Who Are the Hounds of Kruger National Park

who are the hounds of Kruger National Park

If you ask yourself who are the hounds of Kruger National Park – where rhinos and hippos, wild dogs, impalas and zebras, crying cheetahs, slithering snakes, and other African animals live – know that these dogs are an ultra special K9 unit trained to protect the wildlife of Kruger National Park especially the rhinos, against poachers.

Once upon a time, as late as the last Ice Age, the woolly rhino roamed as far as Europe. At the beginning of the 20th century only 500 000 rhinos were left in Africa and Asia. Today, only 27 000 rhinos are left in the wild, says WWF.
Out of the 20 000 white rhinos and 5 000 critically endangered black rhinos still living on the African continent, approximately 80 percent are found in South Africa.

But the situation is dire as here, in sunny South Africa, between 2008 and 2018 over 8 000 rhinos were poached in nature reserves such as Kruger National Park – that conveniently borders Zimbabwe and Mozambique making it easy for the illegal huntsmen to escape law.

Whenever a rhino is poached its horn will reach the smugglers in Asia in the blink of an eye, all the middle men taking their hefty profit… while its carcass is left to rot under the African sun where it first saw the light of day.

That’s why the free-running hounds of Kruger National Park entered the wildlife scene. But who are these dogs?

Who Are the Hounds of Kruger National Park?

They are beagles, short-haired pointers, bloodhounds, spaniels, German Shepherds, and Malinois (the same Malinois who make great military working dogs), and other breeds of hounds, but what they all have in common is their passion for following the trail, their love for chase, the stamina, and their deadly… olfactory abilities.
For these free-running hounds catching the scent (meaning following it till they seize it – and apprehend the poacher) is a way of life. Is what’s on their mind when they get up in the morning, and what they dream of while they nap.

In their spacious, open-air pens – where they are kept for protection against the African beasts as well as to restrict them from going on a wild chase on their own, out of too much excitement – you almost never see them laying down to rest. They are either standing, alert as soon as their handlers approach, springs of pent-up canine energy with focused eyes, pointy ears and quivering noses, or sleeping in blissful exhaustion after a day of training or poacher-hunting.

They say if you love them, let them go… Let them catch the scent. Let them run.

amazing dogs from history, dogs who changed it - Who Are the free-running dogs of Kruger National Park

These pack dogs are like this, chasing together over any kind of tricky landscape at 40km per hour, while each one longs to be the first to reach the target. And if they don’t, when another hound is first to lounge at the petrified, cornered insurgent, baying and barking in a spray of foamy drool, they still feel the same thrill and celebrate the group effort and the shared victory with a song of yipping and howling, and a storm of wagging tails. A chorus of shared joy for a job well done, the capture, and not in the least to celebrate a planned slaughter… For these free-running hounds the chase is what fills their heart, and what their hearts beat for.

They bolt from their shelters after a feint scent, even a couple of hours old, race across the golden African plains, often under an unforgiving sun, speed past herds of undisturbed impala and fierce wildebeest, dart through thickets, dodge thorny Acacias, and jump over fiery termite mounds. On and on they run, their eyes focused through a tunnel-like field of scent that only their noses can pick up. The scent of the poacher, and it pulls them like a magnet. The stronger it gets, the faster the hounds chase and the louder they cry – even after a 15 kilometers chase – as if they are one with it until they get their fill, and the target is apprehended. Before it reached the border, and made it for freedom.

The triumph is always shared, as are the yips and barks, the signals they send to one another during the chase, the cries indicating that they’re on the right track and they are making good time, as the scent gets stronger. Shared are their meals too, the lengthy walks meant to relax and keep in shape, and the sleeping quarters.
But mostly, these free tracking dogs share the mind-set to bring it all together. Each time.
Affectionate towards their human handlers, fearsome when following a poacher’s scent.
They are like a platoon of Marines fighting not rebels but poachers (in Kruger National Park) or escaped prison inmates (in Texas, USA, where they were first introduced.)

the ultra special k( unit of Kruger National Park who protects the rhinos

In the Kruger National Park these dogs form a K-9 unit fitted with GPS collars that tracks the poachers and scares them to death into a tree, where the field rangers make the arrest, while all the time being supervised by aerial pilots (to drive off dangerous predators or shoot before a poacher starts a gun fight.)

Why free-running hounds? Because no human can keep up with a hound dog chasing a scent on a leash, both exhausting themselves too soon – the human from sheer racing exertion, the dog from tracing a scent while dragging a clumsy human on a leash.

Before the first free-running hounds were introduced in the Kruger National Park (from ‘Texas Canine Tracking and Recovery’ USA), an average of 3 to 5 percent of poachers were caught. The rate increased to 54 percent with the aid of the K-9 unit.

With a bit of luck and a lot of hard work our grandchildren might get the chance to see rhinos in their natural habitat. I do ask myself, though, if it is fair towards these free-running dogs. But dogs are happy being with their humans, happy when chasing a laugh and the wind together… Dogs stood by our right side, right side of our hearts, from immemorable times. To take care of us.

“Early in the morning as the sun comes up
And heat and war engulfs the land,
A man and his dog walk side by side
And know that none is all alone.”

Patricia Furstenberg, The Soldier and his Dog

South Africa is not the only country in Africa to fight rhino poachers. Kenya does too and part of their dogs forming the elite K9 unit are trained in Suffolk, UK. The Kenyan Ol Pejeta Conservancy is home to 144 rhinos. Ol Pejeta prides itself that none of its animals have been poached since 2018. The hard work of the free-running dogs pays off.

Some book links!

Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon

Discover The Cheetah and the Dog on Amazon.
Die Jagluiperd en die Hond (Afrikaans Edition) on Amazon.
Der Gepard und der Hund (German Edition) on Amazon.

Theory of Mind: Each Animal Has a Story to Tell

theory of mind

I believe that, just as each one of us has a story to tell, each animal has one, too. It all comes down to the POV (point of view).

As humans, our cultural background and experiences influence the way we understand and interact with the world. We see and perceive animals from a rather self-centered, oblivious point of view, based on personal (humanoid) knowledge (as a human), EQ (emotional intelligence) and, of course, inhibitions and phobias. But there are millions of animal species known to man, out of which over 5 000 species are mammals. Chances are we will only meet and interact with a fraction of them.

Theory of Mind Each Animal Has a Story to Tell

About dogs (world’s most popular pets), we known that they respond to human praise, but also choose human praise over a food treat. We know that they miss their (human) owners and often suffer when they are away from them. In Kenya, elephant families have been observed to pull together while struggling to survive drought and poaching. In other parts of the world wolf packs have been observed to adopt the cubs left without parents. A calve will stay with its dolphin mother as long as eight years; because they are so social, dolphins live in pods of up to 1000 members. That’s a small town!

Now let’s change the point of view.

How do animals perceive us? As friends or as enemies? What do animals feel? They do look angry at times, they seem to grief, to show empathy, to feel joy. But what goes through their minds? What goes through a dog’s mind (and heart) when one of his puppies is removed from the litter? What is a mother elephant actually saying when she rumbles and trumpets to protect her calf? I love listening to the morning birds, their chirp is peaceful and soothing, but what are they actually saying to each other?

Do animals have beliefs of their own? Do they act on intend? Do they use their knowledge and plan ahead? And if they do so, are we, humans, really “getting it” or do we miss the point all together?

Theory of Mind Each Animal Has a Story to Tell

Perhaps our children are the ones closest to finding an answer. Children are naturally open to this concept of “theory of mind” (the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs, intents, desires, emotions, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and to others), as well as to learning about it. Attributing an animal desires and intents similar to their own is a characteristic behavior for a child. Children are tuned in and they do “get” the animals’ language.

The fact that children attempt eye contact more often than grown-ups might also facilitate a kid’s closer understanding of animal language. Eye contact between humans and dogs is paramount for a successful social interaction between the two as dogs rely on eye contact when establishing if the communication is relevant and directed at them. Dogs, especially, establish eye contact when they cannot solve a problem on their own.

Watching animals interact and understanding them is a learning curve for any human. It is an exercise on acknowledging that human race is not as superior as we like to believe. Animals do experience the same love and empathy as we do, but they certainly lack the hatred and the grudge that tends to overshadow and hinder us. Perhaps that one of the ways to reduce poaching and animal trafficking is through raising the bar in our knowledge of the animal world around us.

You be the judge, is the theory of mind and the idea that each animal has a story to tell valid?

Theory of Mind Each Animal Has a Story to Tell
Theory of Mind, Each Animal Has a Story to Tell
This little dog is always smiling so i had to capture it and share it with the world.

I’ll end Theory of Mind, Each Animal Has a Story to Tell with this quote from one of my books:

“There was still a cloud of brown dust hovering around the Marines’ khaki shorts, tinting the scene in shades of sepia; a herd of stallions panting, their ears attend, nostrils quivering in expectation.

One of the Marines had picked up the ball, popping it between his arm and hip. Tara’s tail wagged, recognizing her partner and human handler, Seb.

Another Marine slapped Seb’s shoulder in a friendly manner and it was Xena’s turn to snort, recognizing Conde.

Dancing on the spot, Tara blew air through her nose and yapped at Honda in the next cage. Rambo spun around, pacing along the fence. Will Kent get a turn at holding the ball? Will he?

Only Honda cracked a sleepy eye, her tail sweeping the ground once before rolling over onto her back, snorting. Honda enjoyed action as much any dog, but she also knew that the humans did a lot of talking before any action would begin. Until she would sniff Dunn approaching her cage, Honda couldn’t be bothered.”

Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

Subscribe to my e-Newsletter for fun and informative content on dogs, books, history, folklore and a castle or two:

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 1 Year Anniversary

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime

Celebrate with me Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for and its 1 year anniversary from its publishing debut on Amazon.
Looking at war from the perspective of all those sucked into it, civilians, soldiers, military working dogs, MWD, and eve belligerents, Silent Heroes is a narrative about the value of life and the necessity of combat; the terror of dying; the ordeal of seeing your loved ones and your platoon-mates killed in front of your eyes; the trauma of taking a human life.

“What I tried to convey through Silent Heroes is that all those impacted by war are, at the end of a fighting day, human being with dreams and families. A war’s consequences, like the shadow of a nightmare, reach far beyond the battlefield.
Perhaps being a woman that writes about war I couldn’t ignore my inner voice speaking for the daughter, the wife, and the mother in me.”

Patricia Furstenberg
Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for, 1 Year Anniversary, 5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime, Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo, Shantaram – as chosen by fantastic reader and book blogger Mani.

On the book itself and on how it came to be, read below.

Numerous other silent heroes, from countless wars, came before the book itself, especially the Military Working Dogs of Gulf War, Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan. That was just the beginning.

Secrets Revealed in of Silent Heroes

5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. A Mysterious Underground Fortress
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. The Military Chain of Command
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. Taliban’s Secret Lair
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. Women’s Rights under Taliban
5 Secrets Revealed in Silent Heroes. The Humanity of U.S. Marines

Music often inspired me. I invite you to listen to some of the tunes behind Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for on the book’s 1 Year Anniversary:

The Music of Silent Heroes

Songs that Remind me of the Marines, my Silent Heroes
Songs that Remind me of Silent Heroes: the Afghan people

The Setting behind Silent Heroes

5 Remarkable Places You Will Want to Visit After Reading Silent Heroes
Afghanistan, a Dangerous Landscape

The youngest human character in Silent Heroes is a little Afghan boy of eight years old, Rafik:

Rafik’s Travels in Silent Heroes

Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Afghan Village
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. At Camp Bastion
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Afghan Desert
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. An Oshkosh Vehicle
Rafik’s Journey in Silent Heroes. The Hindu Kush Mountains

Silent Heroes book Afghanistan military orking dogs Patricia Furstenberg

Of course, there would be no Silent Heroes, 1 Year Anniversary, without some:

Silent Heroes Poetry and First Chapters

The Soldier and his Dog, Silent Heroes
A Boy and his Dog
Read the opening pages of Silent Heroes by Patricia Furstenberg

If you love secrets and symbology you might enjoy reading:

Secrets of a Book Cover

Secrets of a Book Cover – a Guest Post: the soldier and his dog, an Afghan sunset, and Afghan eyes
Secrets Hidden in a Book Cover – the colors: red, brown and gold

Women Writing about War

How is my Writing Different in my Genre
A Resultant Force, Women Writing about War
Women Writing about War

Silent Heroes

And, how else:

Celebrating the Readers of “Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for” and Their 5 Stars Reviews for This Book

Life Lessons I Learned from my Dog

life lessons I learned from my dog

Considering that 99 % of my books have at least one dog as a character, sharing with you some of the life lessons I learned from my dog was inevitable.

With my dog as a teacher, I learned…

When a loved ones comes home, always run and jump to meet him. It will make him smile. and this will make you smile. Smiling is contagious, ask any dog.

Never refuse a walk. Let the experience of fresh air and the wind that blows on your face bring you happiness.

Life Lessons I Learned from my Dog

When it’s in your best interest … listen! It is usually rewarded with a pat or a good word. Anyone needs a good word.

When someone invades your territory… give a warning before attacking. Don’t just snap, even if you are hard at work, snoozing or writing.

Play every day … because life is short. Ask any military working dog.

Silent Heroes of war

Let people hug you and accept the love you receive. Hugs are proven to boost the immune system.

On sunny days, stop and lie down on the grass. Stick out your tongue and enjoy the sun.

On hot days, drink plenty of water and throw yourself underneath the shade of a tree. Pretend you sleep. Listen to the sounds of life going on around you.

When you are happy, dance to express yourself and share your good mood with those around you. It is contagious.

Life Lessons I Learned from my Dog

When you are arguing, accept your mistakes but don’t stay upset for a long time. It is time wasted.

Eat with lust and enthusiasm. Eating involve all your senses, so you can enjoy what is in your plate five times over.

Stop when you feel tired and take a break. It will only replenish your energy so that later you can play… I meant work… harder.

Learn to be loyal. One loyal tail is worth more than ten dishonest ones.

You cannot pretend to be what you are not, any dog will sniff you out. Be yourself, it is less exhausting and you will always know you spoke the truth.

Military dogs in Iraq war, Afghanistan War, Gulf War
Military dogs in Iraq war, Afghanistan War, Gulf War – and their human handlers

And one of my favorite life lessons I learned from my dog:

No stick is too heavy to pick up. Don’t allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do it if you set your mind to it.

When a loved one has a bad day … be patient and sit across their chest.

Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon

Subscribe to my e-Newsletter for fun and informative content on dogs, books, history, folklore and a castle or two:

7 War Books You Must Read

7 war books you must read

If for each war victim would a war book be written, then each one of these books would be a must read, in their honor, don’t you think? War stories, as we remember them told by grandparents, always had something nostalgic about them, although the brutality of war, in its essence, was remembered as a traumatic experience. Perhaps the nostalgia came from the people caught in battles, the friendship,the humanity that united them.

The richness of emotions that both warrior and narrator go through when dealing with this subject has fascinated plenty of authors throughout time. Perhaps for an author another intriguing aspect is the location, as war novels generally take place in territories far away, if not geographically then through their descriptions, full of blood and pain, love, loss and hope. Time frame presents an alluring aspect as well, a war story will have a before and an after, while characters don’t have to have come with a pedigree to be memorable. In a war story anyone can be a hero,a soldier, a child, a dog. War stories also stir issues connected with spiritual inheritance, loss of memory (spiritual or factual) and, last but not least, identity and humanity.

Essential in all the novels below is the viscerality of writing and the relentless way in which a war changes a man forever. Reading such a type of novel will raise many questions about our condition as people and will make you aware that nothing is guaranteed when it comes to an extreme experience, one having the potential for total transformation.

7 War Books You Must Read:

1 – Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

7 War Books You Must Read, Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell

A book just as popular nearly one hundred years after publication, to me the main theme in Gone with the Wind is that of survival.

The novel combines several genres (psychological, buildungsroman, romance, historical ) and manages to create an unforgettable story, perhaps the most beloved story about the Confederate States of America. and it does this by the use of its main characters, especially Scarlett O’Hara.

The theme of survival and the reason for the courage that derives from it, the power to never give up as well as the unbridled passion of a young soul, the love for money and the saying “Tomorrow is another day”, plus the ability to identify, to some extent , with the characters of the novel, still make Gone with the Wind a modern work, although the historical background belongs to the American Civil War era of the United States history.

Do you know what inspired the title? It was a line from the poem Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae by Ernest Dowson; the poem’s most famous line is: “I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind.”

“If Gone With the Wind has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong, and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don’t. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those that go under? I only know that survivors used to call that quality ‘gumption.’ So I wrote about people who had gumption and people who didn’t.’

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

2 -War and Peace by Lev Tolstoy

War and Peace, Lev Tolstoi, Napolon's invasion in Russia 1812

Praised for being very much in line with the reality, the events of War and Peace take place in 1812, during Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, and were rendered with force and expressiveness by Lev Tolstoy, especially because the author already lived the experience of war, fighting in the Crimean War. It is recommended to read in episodes, taking into account the fact that the novel has over 1000 pages.

The novel is the chronicle of three families from the high Russian aristocracy of beginning of the 19th century, Rostov, Bolkonsky and Bezuhov, whose joys, love stories and dramas take place during the Napoleonic Wars, especially the Austerlitz and Borodino battles. The book raises questions about survival and death during peace and war, as well as the necessity of war. Napoleon’s invasion of Russia destroyed million of lives on both sides, and worth mentioning is that, beside he Russian lives lost, the French army lost about half a million of soldiers of French, Italian, Belgian, German and Austrian nationalities.

A definite whirlwind of love, loss, and war.

3 – A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

7 War Books You Must Read, A Farewell to Arms, Hemingway

Hemingway’s short semi-autobiographical novel takes place on the Italian front during the First World War and describes a man’s struggles with two experiences that altered his existence in one way or another: the experience of war and that of love.

But war offers fake hopes of glory and is a lover that does not accept sharing – only by turning into a deserter can the hero hope to find true love.

It is a manifesto against the absurdity called war; it is the story of an logical man who understands that his fulfillment as a human being stands above the ambitions of those who incite towards unnecessary battles, a fulfillment that can be achieved peacefully, without weapons and without sacrificing human lives.

4 – King Rat by James Clavell

7 War Books You Must Read, James Clavell, King Rat, WWII, Singapore death camp

Believe it or not, this was the author’s literary debut. Set during World War II, the novel describes the struggle for survival of American, Australian, British, Dutch, and New Zealander prisoners of war in a Japanese death camp in Singapore. Clavell himself was a prisoner in the notorious Changi Prison camp, where the novel is set. One of the three major characters, Peter Marlowe, is based upon Clavell.

Clavell’s King Rat is a story about the struggle for survival, about friendship and hatred, in an extremely harsh, dehumanized world, in which only the strongest resist.

5 – Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War by Giles Whittell

7 War Books You Must Read, A Bridge of Spies, Giles Whittell

This is actually a 2010 nonfiction book documenting the spy prisoner exchanges between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Tom Hanks does a magnificent job as James B. Donovan under Spielberg’s direction in the 2015 movie with the same title.

Bridge of Spies, remarkably researched, tells the true story of three incredible characters and those who cross their paths: William Fisher, alias Rudolf Abel, a British born KGB agent arrested by the FBI and jailed as a Soviet superspy for trying to steal America’s nuclear secrets; Gary Powers, an American U-2 pilot captured during a reconnaissance mission over the closed cities of central Russia; and Frederic Pryor, a young American graduate student in Berlin mistakenly identified by Stasi, East Germany’s secret police, as spy, arrested and held without charge. 

Bridge of Spies is a lesson on humanity tinged by the sour taste of pathological mistrust that fuels the arms race and the political espionage.

6 – The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, Russia invadin Afghanistan, 1979

This contemporary novel exploring the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the years-long struggle the Afghan people was faced with, resulting in the flight of refugees to Pakistan, Iran or America. Told through the voices of two mercenaries, the book demonstrates that although conflicts and wars change over time, carnage and destruction always remain the same.

7 – Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for by Patricia Furstenberg

7 War Books You Must Read, Silent Heroes: When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting for Patricia Furstenberg

Silent Heroes looks at the War in Afghanistan through the eyes of those caught in it: US Marines, local population, and even the Taliban.

If in other novels that talk about war the collective drama is the main focus, which seems to crush the small pains of the individual, Furstenberg focuses on human interactions, placing great emphasis on the turmoil the heroes go through, be it US Marines or the Afghan populace. Silent Heroes underlines how family ties and love are the reality that will never be obliterated by war and it will always stand, no mater what forces will try to overpower life on earth.

A book not to be missed, Silent Heroes is masterfully researched and punctuated with epic description that offer a respire from the harsh realities of war. A story about humans, but about dogs too, especially the military dogs taking part in wars.

Chose as one of the 5 Books Everyone Should Read in Their Lifetime.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime, Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo, Shantaram

Subscribe to my e-Newsletter for fun and informative content on dogs, books, history, folklore and a castle or two: