By Jo Ann Braithwaite
My fifth and last match broke off as I was trying to light the stove for dinner. That match was to change our life!
Cursing silently I appealed to my husband to run down to the shop for me. It wasn’t long before I heard the car straining up the drive way. We happen to have the steepest driveway in all of Honiara. Of that I am sure. Then he was calling me out to the car.
“Look”. Sitting in the passenger seat was the tiniest little puppy, with the biggest eyes. Shivering.
We carried her into the lounge, turned on the lights, and both took an involuntary step back. A few patches of matted hair were all that had survived the mange; otherwise she was just skin, raw and covered in sores. My husband had rescued her from some kids down the lane who had been using her as target practice and she was still bleeding from the rocks they had been throwing.
In those first moments she was neither friendly or scared. She just rested her head in her paws and looked up at us, resigned to whatever fate would bring. But she was starving, little ribs sticking out from her body and a can of tuna lasted less than a second. That first night she was so tiny she curled herself up on the Satsol modem, comforted by its warmth and safely hidden behind the curtains.
The next day the vet thought that she was maybe only three weeks old and possibly wouldn’t make four. She was in a bad way. Too small to use any insecticidal washes on her we bathed her daily with baby shampoo, rubbing neem oil into her skin. We picked off the fleas by hand…they were easy to see…there was no-where for them to hide… and maintained a strict regime of worm tablets.
The first few days were awful. She just slept in whatever dark spot she could find. My husband’s shoe became a favourite hiding spot. We worried that she wasn’t drinking until we realised that maybe she had only been used to a teat and started feeding her with a medicine dropper.
Well, our little Ngossi is now four months old and the centre of our family life. She has much to learn…like how not to chew the computer cords. She still panics when local children run after her but is fine with anyone else. I never used to know our neighbours but Ngossi knows them all; running to greet them when they arrive home from work; turning on her back for tummy rubs and cajoling them into a game of tug of war. If at first they appear unresponsive, she knows that no one can resist her pink squeaky pig which she lays enticingly at their feet.
Her best friends however are the two cats who hang out in the compound. She has grown up with them and has a typical sibling relationship. They were a little put out when she first arrived and in puppy exuberance threw herself all over them. They soon learnt however that it wasn’t cool to strike her and would only do it when I wasn’t looking, walking past with cool disdain, making a sneaky strike attack behind my back. Now they cuddle up to each other, walking around and under each other’s leg, wrestling and roughing up and eating out of the same bowls. Like every child, I know that the best way to make Ngossi want something is to offer it to the cats. It suddenly becomes very attractive. I worry sometimes that Ngossi is going to have identity problems…sometimes watching her walk, I think she moves very much like a cat and surely dogs are not meant to do figure of eights around your ankles?
So, here are my five bits of advice when picking up puppies:
- Mites and mange seem to disappear without the need for insecticides once you treat the worms and allow the puppy’s own immune system to kick in. Daily baths are needed at first and lots of neem oil which is easily available at the markets. I’m told that a teaspoon of vinegar in her food also helps. Ngossi now has a beautiful thick and shiny coat of hair. The vet in China Town has all the other supplies you need but remember most products are unsafe for puppies under three months old. Three month vaccinations for parvo and other doggie diseases are a must and we will be getting her desexed.
- Moving a grown dog into the neighbourhood can be difficult. They will not always be accepted by the other dogs. But even the meanest hound appears to accept puppies. So let your puppy get used to the neighbourhood as early as possible. Get her socialised with other dogs.
- We have only had her for two months but Ngossi is already house trained & comes to her name and sits when told. She doesn’t jump up on people and will stay when told. Having a well trained dog simply makes her more attractive to every one.
- Find an Aunty. We love life in the Solomon’s and love to explore it and we can’t always take Ngossi with us. Our “aunty” fell in love with Ngossi when she looked more like a rat that a puppy and it’s so good to have someone we trust absolutely, not just to feed her but to play and cuddle with her whenever we are away.
- Never run out of matches! And if you do, and happen to come back with a puppy be clear that it could become a very expensive exercise. We know we will take Ngossi back to Australia with us. We would not feel comfortable leaving her given the uncertainty of life in the Solomon Islands. We can’t imagine life without our Ngossi.