“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 www.knowledgethirstmedia.co.za. 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 @ https://twitter.com/Rod_in_China


Rod MacKenzie

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...

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