Back when we lived in Namibia, we lived in a house on the outskirts of one of Windhoek’s suburbs and had a HUGE garden. Seriously, it really was big. We had grass around the house, front and back. In the back, where the grass stopped, the garden extended for another 20 meters before you reached the back fence and that was all just dry earth and stones. More than enough space for a dog to run and frolic as much as it wanted.
I can’t remember whether we got our dogs in Windhoek, or whether they moved from Vanderbijlpark with us. But my memories of them are in Windhoek and Bloemfontein (where we moved to after Windhoek).
We had two dogs – Snippy and Rex. Rex was the younger one of the two, and I remember we got him as a pup. He was the odd one out of the litter, and even when he was three or four, he still walked like he was a pup, sometimes unsure where to put his own feet. He was a beautiful German Shepherd, and such a loving animal. I remember when my daughter started crawling (this was years later in Bloemfontein) he just allowed her to crawl all over him, and seemed to constantly protect her, as he always stayed close.
Rex was a family dog.
Snippy was not.
Snippy was mom’s dog, and he wasn’t called Snippy for nothing. He was a small mixed breed dog, a ‘pavement special’ as my parents liked to call him. We had him before Rex came along, and of course, Snippy was the boss. Though much smaller than Rex, Snippy definitely made sure Rex knew his place. But, he wasn’t only bossy towards Rex, he was bossy towards everyone. Snippy. Yes, he could be quite loving too, and as children we definitely played with him, but I think our best times with him was when we could get him to demonstrate his snippy nature.
When Snippy sat on the couch next to mom, or on her lap, either me or my brother gently put a hand on mom’s arm or leg, which earned us a low growl from Snippy. Of course we never left it at that, but said things like ‘my mommy’ and he growled louder every time we said it, until he had enough and would jumped at us. This made us laugh every time! He never bit any of us, and I think he secretly ‘enjoyed’ the game as much as we did.
Something else we did (and please no one take offense here, as this was a stupid children’s thing back in the 80’s) is to recite a silly rhyme. Now this works better in Afrikaans than in English, as the ‘nese’ in ‘Chinese’ or ‘Japanese’ has the same sound as ‘nose’ (neus) in Afrikaans. While saying the silly words, there were also actions with our hands:
Chinese (fingers on the sides of our eyes, pulling the corners up/down)
Japanese (pulling the corners the other way)
My neus (= my nose, so we tapped our own noses)
Jou neus (= your nose, so we tapped Snippy’s nose)
The first time he would only look at us, but of course, being children, we didn’t stop there. By the time we tapped his nose the third time, he growled. Sixth time, he showed us teeth, and by the tenth time he would jump at us, and sometimes he would bite our hands, but never break our skin. It got to the point where sometimes all we had to do was say ‘Chinese’ or touch our eyes, and he would growl already. That made us laugh so much!
A slight miscalculation
We were not the only ones who teased Snippy. My parents did so too. One Sunday morning, my mom was still in their bedroom, and of course Snippy was on the bed with her. My father was cooking, and each of the dogs got a bone to chew on once he had cut the meat off. He brought Snippy’s to the bedroom. Just like we all do with our pets, my mom talked to Snippy, and did what she had done so many times before… ‘oh, you have a nice bone… I want that bone… mmm yummy bone… oooh I am going to take it from you’. You get the picture…
Now remember, Snippy was her dog, and he adored her and protected her, always! And what my mom did here, wasn’t a first. She would make some smacking noises, as if she’s eating with him, sometimes with her face close to him, as if she really was going to eat with him. He would growl and eat and eat and growl and there always seemed to be a smile in his eyes, as if he enjoyed the teasing as much as she did. Sometimes he would stop eating, and snap at her, but never touch her.
That morning she did the same. My mom said she was going to take the bone from Snippy and the dog yum-growled-yum-yum-growled with the bone in his mouth. It was just the same old scene as it always was, until it wasn’t anymore.
Snippy snapped at my mom.
This time there wasn’t only air.
This time he miscalculated when he snapped. Both my mom and the doc recoiled, my mom grabbing her nose, and the dog instantly cowering around her as to offer his apologies. My dad saw it happen, and us kids were in the bedroom almost instantly since we heard my mom scream. It hurt like hell, but thankfully there was little blood and not too much damage. Mom had holes on either side of her nose, and one in her lip. Snippy had totally miscalculated the distance when he snapped at her. Aw, that poor dog. He was so sorry for what had happened and kept on staying very close to my mom, wanting to lick the wounds to heal them. Mom allowed him to do that of course, because you know, it was her dog…
Note: I am sitting here, smiling at this memory, and of course adult me wondered if mom went for a tetanus shot back then, or if Snippy’s licks just healed her face. I have no idea, but it was damn nice to think of Snippy and Rex, and remember the special animals they were.
© Rebel’s Notes
Image from Pixabay