The DOG and his Reflection, a fable

dog reflection bone story

Dogs must be the most unselfish creatures on earth, yet The Dog and his Reflection is a fable about a foolish, greedy mutt who was not content with what he already had – and that sounds familiar…

The DOG and his Reflection, a fable retold

Once upon a time there lived a stray dog. Now stray dogs have been around ever since man befriended the wolf, and turned him into a pet… But that is another story.

This stray dog is important because he made it on his own for many moons, while keeping his tail intact, thus long enough for him to become the hero of his own tale.

So, a stray dog with grey, shaggy fur, a rather scruffy tail – for he always got into fights – and bright, grey eyes (perhaps a dull color for some, but his just sparked with wit and a bit of mischief too), such a dog was hurrying home one day.

There was a bounce in his step and his tail was held high and it was wagging, his ears were pricked, and he was in a big hurry for he had just won a prize. That’s how he felt, for the butcher had thrown him a bone. Out of compassion, and fondness too for the shaggy, familiar dog. The butcher was a chatty, friendly fellow, and that morning he had just got a good deal from the farmer, see?

Now our dog, the stray dog, stepped so quick along the path that his paws seem to not even touch the ground. Ah, he felt so energized, the stray dog did (although he could feel his tummy sticking to his ribs), for he couldn’t wait to get home already and enjoy his prized possession. Besides, he was already drooling, the tasty bone sending such an alluring aroma into his quivering nostrils.

His home was by a pile of logs and brambles, on the outskirts of the village. A thick tree grew nearby too, so he had shelter from rain and wind, and a stream gurgled up from the ground too, so he had fresh water. What more could a young dog like him ask for?

Image by Gleb Albovsky, Unsplash

There, there was his home, he thought while peeking ahead between two stray tufts from his eyebrows. All that was left was for him to cross the bridge. And on he went, bouncing and drooling, ah, the scent of his bone!

As he made his way across the narrow bridge the dog happened to catch a glimpse into the water below. What do you expect, it was a bright, sunny day and the pond gleamed in the sunshine. Its sparks just caught his eye.

Hello…

So he slowed down to get a better look, the water as clear as a mirror. And what he saw in the water? What? But another dog! How! Carrying a bone! Really so?

Really?

Grrr… half-growled our dog, for his mouth was occupied with his juicy bone, yet his eyes narrowed. Grrrrrrrr, he growled again at the dog he spotted bellow and his fur stuck up on his neck, some drool dripping onto the bridge boards.

While the dog bellow appeared to growl back! Guarding his bone, a much bigger bone…

Is that so, thought our shaggy mutt, his eye now as big as two (empty) saucers.

Our rough dog whose tummy was growling quite loud by now broke to a halt on the bridge and dropped his bone, its heavenly scent still strong in his nose for bits of meat had stuck to his unkempt fur.

If he had only made it home, as his initial plan had been…. If he had only kept its pace across the bridge… It he had only stopped to think first, he would have been far better off.

If only…

But instead of thinking the greedy dog abandoned his tasty, juicy bone he looked forward to eating and pounced at the dog in the river. He jumped right in, mouth open to capture the bigger bone and make it his. Just because!

All he got was himself in the water, swimming around like mad and biting emptiness, fleeting water, while his bone, the real one, rolled on the other side of the bridge and was soon gone with a very soft plonk.

The shaggy and very drenched dog, albeit in a lighter shade of gray, eventually swam to shore, exhausted. After he managed to scramble out, and as he stood miserably – and quite hungry – thinking about the good bone he had lost, of which nothing was left, not even the scent caught in his woolly fur – finally realized what a silly and greedy dog he had been. And learned a lesson, we hope.

~~~

Read more like this in:

the chimp and the dog picture book

When two animals with different looks meet at a waterhole they don’t think twice about how different they are… in height, color, fur, shape of face or size of tummy… they become friends.
The Chimp and the Dog.

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.

How the Snake Lost Its Legs

how the snake lost its legs

A recent discovery of snake fossils proved that snakes used to have limbs, so let’s imagine how the snake lost its legs in a short story from the series Babadiertjies van Afrika, baby animals from Africa.

The colors of the desert were red, its tall dunes were red, punctuated by green grass clumps. These were the colors the boy knew best. Oh, and the sky’s bright blue that the dune’s sharp crests profiled against.

These were the shades the boy knew best, darker under the first blinking of the sun, as if they still carried the night spirits on their backs. Paling when the sun yawned over the skyline, as if the boiling star sucked their vigor too, together with that of all moving life forms. And finally, turning into long stretching shadows that chased after the slaying sun, like snakes dancing along the dunes, snakes that never learn.

His favorite shade was that of the dunes before nightfall, the same as his mother’s skin. The grains of sand felt just as fine between his fingers, and the evening’s snake-like shadows reminded him of her braids framing her smile, tickling his face while she spun bedtime stories for him.

He missed hearing them, hearing the soft clicks of her speech, the dance of her hands as they became, in turn, elephant ears, horses, and beetles, and bucks… As soon as he measured taller than a hyena, his father, who was so tall that could look over a lion’s mane, took him hunting.

Days were long in the desert, among the shift changing dunes, the hot-hot sand, and him, alone with his thoughts. ‘A hunter with a loud voice will sleep hungry at night,’ was the first lesson his father taught him.

So the boy listened, kept quiet, and at night told himself his mother’s stories.

Tonight, after seeing the long snakes dancing in the sunset along the spines of the dunes, after spotting Mother Moon shedding a tear – one he had followed with his skinny finger all the way from there to there, knowing that ‘a hard day will come soon for one of the San’, and hoping it was not him – tonight, he will spin himself his favorite yarn.

Namib desert at night - How the Snake Lost Its Legs. Photo by Sergi Ferrete for Unsplash
Namib desert at night – How the Snake Lost Its Legs. Photo by Sergi Ferrete for Unsplash

How the Snake Lost Its Legs

‘Mother Moon, who was always watching over her brood, had shed a tear that night. But only those who looked, saw it. And from them, only those who believed, knew what it meant,’ his Mother once started this story.

‘During those times, Mother Moon, from her height in the sky, often looked into the future to see, learn and better protect her children. She does so today too, but – alas – her children know not how to listen to her anymore. Except for a few,’ his mother whispered further, with a nod towards his dad.

‘The Godly Mantis was one of them, arriving as soon as Mother Moon summoned. Putting her front legs together, bowing her head in respect, the Mantis listened then jumped, before the leaves even settled after Mother Moon’s speech, jumped to warn all. All the birds, all the animals, all the insects; warn them about the drought, urge them to pack food for the road, grab their young under their wing, and fly, crawl, run to safety. To water. To life. Before the desert will stretch its raspy hands and take over their land. Before it will be too late.

‘Had the creatures listened to Mantis? Yes. Had they listened because they thought of her as a leader? No. But because Mantis had warned them before, and with good cause.

‘All but one left. The one that led a solitary life. A long and rather bulky creature, whose snout was almost as long as a crocodile’s, but narrower; whose tail was as long as a kangaroo’s, but thinner, and whose four short legs had claws, although he never climbed a tree. Too much effort.

‘It was Snake, who in those times, still had legs.

‘So Snake, basking in his sunny spot, on lush, soft grass, kept his cool and chose to remain. ‘Why worry about tomorrow,’ he thought, gulping one of the juicy frogs hopping by. As a snack, but also to prove a point, that life was sweet here, where he lived.

‘And life was, indeed, sweet for Snake, until all the fat frogs hopped away right past him. Life remained sweet until the rain stopped falling and the grass stopped growing. Until even the land under his belly dried out and his skin, once smooth and shiny, was now raw and flaky from scraping against dry rocks.

‘I better move away,’ thought Snake one day when his tongue, so dry now, could smell nothing but dust and nearly stuck to the outside of his snout. ‘This land does not suit me anymore,’ he added, for he would never admit to be wrong.

‘So he hopped away on his feet, left then right, he hopped along the hot sand that had taken over the plains, left then right, under the boiling sun, left – right. Yet the more he advanced along those dreary dunes, the more he sank into their scorching sand. And the more his feet sank into the fine, fiery gravel, the more difficult it was to pull them out again, and place them on top of the slippery, searing soil. Until it became impossible for Snake to move.

‘And this was how night found Snake. Not at the end of his journey, but rather, stuck at its beginning, alone in the ever changing, slippery sand. Far from being warm and cozy, for the dunes were now as cold as ice. And Snake was chilled to the bone, after having being cooked during the day.

‘This is it,’ thought Snake, closing his eyes. Yet he could shed no tears, for all was dry; outside as well as inside.

‘Only, Mother Moon had other plans for him as she watched from her palace in the sky, her face round with affection, her eyes underlined with worry. And as she sang over the dunes that night, the sand rolled away opening a path for snake to slid away in the morning. Although, with the grains of sand that slipped away something else rolled too, never to be found again. Snake’s legs, all dried out and shriveled by now.

‘Had he missed them in the morning when he opened his eyes and discover a smooth path for him to wriggle on? Had he missed them further on, when he slithered away at top speed? Or when he finally caught up with the other animals, joining them through one final skilled slide?

‘He never said. At least not out loud. But I do hope that he thanked Mother Moon, at least in his heart,’ the boy’s mother had smiled.

That night the little boy fell asleep, feeling his mother’s hand over his forehead, thankful in his heart for her stories.

© Patricia Furstenberg, 2001, All Rights Reserved. After a San legend.

Read further on The Conversation: Extraordinary skull fossil reveals secrets of snake evolution.

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Books by Patricia Furstenberg on Amazon

Kinda Pink, Poetry Like a Puppy’s Tongue

Kinda pink rose poetry

Enjoy reading this kinda pink, humorous poetry just like a puppy’s tongue. I do hope it will please most dog and nature lovers too, as it is accompanied by square photos of pink roses we are lucky to enjoy in our garden.

“I hear children laughing in the yard today,

I hear puppy barking, I hear a horse’s neigh.

The chickens are peeping, “all is good!

“It’s a birthday party; we’ll get bits of food.”

And puppy’s tail wiggles;

He sees IT… It is loose!

It’s oval, it bounces, it floats away,

It’s pink like his tongue, it wants to play!”

pink rose like a puppy's tongue and a poem

“I’m coming!” barks pup and off he goes.

Down the hill the pink shape flows

And puppy follows suit. It’s just within his reach,

Just above his nose.

As pink as a rose, yet as light as snow,

While puppy’s paws drum on the ground below.

Floating shape and furry dog, they’re one with the day,

It’s summer, I hear a donkey bray, “let’s play!”

“I’ll catch you! Just wait!”

And puppy jumps once more.

“Whoosh!” blew the wind, just as pup’s mouth came near,

And up flew the pink ball, as fast as a spear.

While puppy lands with a loud “splash”

Right in the pond, in the green, slimy marsh.”

“A drippy, green form comes out.

Where is pup?

The green form just drips, his ears lay low,

He stands on his feet, yet his heart sinks below…

The green form sighs twice, then looks up at the sky

Where the pink balloon flies away, its tail saying “bye-bye.”

And puppy whimpers.

And sneezes, once.

The children still play, up on the hill, all the way up.

How will he climb all the way back? He’s but a pup.

“Come here, you silly boy,” Mom picks him up;

She’s got a blanket; she gets him all cleaned up.

“The balloon might fly up with the wind,

But I’ve got my Mom to cuddle with.”

Copyright © Patricia Furstenberg. All Rights Reserved.

As Good as Gold, poetry for dog lovers

The above poem is titles As Pink As a Puppy’s Tongue and is an extract from my poetry book for dog lovers (and not only) As Good As Gold.

Squarres Photography

Kinda Pink, Poetry Like a Puppy’s Tongue is a contribution to Becky’s incredible October Squares #KindaSquare blog feature.

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The Story of the Giant Radish

the story of the giant radish

The Story of the Giant Radish sprang to my mind today, while I was seeing to our mini vegetable garden. It might be a children’s story, but it illustrates the power of many, when they are working together.

As a child I always wondered about this giant radish. How can it grow so big? And what meals can one possibly cook, since there is so much of it? Anyway, over here we eat radishes in salad, and we eat the leaves too since they come from our garden and I know they are, hmm, organic.

Before I share with you the story of the Giant Radish I must confess that, luckily for us, hubby has green fingers, mine are usually full of ink. But I can pull weeds, an addictive activity in case you were wondering.

The Story of the Giant Radish

The Story of the Giant Radish

Once upon a time there lived an old man who enjoyed tending to his vegetable garden.

One morning he decided to plant radishes. He prepared their beds, planted the seeds and watered them. Day after day he watered the seeds and pulled out the weeds, no matter how sore his back would get. And while he took a break from work, he’d pull out his whistle to play a song. Alongside his garden birds.

And every now and then he would stop from his work and from his music-making to look at the sky. And he would admire the blue roof of the world until his eyes grew full of it, and he couldn’t keep them open any longer.

And he did so day after day, while his radishes grew.
And they grew.
Until one morning when the old man stepped into his yard and couldn’t believe his eyes. One of his radishes was bigger than the rest. Much bigger. Much, much bigger.

The old man couldn’t believe his eyes. He couldn’t believe his luck. He walked around it once. He walked around it twice. The radish was almost as tall as he was and twice as wide.

Indeed, twice as wide.

He rubbed his hands and made up his mind. He was going to pull it out. So he took a good grip onto its long leaves, minding little that they pricked his hands, and pulled. And he pulled and then pulled some more. Yet the radish wouldn’t yield.

So the old man called his old woman to help him.

She was very proud of him for growing such a giant of a radish. She was already thinking of all the food she will be able to cook out of that one radish. So she grabbed his waistcoat, and the old man grabbed the radish leaves again. And they both pulled. And they pulled.

But the radish didn’t budge, so they thought and they thought and then called their grand daughter to help.

So the granddaughter grabbed the old woman’s waist coat, the old woman grabbed the old man’s waistcoat, and the old man grabbed the radish leaves again. Not minding that they pricked his hands. Wondering how spicy it will be, big as it had grown.

And all three pulled. And they pulled.
Yet the radish would not yield.

So the granddaughter thought and she thought and she called their dog, who was snoozing under a tree, bored that there was nothing to bark at.

Dog grabbed the granddaughter’s jacket, the granddaughter grabbed the old woman’s waist coat, the old woman grabbed the old man’s back, and the old man grabbed the radish leaves once more. Not minding in the least that they prickled his hands.

And all four pulled. And they pulled. And they pulled some more, yet the radish wouldn’t move.

Eventually they stopped pulling and Dog, after panting a while, barked and called Cat. Who was sleeping on the window-sole, bored that there were no mice around for her to chase.

‘Come and help, Cat,’ barked Dog.

‘I don’t have time’, Cat complained. ‘I sleep.’

But Dog barked till Cat joined them.

So Cat grabbed Dog’s tail, Dog took hold of the granddaughter’s coat, the granddaughter grabbed the old woman’s waist coat, the old woman grabbed the old man’s back, and the old man grabbed the radish leaves once more.

Not minding in the least that they prickled his hands.

Yet the radish, still, would not budge.

So, when they all stopped pulling and grandma went to the well to fetch them all some fresh, sweet water, after the old man wiped his forehead with his handkerchief he kept for best, and Dog went to rest in the shade, Cat stretched, arched her back and called Mouse.

In his burrow at the end of the vegetable garden Mouse trembled a bit. Did someone wanted his cheese? So he gobbled it up before coming out.

So… Mouse grabbed Cat’s tail, Cat grabbed Dog’s tail, Dog took hold of the granddaughter’s coat, the granddaughter grabbed the old woman’s waist coat, the old woman grabbed the old man’s back, and the old man grabbed the radish leaves once more.

Forgetting all about their prickly leaves.

And they all pulled and pulled, never giving up till the radish gave up and came out of the ground. Whole. And big.

And they all cheered.

Only one individual might have no strength, but two have twice as more power and many are sure to be victorious together.

The Cheetah and the Dog, The Elephant and the Sheep, The Lion and the Dog, diversity stories
The Cheetah and the Dog, The Elephant and the Sheep, The Lion and the Dog, diversity stories by Patricia Furstenberg