Dog tales – my dogs 1952 > 1969
HOAGY [Fox terrier]
NOTES: (a) At this time I was assistant manager on tea or rubber plantations. (b) Hoagy was an inveterate hare hunter and tea estates had plenty of hare which were quite often chased by workers’ dogs. (c) Field roads were walking roads approximately 1m wide with a drain on the embankment side. Tea formed a hedge on both sides.
1. High speed and agility: Somerset Estate, Carlabeck Division, Nanu Oya, Sri Lanka. c. 1953.
I was walking along a field road when I heard the furious barking of Hoagy in pursuit of a hare. I deduced that he and the hare were coming my way and a few moments later realised that he, and therefore the hare, was on the field road and approaching at high speed and then . . . . . they appeared: first the hare, running for its life, and then Hoagy, flat out, hardly two metres behind. I had a vision of hare for dinner and turned to face the oncoming pair – then, as the hare passed me I used my walking stick to deflect it into the bank whence it dropped into the drain momentarily, but, remarkably, sufficiently long for Hoagy to change direction and get hold of it in his mouth.
2. Remarkable observation and speed. Tangakelle Estate, Cymru Division, Lindula, Sri Lanka.c.1954.
One day, I was on a field road just across a small ravine between sections of tea fields with Emile and Hoagy when there was a commotion in the field across the ravine; a commotion caused by shouting workers and barking dogs, the latter obviously chasing a hare. Hoagy was intensely interested and was jumping up and down near me trying to see over the tea bushes lining the road. Even standing up on his hind legs he would barely have been able to see what was happening so I held him by the scruff of his neck and lifted him so that he faced towards the action. In a second or to he wanted to be released so I let him go. He bounced off his legs and instantly took off and in a matter of a minute had crossed to where the chase was on and had caught the hare. The only conclusion I could come to was that he had, in the seconds I had him by the scruff of his neck, either seen the hare or somehow located it. Everyone was surprised at how quickly he caught the hare.
3. The motorcycle rider. Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1954 -1956.
Here the Asst. Manager was supplied with a 250 cc B.S.A. motorcycle and Hoagy very ably rode it with me, sitting with his rear between my thighs and front paws on the petrol tank, leaning into the turns as a good rider should. I could see his front foot rise on the opposite side to each turn! Occasionally, a rat or bandicoot would run out in front of the motorcycle and he would get very agitated until, one day, he just could not control himself and took off from his seat – a foolish move because we were doing about 25 m.p.h. and he leaped forward at, say, 12 m.p.h. making a combined speed of 37 m.p.h. – not a speed manageable by even this Speedy Gonzales! The result? He did a double somersault and cannoned into a culvert stone without, therefore, completing the somersault by landing on his feet!
Poor chap! He did not yelp or whine or, as far as I remember, show signs of any injury but he never jumped off the bike again when it was moving!
4. Wake up! Wake up! Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1954 -1956.
When Emile died of distemper c.1956 his body was lying in a room at home when Hoagy and I came home from the fields. Hoagy sniffed at “Emile” and then shook him by the fur on his throat as if to wake him. However, a few unsuccessful shakes and he had done what he needed to do – he knew that his friend was no longer with him.
EMILE [Alsatian – later called German Shepherd for a time]
Taunted by children. Tangakelle Estate, Cymru Division, Lindula, Sri Lanka.
Some thirty or forty feet almost immediately below one side of the garden was a motor road leading to the Cymru Upper division ‘lines’, and children going back and forth used to taunt my young and impressionable Alsatian dog, Emile, who used to bark furiously at them from the edge of the garden. The consequence of this taunting was that, when Emile was with me and we passed or went into the compound of the lines, and the children gathered as they were wont, he would go for them. Until I trained him to come when called, I had to put him on the leash when near the lines. He was a very intelligent animal whom I trained to attack anyone who raised their hand at me. He and a stout stick I carried with me at all times were my protection against any attack on me. I never carried a knife, which I had, (a sheath knife leftover from my scouting days) or a gun, which I later acquired for sport, as I considered such behaviour to be unwise for many reasons.
His master’s protector. Tangakelle Estate, Cymru Division, Lindula, Sri Lanka.
One day in the factory, where the pluckers’ evening leaf was weighed on the first floor, Emile was lying at my feet under the table as he usually did, when a plucker came towards me with her hands clasped together at her upper chest in the customary act of respect, and Emile, mistaking this for a threat to me, took off from under the table at this woman just a few feet away. I yelled to him to come back and he obeyed immediately.
The cash bearer. Tangakelle Estate, Cymru Division, Lindula, Sri Lanka.
When Emile was about eighteen months old I had trained him to go home from anywhere on the division if he was told to. He was quite docile unless he or I was threatened. At the end of each pay there was usually unpaid cash left over and, one day, I gave him the tied bag of cash and told him to take it home. This he did with great enthusiasm, on that and some subsequent occasions. I was sure that no one would dare try to take the bag from him. I did this a couple of times only.
HOAGY & EMILE
Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1954 -1956.
A field down the hill from my bungalow, and a hundred of metres or so on from the bottom had recently been planted with new budded plants which were vulnerable to thieving until they had taken root and anchored themselves in the ground and, to prevent loss to thieves, watchmen were put on at night. These watchmen had a rough thatch hut erected in the clearing and I wanted to check on them so I decided to pay them a visit, unannounced, some time after midnight. At about 2 a.m. I set out on foot with my two dogs. When I neared the hut I realised that, if I did not do something to prevent it, my dogs would precede me into the hut and wake the men if they were asleep; thus nullifying the purpose of my visit. So, I bent down to Emile, the clever one, and said to him what I had never said to him before: it was, ‘You stay here, son, I’ll be back.’ and, lo and behold, he crouched down immediately and did not move. Hoagy, too, must have stayed with Emile.
I obviously found everything in order because I cannot remember having to discipline anyone.
The cobra. Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1954 -1956.
On a field round one morning, accompanied by the Field Officer, Hoagy and Emile, I was on a motor road when Hoagy charged towards a compost pile* on the roadside, parking furiously. I saw that he had spotted a cobra of about 1.8 m basking on the pile. The cobra had got into a striking position as I yelled to Hoagy to come to me. Emile kept away – being still young he probably did not know what to do so he kept his distance and accompanied me as I slowly moved backwards along the road. Hoagy, too, came with me and the cobra folded away its hood, lay down and went away in the opposite direction as is the cobras wont.
After a few second I turned to my Field Officer and said to him, ‘That was a close call!’ but he was not there! Then I saw that he was some 30 m away down the road with his pith hat in one hand and a handkerchief in the other wiping a profusely perspiring bald head!
DANGER! Dynamite! Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1954 -1956.
A section of a road I was cutting on Dewalakande was blasted out of a rock face to form a right angle, and this cutting was approximately 10 ft. w x 16-20 ft. h x 30 ft. l. The blasting was done by experienced men brought in from outside and the work involved drill holes (hand drilled) of up to three feet deep into which they sometimes put a stick of dynamite in addition to the blasting powder.
My dogs, instead of being frightened by the frightful noise of the explosions, charged them. On one of the occasions when multiple charges were laid and lit, as soon as they saw and heard the smoke and hiss of the lit fuses the two of them took off to get amongst it all. I thought I was seeing the end of my animals and yelled at them to come back. Fortunately they did – just before the explosions started – tails wagging and all excited, they thought it was great fun!
The parting of the ways. Dewalakande Estate, Dewalakande Division, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka 1956.
Emile died of distemper and his body was lying in a room at the back of my bungalow when Hoagy and I came home. Hoagy went up to him, sniffed him, and then got him by the hair on his throat and shoot him as if to say, ‘Get up!’ After that he did not seem to miss hid departed friend.
Note: Animals which come into contact with a departed friend, which includes relatives, become aware of the loss and do not pine for or look for the died one. Therefore, wherever possible, those left behind should be given the opportunity to come into contact.
HOAGY & FLICKA [Flicka – Alsatian x Labrador]
Departed spirit. Ingoya Estate, Kitulgala, Sri Lanka. 1960.
At least a major part of the north-western boundary of Ingoya estate was the Ing Oya – when not in flood a fairly steep stream 10 m – 20 m across, very rocky with numerous rock pools and small waterfalls – along which my dogs and I sometimes walked on my field inspections. Both dogs loved water, were strong swimmers and very used to swimming in streams, although not those as steep as this one. One day, I was criss-crossing the Oya when from the corner of my eye I noticed Hoagy go over a smallish waterfall with a fall of about 2.5 m and vanish into the foaming water in the pool below. Naturally, I was concerned but was relieved to see him pop up after a few seconds swimming as strongly as ever! He got out of the pool and, as he was wont, tore around barking at Flicka and me enthusiastically. Some minutes later I noticed that he was missing and, as this was unusual, I started looking for him and, no doubt, getting Flicka to do the same but there were no signs of him until I noticed him floating quietly in another pool.
I got him out and he was apparently unhurt though dead but, when I noticed a little trickle of blood emerge from his nose I realised that he had hit his head when he went over that waterfall and that it had taken some time for the pressure to build in his skull and kill him.
I carried him to the car and returned to the bungalow where I looked for a place to bury him and the only suitable place I could find was by the driveway on the side of the bungalow at the top of a very steep embankment. A hole was cut and Hoagy’s body was lowered into it and then, much to my surprise Flicka, who had been around up to that time, ran to the bottom of the embankment some 5 m down and looked for Hoagy to emerge!
I used to have a special whistle for Hoagy and when I, thereafter, whistled in that way, Flicka would look around for Hoagy. Rather than upset her I desisted from this after doing it a couple of times.
FLICKA did nothing that warrants posting here but she was a very intelligent, calm, gentle dog who had a litter of pups sired by an Alsatian. In about 1963 she contracted a canine venereal disease and had to be put down.
KIM & Cindy [Border Collies]
Kim was highly intelligent whilst dear little Cindy was like a breeze: all movement and no content.
Which way, Boss? Dewalakande Estate, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1967.
1. On a tea or rubber plantation what were called field roads where walking roads, throughout the property. They were approximately a metre wide.
On my walks around the plantation Kim would stop some 100 m ahead of me, at bifurcation in the field road, and look back at me obviously asking which road I was taking. All I had to say was say “Up” or “Down”, “Left” or “Right” and he would wag his tail and take the correct road. This amazed me because I had never taught him anything like this.
Only one master! Dewalakande Estate, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1967.
When my wife and I went on furlough for four in 1967 we left the two dogs with my assistant manager on Dunedin Division and, some time after we returned, I was inspecting that division with that assistant manager and the two dogs and went to his bungalow to look at something. When inside, the assistant noticed the absence of Kim and Cindy and asked me where they were. My reply was, ‘Probably in the Land Rover.’ to which he said, ‘Shall I go and get them?’ and I answered in the affirmative. A minute or two later he returned and told me that they would not get out of the Land Rover so I went to it and told them to come along, or something, and they were out in the usual rush! I had not thought about a situation like this and had expected that, if asked by their boss of four months they would obey. Well, I found out otherwise!
A ball into the darkness below. Dewalakande Estate, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka c.1967.
1. The manager’s house had 3 m wide verandahs two-thirds of the way around the living section of it and the first flour was about 4 m above the ground floor with a further approximately 1.2 m from the ground flour to the lawn and garden below.
Early one night I was leaning on the railing of the upstairs verandah, looking out over the garden, when Kim appeared at my left with his tennis ball in his mouth. He dropped the ball and looked up at me, presumably asking me to through it for him, but his forward momentum when he dropped the ball sent it, bump, bump, and through the railing and down into the dark garden below. Kim looked at me enquiringly and I, moving only my head towards him, said, ‘Well, you’ll just have to go and get it won’t you?’. That was it – he wagged his tail, turned, and ran downstairs into the garden, found the ball, and returned upstairs to me!
I had never said anything like that to Kim before!
The restless Kim. Dewalakande Estate, Dehiowita, Sri Lanka 1969.
1. The dogs had beds made of wooden frames, with hessian stretched over them, on legs about 15 cm high.
2. The bungalow was about 150 m away from the main road down a steep hillside planted in rubber and when we went away for a few days I left explicit instructions that Kim was to be kept chained but on our return I found that he had been killed by a bus on the main road whilst in pursuit of a bitch in heat so he died in a good cause (although that was certainly not my feeling on hearing the news!).
3. The bedrooms in the bungalow were about 6 m across and all floors upstairs were wooden.
Some forty years later my daughter asked me whether my wife had ever told me about her and Kim on Dewalakande after he died and I said that she had not; so she told me that her mother had told her that, after he died, Kim used to keep her awake at night by pacing up and down the bedroom. I asked my wife about this and she confirmed what our daughter had said so I asked her what she did about this. She replied that she used to tell Kim to stop his pacing and go to his bed – which he did! When I asked her why she had never told me about this she said it was because she feared that I wound think she was mad.
Note: We had wanted to leave Ceylon to settle elsewhere but had not made the decision because we could not leave Kim. His death removed this impediment.