: When a Girl and Her Dog Watch Lions Hunt
But something we are still battling with is elephants. In the beginning she used to bark at them a lot, and of course they didn’t like this very much, but as the months have progressed she has become much better with them, and for the most part silently watches them in fascination.
Last week though things went slightly differently. I was sitting at unit 1, watching the ellies right next to the fence, when Gramps and Darryl came around the corner with Bella (not knowing there were ellies here).
Now that we are on lockdown, and have no guests here, we haven’t been putting the lump on a leash. She took one look at these ellies, and came charging down to the fence at top speed, barking as she went.
There was a little one close to the fence, and the mother took one look at Bella and went Ballistic. She came charging up to the fence, trumpeting and kicking up dust and stones. Personally, I didn’t blame her one bit – if something with a big mouth was barking at my baby, I would’ve done the same thing.
Bella unfortunately wasn’t backing down, and with the fear that the ellie might come right through the fence, Darryl (who is a trained guide), acted quickly, and clapped his hands and shouted at the ellie, which thankfully backed off.
Needles to say, that Bella got a big talking too, and since then we always carry the leash handy on walks, and first check for ellies before walking near the fence.
She has become our little Ellie Walk mascot, and has brought such joy to our family, while she continues to live her very best dog life here... we often say, that she didn't know how lucky she got when mom and I picked her that day in Pretoria, she well and truly landed with her bum in the butter. We all adore and dote on the Bella Lump so.