True to it’s African roots, this profile of the Ridgie gets back to basics by giving an explanation of the breed by using a story, a practice that African Tribes use.
Boetie, the Rhodesian Ridgeback
Boetie grew up in the veldt of Africa. The grasses were tall and made wonderful hiding areas for Boetie and his brothers and sisters. They played, day after day, stalking each other through the long grasses, chasing small rodents from the hidey-holes, and sometimes just simply lying in the grass napping.
Boetie was the group’s fearless leader. If there was a koggelmander (agama lizard) in sight, it was always Boetie who dared to get close. It never bothered him that the koggelmander would flare out his red or blue frill in an attempt to frighten Boetie away. Boetie would just stare at the lizard and with a curious frown, creasing his brow and trying to put a paw onto the lizard to get a closer look. He never quite made the connection, as the koggelmander would always speed away from Boetie’s paw and he would be left there alone, creasing his brow even more.
He would sit and listen to the turtle doves coo-coo-cooing. He would watch the little weaver birds hard at work, weaving their intricate nests over the edge of the river. His ouma (grandmother) had told him that the birds built their almost impenetrable nests over water to keep out the snakes. The cobras and boomslang (tree snake), as well as other snakes had a difficult time trying to get inside a weaver bird’s nest to eat the baby birds there.
Sometimes Boetie would scratch at the surface of an anthill that looked like a big black rock. He just wanted to watch the ants scurrying about inside their home. He never wanted to hurt them and they seemed to rebuild their anthill very quickly.
Once he found a very pretty rock that was moving. It had lovely colours and things that looked like legs and a head and tail. When he put his nose out to sniff it, and touched it with his paw, it came to a sudden stop. Boetie was very surprised. His father, Dagga, told him that it was just skilpad (tortoise), looking for food on his way home and that the skilpad would not hurt anyone.
Boetie loved to learn about the creatures and plants that lived around him. He asked his ouma and oupa (grandfather) often to tell him what such-and-such was and where it lived and what it ate. Oupa told him about trapsoetjies (“walk sweetly/softly” the chameleon), who walked even more slowly than skilpad. His eyes moved separately, and he could actually look forward with his one eye and backwards with the other eye! Boetie tried SO hard to make his eyes work that way but he could not.
When he played at the edge of the kopje (rocky hill) close to his home, he enjoyed chasing the dassies (hyrax) into the rocks. Sometimes he took one home for dinner, but mostly he just enjoyed chasing them.
One day, while playing chase with the dassies, he came face to face with a rinkhals cobra (spitting cobra). Oh, my goodness, Boetie got such a fright! He froze as the snake stretched its body upward. Before the snake could spit its venom into Boetie’s eyes, Boetie apologized and bowed his head down onto his front paws; Rinky had been resting after his midday meal and was too sleepy to bother much with Boetie. He simply hissed that Boetie should be more careful in the future and then he curled up and went back to sleep. Boetie was so scared that he avoided that place for many months afterwards.
In the heat of the afternoon, Boetie and his brothers and sisters would watch the miskruiers (dung beetles) hard at work rolling up big balls of elephant dung. These beetles would be a fraction of the size of the huge round ball they were pushing home and the pups enjoyed watching them; They also played with the tok-tokkie (tapping beetles) beetles, these pretty little brown beetles would scurry along, tapping their bellies to the ground every now and then. The noise they made fascinated Boetie, it went “Tok, tok, tok. Tok, tok, tok”(perhaps that’s why Ridgebacks do so well with clicker training?)
These are some of the creatures that shared adventures with Boetie. Many of them helped Boetie, some of them failed to give him warnings, and some of them helped him get into trouble at times. Boetie and his siblings had many adventures growing up on the veldt of Africa.
The Legend of the Ridge
Long ago, in the veldt of Africa, lived a pack of dogs. They were very nice dogs: Fair sized, different colours, sleek and shiny.
They preferred to live in the veldt area, rather than the bush. They were very clannish, enjoying each other’s company tremendously, never wandering off alone. None of them would dream of going off to hunt alone.
One day Boetie (brother in Afrikaans), being the adventurous sort of pup, tried to round up a group of siblings to try their hand at hunting without their parents. None of the pups would join him, so Boetie ran off toward the bush alone. He had never been near the bush as it was a forbidden area, but the adults never told Boetie why it was forbidden.
Boetie was angry at the other pups and thought they were being cowards. He decided he would show them what a great hunter he was, and how brave too. He was going to return to the den with dinner for his family.
He first met a meerkat, who peered at him slyly and asked why he was alone. Boetie replied he was going to find dinner. Frikkie, the meerkat, chortled and went on his way.
Boetie wandered about, getting closer and closer to the bush. He met an ostrich, who peered down his beak and asked where he thought he was going. Boetie told the ostrich he was going to get dinner. The ostrich told him to go home immediately (ostriches can be rather bossy, you know) and aimed a swift kick at Boetie. Boetie dodged out of the way and ran on.
He came across a pangolin, who carefully unrolled himself to hiss, “Where DO you think you are going, you must go home immediately!” Boetie kept right on trotting.
Then he met Simba, who grumbled at him that he was too young to be out alone, he should go home to be with his mother. Boetie stopped to tell the lion that he was big enough to find dinner all by himself and that that was what he was going to do. Simba, being the father of many young ones, insisted that Boetie return home and swatted at Boetie’s rear end. Boetie ran, veering left, going deeper into the bush.
Out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw a meerkat, followed by a large ostrich and something small and scaley behind that, but he ran on looking for something good he could take home for dinner.
Suddenly, something grabbed him from above and held on tightly. Boetie squirmed and wriggled, but he could not get loose. He tried calling out for someone, anyone, to help him. He struggled some more and the harder he struggled, the more firmly he was held by this unseen “animal” from above.
The meerkat scuttled up and told Boetie he deserved what happened to him as he was such a disobedient pup. He then settled down to watch Boetie struggle. Soon the ostrich and the pangolin arrived. They too told him how much he deserved to be punished, as he was so disobedient. Simba strolled up, stared at Boetie with his cold golden eyes and said, “You will make a tasty morsel for my lunch, it is what you deserve for being so disobedient.”
Well, you can imagine the fear, the absolute terror, that rippled through Boetie. He struggled fiercely and valiantly to be free of his unseen captor. He heard the rustle of a breeze – he thought it was talking to him, saying “wag ‘n bietjie, wag ‘n bietjie” (he translated it to mean “wait a minute, wait a minute). Boetie was quite sure he was going crazy, after all, trees don’t talk. He scrabbled frantically with his feet, and with one final lunge, tore free of the wait-a-minute tree.
As he ran away, he did not feel the cuts from where the thorns of the tree had scored his back. His mother was very happy to see him home and alive. She licked his wounds clean and tried to comfort him. She told him that the wag’n bietjie tree was the real reason they did not go into the bush. It stopped all passersby with its cruel, long thorns.
Boetie, being the type of dog to hold a grudge, swore his mishap was all the lion’s fault. After all, it was he (the lion) who had made him run deeper into the bush, then threatened to eat him. He vowed he would never let a lion get close enough to hurt him.
His back healed up, and he was very proud of his new hair. It had grown back quickly enough, but it was now reversed. His family watched as Boetie grew into a fearless Lion Dog. He practised day after day tracking the lions for hours.
Always staying just out of reach of their razor-like claws, Boetie would antagonize and feint away, taunt, then feint again. He was so deft in his pursuit of the lions that all the maiden dogs vied for the honor of having his children.
The Mantis god looked upon Boetie very favourably, as Boetie had learned he had a purpose in this life. The Mantis granted that all of Boetie’s offspring would henceforth wear the sign of their father in the shape of the ridge.
So, my friends that is how the Ridgeback got his ridge.
Tale of the Diamond
Boetie sniffed the blue frilled koggelmander warily. He was not used to the scent of the lizard, and wondered if it was edible. As he tried to grasp it in his mouth, a loud hiss from the lizard sent him running backward. His sister, Bessie, fell as he cannoned into her. She got up, shaking the red dust from her tawny coat and grumbled at Boetie, saying, “We should go and look for dinner as it is growing late.” Boetie gave up his pursuit of the koggelmander and together the two pups strode off through the rocky ground in search of food. Neither pup noticed that they were not alone.
Old Man Simba lay in the sun atop the kopje. He watched from slitted eyes as the two pups hunted amongst the rocks. He knew that Boetie would eventually get himself, and perhaps his sister too, in some sort of trouble.
Simba noticed that Big Bobbejaan was also watching the pups. He roared his displeasure at the sight of Bobbejaan nearby. He rose gracefully and slowly made his way toward the big baboon.
Bobbejaan was very cunning though and he scrambled closer to where Boetie and Bessie were stalking a dassie amongst the rocks of the kopje. He thought Simba would not dare to chase him if he were near the Ridgeback pups.
Bessie was so engrossed in the hunt that she failed to move quickly enough, out of Bobbejaan’s reach. Bobbejaan grabbed her by her long tail. She yelped as his hand took hold of the base of her tail. Bessie scambled to get behind a rock, but Bobbejaan held fast. Boetie came running, growling at Bobbejaan to let go of his sister. Bobbejaan hung on tighter. Being a very arrogant baboon, he was not going to allow Simba to chase him away from the kopje. He was also not going to let go of this pup he held, as he knew Simba would not come too close to the dog.
Simba roared at Bobbejaan, Bessie yelped and whimpered and Boetie howled his rage, all three animals feeling powerless in their own way against sly old Bobbejaan.
Mantis, who we all know created everything, stood tall and rubbed his two front legs together, as if praying. From between his feet shot a bolt of lightning, it hit Bobbejaan’s hand as he tried to keep a firm grip on Bessie’s tail. The lightning burnt Bobbejaan’s hand, but it also burnt a small part of Bessie’s tail.
Mantis spoke from the kopje, “Let it be known that the mark of the Mantis protects all these dogs from harm forthwith.” He went on to say that the Ridgeback was forever more to be recognized by the mark on the tail, and that this mark would show all that the Ridgeback was a very agile animal. All dogs so marked would be able to stay out of reach of any baboon.
Bobbejaan slunk back to his home nursing, his sore hand. Simba looked down at Mantis, raised an eyebrow and asked what form the mark would take. Mantis did not reply.
Boetie licked Bessie’s burnt skin and they walked slowly home. They slept well that night, they were both so tired. In the morning, their mother asked why Bessie had not washed her tail and to go and remove the dirt at once. Bessie tried and tried to lick away the little diamond shape at the top of her tail, but it would not go away.
Boetie told his mother what Mantis had said about the mark on Bessie’s tail. Their mother looked more closely at the mark which Bessie was still vainly trying to lick off her tail. There was a perfect diamond shape made by the burnt hair. To this day, Mantis’ words proved true. All Ridgebacks are marked with Mantis’ own brand. They all have the diamond at the base of their tail, and marked dogs are very agile.
Do you really think Mantis could have made the diamond just to show everyone how agile Ridgebacks are? You will have to ask Mantis.
A Ridgeback’s Floppy Ears
On the banks of the Umfani River, lived a large male crocodile. He was very old and indeed, had been king of his realm for many years. He was very learned in the ways of the bush and the veldt.
He was probably the same crocodile who helped the elephant grow its trunk (apologies to Rudyard Kipling). His name was Tande, meaning “teeth”.
Old Tande lived a lazy life amongst the reeds and brush of the river. He ate when he was hungry, he basked in the sun alot, and he kept to himself except when “the others” came to him for advice.
Tande was the only one that was unafraid of the Tokeloshe who lived in the river. Now, we all know how evil the Tokeloshes can be and we try hard to stay away from them.
Boetie, being his adventurous self, wanted to know more about the Tokeloshe and travelled far to visit Tande. He had many questions for the old crocodile and was very excited at the prospect of meeting the old king.
His arrival was a bit of a letdown, as the king was asleep and no one would wake him up. Boetie had to wait for several hours, so he amused himself by stalking boomsingetjies. These proved to be too elusive for him and he tried his luck on a slow-moving chameleon. He sat and watched the long tongue flick out at as it chose a large fly for a meal. The chameleon chomped once, twice, then swallowed the fly. Boetie stared , his ears standing straight up in amazement.
He was finally called to meet with King Tande. The crocodile was very sleepy still, and really did not want to be bothered by a whippersnapper like Boetie. He did tell Boetie that if he ever heard his name called out, he must not answer.
With this rather mysterious instruction, he fell asleep again and poor Boetie, feeling very disappointed, left to begin his journey home again.
He wandered along the river bank aimlessly. He was upset that he had not been able to ask any of his questions of the King, and he was beginning to become a bit angry at the King’s rude behaviour.
Just then, he heard someone call his name. He stopped, looked around, thinking it was the King’s wife calling him back. He hoped the King would apologize for his rudeness, invite Boetie to dinner and they would talk all night.
He called back, “I am coming. Wait for me.”
As he was musing about how he would talk to the King, his name came floating across the water again. He looked across the river but could see nothing.
He walked closer to the water and as he heard his name again, he stepped into the water.
Something big and black grabbed at him. Boetie leapt backwards, but clawlike fingers caught his ears. Ouch, that hurt! He thrashed, bellowed, barked, and tried to bite at the thing that was holding and hurting his ears. It would not let go!
Suddenly, Boetie remembered the old crocodile telling him not to answer if he heard his name being called. He realized the crocodile must have been warning him about the Tokeloshe. Now he did not know what to do to get away from the beast.
He howled, he struggled, and finally his feet found a good grip in the sandy bottom of the river and slowly, so slowly, he managed to inch his way backward toward the river bank.
He got his two hind feet on dry ground, then one by one his two front feet were on the dry ground, but the thing, the Tokeloshe, still had a firm hold on his ears.
The Tokeloshe was big, black, hairy and very strong. It had a fat belly, big wild-looking eyes, and teeth that even old King Crocodile would have envied.
Boetie had never seen teeth like these facing him now – they were huge! Boetie pulled and pulled. He realized the Tokeloshe could not come out of the water, he was truly a water-beast, so he pulled harder and cried with the pain of his ears being stretched and stretched and stretched. Poor Boetie, they hurt so, but this brave puppy kept pulling backwards out of the water and finally the Tokeloshe had to let his ears go.
The Tokeloshe screamed his fury at losing such a delicious meal, or perhaps a slave, and sent torrents of water-spirits towards Boetie. Boetie turned and ran for his life, his long ears flapping in the wind.
His family was surprised to see him with his damaged ears and hastened to try to make them better. Mantis had other ideas though, and he came and spoke to all the animals. Mantis said: “Henceforth, all Ridgebacks will have ears that dangle down and they will not stand upright again. This is in honor of Boetie, who fought bravely with the Tokeloshe, but it is also for the Ridgeback to be able to use his ears well and perhaps next time he will hear the crocodile’s warning”.
So, that is how the ridgeback got long floppy ears.
Remember what that warning was? If you hear your name called, do not answer. Do your Ridgebacks hear their names when they are called?
A Ridgeback’s White Toes
Boetie lay next to his cousins Gert and Nooi, at the edge of the tall grass, listening and smelling new aromas in the air. The three pups were remarkably similar in appearance, they each had a shiny bronze coat, long droopy ears, a strip of hair growing in reverse along their back and a small diamond shape of darker hair on their tails. Although their coats shone brightly, they were not easy to see as they lay calmly in the dry grass.
They dozed as the sound of a kalimba swept softly across the veld. The notes rose and fell as if in time to the fever tree branches swaying in the breeze. There was an enticing smell of meat cooking over a fire that wafted on this same breeze, tickling the three noses poking through the tall elephant grass.
All three lay together, plotting to steal the meat from over the fire. Gert thought he was braver than Boetie, and Nooi thought she was cleverer than either Boetie or Gert. So they lay listening and smelling and dozing in the sun, still plotting all the same.
A herd of zebra wandered close to the pups, but they were too busy planning their theft, to harass the striped animals. A gompou (bustard) strolled across in front of the pups and a ratel (badger) rolled by on his way to raid a honey nest. The pups ignored them all. The smell of the cooking meat was far more enticing to the pups than any of their usual quarry of the veld.
Nooi rolled over lazily, crushing the fragrant flowers of a blue Afrikander beneath her as she rolled. Close to Boetie grew a Buchu bush and he wrinkled his nose as the pungent aroma of the buchu mingled with the sweet Afrikander and joined the heady, tummy-wrenching smell of the cooking meat.
He rose slowly to his feet and stretched majestically. He told his cousins to stay well hidden and to answer his call only when he barked twice. As he was the eldest, they obeyed Boetie, but they were not happy to be left behind. Slinking low to the ground, Boetie crept closer to the kraal. He wriggled through the grass on his belly and stopped just inches away from the path through the doringboom wall (thorn tree wall). The smell of meat was so much stronger here, the music was very soothing and Boetie felt himself relax and he became more confident of sneaking into the kraal without being seen by the people.
Boetie skirted behind the nearest rondavel (hut), and trotted carefully across a small open space between two grinding stones. He crawled into a hole under the next rondavel, went out the other side, shaking pieces of straw from his whiskers and found himself right at the edge of the fire pit. The aroma was simply delicious and Boetie’s mouth drooled as he feasted on the smell and the sight of the meat roasting over the fire. As he readied himself to bark twice, a large hand grabbed the scruff of his neck and shook him hard. Boetie was so scared. A second pair of hands grabbed Boetie around the hindquarters and between the two men Boetie was unceremoniously carried into a rondavel and dumped on the ground. Boetie barked and barked. He forgot that the signal of two barks would bring his cousins to his side. He began to try and dig his way out of the rondavel, and to his great relief found the dirt to be well packed but soft. He stopped barking but continued to grumble like the drums of the warriors.
Meanwhile Nooi and Gert had crept into the kraal after they heard Boetie’s frantic barks. They travelled through the kraal very slowly and carefully. Straining to hear the direction from which Boetie’s grumbles were coming, they managed to arrive near the fire pit, just as Boetie’s front feet tore through the underneath of the rondavel. Boetie dug furiously and as his feet churned up the edge of the fire pit, two rough hands grabbed him from behind. Now he was truly trapped. He was stuck under the rondavel, his feet were getting warm from the fire pit and his rear end was being firmly held by the unseen hands. What was the dog to do???
Leaving Gert to guard one side of the rondavel, Nooi made her way around to the other side and together they both began to dig through to Boetie, trying to open up the hole he had begun. Boetie was struggling for his life now and his feet were burning in the embers at the edge of the fire pit. The unseen pair of hands holding onto him from behind tried to pull his entire body backwards, but Boetie’s front legs were too strong. He had such a good grip, albeit in amongst the hot embers, that he was able to gain a little bit of ground, further into the fire pit. Poor Boetie. His feet were smarting and burning, but he knew he had to go forward to escape his unseen captor.
All three pups forgot about the smells still wafting on the breeze. Forgotten too were their plans for stealing the meat. Boetie had to get out of this place quickly. Gert and Nooi dug faster and harder. Just as their toes felt the heat from the embers, Boetie tumbled out through the hole they had widened for him. With smarting toes, Boetie ran behind Gert and Nooi to the doringboom opening. He whimpered as he ran. He was too afraid someone might catch him again if he slowed down to lick his sore feet, so on he ran as fast as he could.
When they reached the safety of the elephant grass, Nooi made Boetie lie down and licked the pads on his feet for him. Gert brought some cool wet mud from the riverbank and using his mouth put the mud over Boetie’s toes and pads to try and soothe the pain. They were so exhausted they fell asleep curled up together in the tall grass. Boetie whimpered in his sleep that night.
The next day they started for home. They walked very slowly. Boetie liked to keep his feet wet so he walked through as many streams and rivers as he could. He kept his feet caked with mud as he found that they did not hurt as much with a thick coating of mud protecting the burned pads. They arrived home and once again Boetie’s mother helped nurse her son back to health.
Several months later Mantis came to visit the pack of Ridgebacks. He had been told of the incident involving the cooking meat and was there to mete out suitable punishment to Boetie. He listened very carefully to the tale of Boetie’s escapade while trying to steal the meat. Boetie was very honest in relating his attempted theft and showed Mantis the scars on his feet from the burning embers. Mantis was both proud of Boetie’s honesty and angry that Boetie had tried to steal from another. He told the pup that he would have to think long on the matter and he climbed high up to the top of a kopje to assume his usual pose, and to think deeply of a suitable punishment to be dispensed to Boetie.
The following morning Mantis climbed down from the kopje and announced he had come to a decision about Boetie’s attempted theft. He looked carefully at Boetie’s scarred feet and said, “From this day, shall all thieving Ridgebacks have white toes. This shall be so and it shall show to the rest of the clan those that are not to be trusted around food.”
Boetie and the Bloat
When Mantis created all about him, he made sure there were locusts and other beasties that helped destroy vegetation at times, thereby causing famines. This was to keep all beings on their toes so that they would not take anything for granted. That is, all beings except the Ridgeback.
Boetie was the most dare-devil pup in his litter. He was forever getting himself – and sometimes his relatives – into trouble, but they usually escaped the wrath of Mantis. On this fine day, however, Boetie wanted to go far afield to chase the dassies just for fun. He did have such a mischievous streak in him. He was setting out toward the kopjes when he heard a strange shrill humming sound. He stopped and stood very still and listened closely to this odd noise. It grew louder and louder. It seemed to be coming closer to him and he began to get a bit nervous. He turned around to see what his family was doing about this noise. He was suddenly afraid as he could not see his family. There was just a thick black line where his home had been, but the black line was moving and travelling toward where he stood. He growled and took some steps backward but the line moved toward him faster than he thought possible. He took several steps backwards and growled louder, then he barked. The line continued to advance. The humming grew louder.
Boetie turned and tried to run, but found that there were creatures crawling up his sides, down his legs, along his back and across his face. They were biting him and they really hurt. He screamed his fury and ran headlong into the river. There he sat, with his tail firmly planted in the mud, his ears and eyes were all that remained visible above the water. As much as he hated the wetness of the water, he was glad that the creatures were drowning and not crawling on him any more. He watched the black line move on and as it moved he saw that there was not a blade of grass behind the line. There was not a leaf on a bush nor on a tree, there was nothing to show that this was the veld of Africa, except broken twigs and branches and dust, lots of red dust. Boetie was very frightened. His family was not where he thought they should be, in fact there was not a trace of anything except the red dust. The locusts kept moving. They did not stop for anything or anyone in their path.
He walked up the bank of the river toward where his home had been. He decided to walk toward where the sun went under the earth each day. He was cold, wet, and afraid, but he bravely began his search for his family. He walked for sunsets and moon sets. He found very little in the way of food, and he chewed pieces of broken twig or tree branch – they were dry and tough, but it kept his tummy from grumbling too loudly. The sun was burning hot yet on he walked.
He woke up one morning to hear barks and growls. Boetie raced up a hill and found his whole family at the bottom, right near the river. He raced down barking with joy – he was so happy to see everyone. As he got closer he saw that they were all very thin and weak. They too, had been eating twigs and bark, there was no meat to be found. Boetie joined the scrounging family. He began to share in the daily hunt for real food. Now and then one of the dogs would find a vole or a small field mouse and this thin, but tasty, morsel would be given to the weakest of the group. They all shared whatever food they could scrounge.
Boetie found some tall grasses near a kopje that the locusts had not eaten. They had several large seed pods still attached. He tried chewing them and they were the best food he had tasted for a long time. He carefully looked about him, no one had seen him leave the pack and head for the kopje. He thought if he were careful, he could eat the seeds himself, making them last a few days, thereby regaining some of his lost strength. That would then help him to go farther out to look for food for the weaker members of his pack. Boetie then went back to the pack without taking any of the stalks of grain with him to share. The next day he snuck back to the kopje to eat a few seeds. One of his brothers watched where he went and followed at a distance.
When Boetie returned to the pack his brother picked a fight with him – the pack was very angry about the seeds Boetie was hiding. None of the dogs were willing to listen to his belief that if one dog was strong, that dog would be able to range farther out to look for food. The dogs were very angry and wanted their share of the food. Boetie ran to the kopje as fast as he could, and began to devour the seeds. He wanted to get as far away from his family as possible. If he found food quickly, they would be able to eat and grow strong again and discord amongst them would be a thing of their past.
With his back to the rocks of the kopje, Boetie ate the last of the seeds, while his family barked furiously at him. With his back protected, he had no fear of them fighting with him. As he chewed the last mouthful, he quickly turned tail and jumped over the rocks and ran out into the bare, sun-baked veld. His family trudged tiredly home. Only Jaapie, unseen by his family, followed Boetie
Boetie ran hard and fast until he could no longer see the kopje over his shoulder. As he slowed down he felt his stomach give a lurch. He stood quietly for a moment and felt his tummy rumble, then he heard his tummy gurgle loudly. He decided to go on and that he was probably hungrier than he thought he had been. He had not gone far when a sharp stabbing pain seared through his tummy. He stopped and waited for the pain to pass. He slowly continued on his way. Every few steps he had to stop and wait for the pain to lessen. Finally he found he had to lie down to stretch his body out to try to stop the pain. He stretched, he lay flat on his side, he lay on his tummy and stretched forward, but that made the pain worse. He tried to roll over but he did not have the strength, so he simply lay very still. He lolled his tongue out of his mouth and tried to make his breathing even, it just rasped out of his lungs as his body burned in fiery pain. He felt like his stomach was going to burst like the orange poffer mushrooms which grew in the vlei each winter. Boetie remembered jumping on them just to see the thick yellow dusty innards burst outward when they were broken. Then he remembered his mother licking his face when a nasty bee stung him on the cheek, and his sister snuggling up close when he was cold. He remembered Jaapie calling his name when he was lost in the bush, he thought he could hear Jaapie now as he lay in the red dirt shaking with pain.
Jaapie was trying to rouse Boetie with little success. Finally he prayed to Mantis for help and as he prayed a small green insect flew down to settle in the red dust beside Boetie’s head. Jaapie bowed his head in reverence to the presence of the Creator and asked humbly for help in healing Boetie. Mantis explained that the food in Boetie’s stomach was expanding with the gases inside because Boetie had run so hard and so far right after he had eaten. He laid his praying legs onto Boetie and very soon Boetie seemed to lie more calmly and not to writhe around so much. Jaapie sat close by waiting. After a while Boetie sat up and Mantis began to question him about the food he had eaten. Boetie explained about the locusts, not having any home left, nor food, and then told about finding his family and the seeds. He told of his hopes to help his family, but the anger they showed and lack of understanding made him run away as fast as he could.
Mantis understood that Boetie had truly meant well, but what he did also showed greed and selfishness with regard to the actual food. He therefore ruled that if a Ridgeback ever ate food that others too would benefit from eating, then that Ridgeback would bloat and be in a great deal of pain. Only at the assistance of others would that dog be able to get well again. Mantis would not abide selfish eating in the future, even though Boetie had meant well, Mantis said there was food enough for all to share and no one was to ever try to keep food to one’s self again, even if they thought it would ultimately help others. He told Boetie that the only reason he, Mantis, had helped Boetie to recover was because he knew Boetie was trying to help and that neither he nor the pack had the knowledge of what to do in times of need. He told Boetie and Jaapie that this would serve to warn others in the future. He then spread his gossamer wings and flew away.
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by Elizabeth Akers, © 1998-always
Reprint with permission.
Breed Profile submitted by Ridgie mom