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So what are your childhood pet animal stories?

“So,” I chooned told ou Phil, “you should have seen my mutt Bruce. He was a Labrador and he couldn’t stop eating. My mother believed he must still be hungry if he was happy to have more. My old lady and blurry Bruce were a scary combination. She would just keep piling up his dog bowl. Eventually he would come waddling and wheezing off the veranda into the lounge, belly hanging halfway to the floor, slump in front of the fireplace and slowly, evilly, deflate like a tractor tyre for the next two hours.

“Jissee, but he could drop horrible ones. His ears would cock in half-interest while the family cursed, some of us even leaving the room for a few minutes. Eventually my mother learned. My old man, hanky over his nose, insisted he only get one bowl of chow. So of course Bruce would scoff his chow down in less than ten seconds flat and head for the other dogs’ bowls. There were a couple of moerse frights on that veranda. My black and white brak, Scruffy, genuine “pavement special”, was smaller and older than Bruce, and was the ou man of our five dogs. He just told Bruce to take a fricken sexual hike off Mount Kilimanjaro in dog language … ”

I could check out that Phil, grinning, wanted to talk about his dogs as he interrupted, “Did he pomp a lot?” and sipped on his brandy and coke (spook & diesel for those in the know) in O’Hagan’s Pub in Paulshof, Jo’burg. “I had a brak who couldn’t think of anything else — ”

“Bruce’s sex life?” I loudly interrupted back, proud of my favourite childhood mutt, that wheaten Labrador of mine who followed me wherever I went. “Balls of steel,” I bragged, dramatically pausing to swig on a Hofbrau draught. “And his,” I said whilst lightly belching, “needed regular exercise. Dammit, that champion would risk his life against competing Alsatians for the glorious prize that was on heat. Came home looking like Attila the Hun after a really fierce battle, my bru, but with a contented grin on his face … ”

“I had a Jack Russel once,” said Phil. “And all he could think about was pomping. 24/7. He first tried it on a bathroom towel. My old lady was helluva annoyed. The best was when he tried to take on a Dalmatian. Just picture a littlebrak taking on a Dalmatian’s hind leg. She would turn around quizzically to try and see what this cheeky little bugger was up to … ”

“Ja, no, Bruce had self-respect, tjommie,” I interjected, feeling no shortage of one-upmanship. “Only his size would do, usually Alsatians. We eventually had to have him spayed, because the neighbours complained about all the visits to their plot. And you know what? He still went and visited his girlfriends, coming back looking like Genghis Khan who had fallen off the Great Wall or something … I don’t know how he hoped to get it up, hey maybe he still could … ”

I don’t know how long ou Phil, one of my best drinking buddies nearly ten years ago in Paulshof’s O’Hagans and I talked about our childhood pets. Maybe he can’t remember. Spook & diesel will do that to you. Maybe one of the other okes was bragging about his Jack Russel as in retrospect that Dutchman friend of mine, Phil, would have preferred bigger dogs. It doesn’t matter.

Ja, our childhood pets. They were just great, hey? And taught me responsibility too. That’s why my parents had them for me. I fed them. I bathed them. Removed the blurry ticks and dusted them with tick powder while they indignantly snorted and sneezed. I separated them when they fought. Man I loved them. Yeah, I said above my old lady fed Bruce. But I gave him the first bowl and it should have been the only one, even if the only reason was the unbelievable farting afterwards. His backside could crackle like Guy Fawkes. She would just look at that mournful, gluttonous face, his ears eagerly cocked and bring him more and more Dogmore. (Is Dogmore still going in SA? Must be. It’s the grrrrravy, hey?)

At one stage I had five or six dogs, a sheep called Bartholomew, budgies, guinea pigs, a table of white mice where I kept on changing the maze that led to their food, and an aviary of pigeons and cockatiels. No cats. Let’s agree on one thing about dogs, manne? They are always genuinely pleased to see you when you get home. Cats just turn up their tails and show you their south end. Like that’s what I want to see while I am scoffing down my after-school toasted sarmies. Homework consisted of hurling the school satchel under my bedroom desk and heading out with the canine gang for the nearby vlei or whatever.

And Bruce always knew when I was feeling down. Like when I came home from a bad-hair day at school, some stupid caning for no bloody rhyme or reason or I’d been bullied by the big okes. He would come and lie on the bed next to me while I nursed my emotional wounds and shove his snout into my chest and belly. He would stare at me with those soulful eyes, head cocked, making throat-swallowing, gulping noises of sympathy and dinkum try and cheer me up. And he did. Fully.

I still now and then dream about him, and the ou man, Scruffy, who would give Bruce a hard time anytime Bruce tried to take over his spot as top dog. Maybe they are saying hello from doggie heaven, hey?

So, what’s your doggie and other childhood pet stories? Skiem I should write another book, Cracking Canines.


  • CRACKING CHINA was previously the title of this blog. That title was used as the name for Rod MacKenzie's second book, Cracking China: a memoir of our first three years in China. From a review in the Johannesburg Star: " Mackenzie's writing is shot through with humour and there are many laugh-out-loud scenes". Cracking China is available as an eBook on Amazon Kindle or get a hard copy from His previous book is a collection of poetry,Gathering Light. A born and bred South African, Rod now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, after a number of years working in southern mainland China and a stint in England. Under the editorship of David Bullard and Michael Trapido he had a column called "The Mocking Truth" on NewsTime until the newszine folded. He has a Master's Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland. if you are a big, BIG publisher you should ask to see one of his many manuscript novels. Follow Rod on Twitter @


  1. Blip Blip 10 November 2009

    I had a totally bonkers cross-foxie who ADORED water. One day I caught a small shark on a hand-line. As I was hoping for something edible — a mackerel, specifically — I lobbed the shark back. The dog leapt straight in to nobble the shark which had disappeared under water. After 20 minutes of frantic circling and wild barking in search of the long-underwater shark, I had to jump in and rescue my fast-fading pooch.

  2. Phil Phil 10 November 2009

    Hey Rod. I am SURE you miss Bruce a helluva lot!

    Oh, so many stories I can tell. These days it is just me and my doggie children. Liza and Bella. They are the most adorable basset hounds and share my bed with me. I’ve had them now for 5 years. But I did have my first Basset Hound Fergie, way back, when working on the gold mines in the Western Transvaal. The stories and anecdotes I can tell about Fergie  ! She was the inspiration for numerous stories I wrote in my weekly column in the Vaal Reefs Advertiser. Maybe one day I can publish a collection of her antics on a web page or a magazine like Animal Talk.

    I grew up with Boxers (In Succession: Ounooi, Then Simba and finally Chips) Later years it was Golden Labradors (Charlie and then Dusty). And now the Bassets….

    Dogs and horses are an integral part of my life. My hounds dictate where I stay, who my girlfriend is, etc. etc. Although they do just about EVERYTHING with their human dad, I doubt if they will join me on my visit next year to you in Shanghai. I would prefer that they do not appear on the menu of Uncle Rod’s favourite Dumpling joint. LOL.

    Die bleddie Dutchman

  3. milly vanilly milly vanilly 10 November 2009

    Pets are great friends.
    Hope you still keep animals.

    There is nothing like the adoration of a critter.

    Thanks for an awesome blog

  4. MLH MLH 10 November 2009

    Our family only had dachshunds when I was young and I stuck to them.
    I bought my first, as an adult, after a killing in the house three of us shared. She got me thru’ PTSD and horrific months of nightmares.
    I then moved to a flat, so took her every morning to friends who lived in a house and picked her up from day care again after work. By the time my son was born, I had three dogs and all became devoted to him.
    When he was three, his dad gave him a dog (to replace one that had died). Dad died shortly afterwards. A cannot think of a finer gift to give a child…that dog watched over him throughout his childhood. She was his link to sanity and dribbled a soccer ball so well with her nose, she left him in her dust!
    She was still going strong (though clearly a desperate Altzheimers’ case) when he left home for a year at 17. She died while he was away, just after he turned 18. He returned a man, but still misses her.
    His friends think I look like a cat lady. I remain a dog woman and the two remaining climb a foam ramp at the end of my bed to curl up with me at night. I wouldn’t be without them…

  5. Michael Francis Michael Francis 11 November 2009

    I have too many pet stories (and pets) to relate in 250 words. I used to have a pony named Dusty who was a stray. How someone loses a pony is beyond me especially as we looked for the owner. By law he was to be sold at auction and we were to be compensated for looking after him from the proceeds. Mom bought him back from the auction as he was only bid on by meat buyers so our free find was not so free. I learned to ride on him, to fall (he was a vicious bastard that I Loved) and we had him for many years.

    I also grew up with cats, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits, more horses, bees, donkeys, etc etc and wouldn’t begrudge my farm childhood one bit.

    I still have two dogs and four cats and the family farm has that many more of everything.

  6. Brown Davies Brown Davies 11 November 2009

    Rod my china, the spook&diesel refers to cane and coke, ask any self respecting fellow from Stanger or Verulam

  7. remandlo remandlo 11 November 2009

    My childhood animal pet was a cat, Ginah. I never liked cats like I did for Ginah.One of the good memories is that during bed time, Ginah would roll herself next to me. What I could feel is the GRRRRRRRRGH vibration next to me. Cats are so wonderful and good friends. Unfortunately as she grew older she started climbing walls and roofs and loot food in other households. That’s how our friendship ended. But I still remember my pet cat.

    – Smindlos

  8. Rod MacKenzie Rod MacKenzie 12 November 2009

    Brown Davies my cuzz – this important lingusistics debate about which dop spook n diesel refers to has been passionately debated by pisscat scholars on my blog before. Then in your opinion what is brandy n coke? Lus n diesel? As in ek lus…ek lus… n stukkie vis….

    Michael Frances – you probably have some references to the amazing relation between people and their pets and the history of it going back millennia…. it is something I would like to read up on. Can you provide some titles or links?

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