In 1994 our little family moved from Cape Town to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was difficult leaving friends and family to go to a place 1500km from home. To help settle our 10 year old daughter we got a beautiful dog from the local SPCA and because of her golden coat, called her Fudge! Some months later we took over the care of a large Boerbul called Chester, but he proved a handful and we had to give him to someone with lots of space!
But we decided Fudge still needed a friend and once more at the Howick SPCA (now uMgeni SPCA) we found Tess. She appeared to be an Alsation-cross, and although she'd obviously had a bad start to life, was the gentlest dog we have ever known. She settled in well with Fudge and they had many hours of fun together.
In 2001 we moved home again; this time 500km north. Seven hours drive in one station wagon with two children, two dogs, two cats and Mum & Dad! If Tess could have written the story of her life with us, her time in Klerksdorp may have been the most adventurous in a scary kind of way!
In the two-and-a-half years we were there we had about five burglaries or burglary attempts! One night, when my hubby was away on business, I woke up to Tess barking. It was 12.15am and unusually she was lying down on the cement in the back yard uttering single gruff barks, but no frantic jumping or running around at all. Poor Tess was so petrified she couldn’t move. From the window I could see two men, dressed in black, standing up against a white wall, under a full moon – they stood out beautifully! Maybe Tess’s frightened barks didn’t scare them away but my manic screaming at them sure did!
Just a few months before returning to Howick, Fudge contracted cancer of the jaw and knowing that very soon it would affect her ability to eat, we put her to sleep. Tess was on her own for the first time in our home, so we found her a friend in Tigara, a golden Labrador x Rottweiler puppy. Patient Tess could take most of the new puppy's exuberant ways but Tigara hanging on to her tail while she ran around the garden was not what Tess had in mind and revenge came to Tigara, who lived with a little kink in her tail from that day on!
Back in Howick we rented a home with a large garden, sloping down to a wetland valley and we had a lovely view up a green pastured farm hill (now developed with houses.) The fence around the entire property was a simple wire fence and when someone walked down the road past our gate, Tess would fly around the entire perimeter of the property a couple of times, leaping over obstacles and storming through undergrowth, branches and trees! Even with a medical (Elizabethan) cone around her neck she would still tear around the garden … and usually the cone would be found in the ivy or under a tree somewhere! We heard via the grapevine that because of this manic chase she was thought of as a vicious dog; as long as that’s what the criminals thought, that’s fine!
But Tess was a gentle dog. She would sit next to us under our hand and slowly slide to the ground enjoying a loving pat and rub, until she realised our hand didn’t reach anymore and then she’d sit up and do it all again! She was a medium size dog; her head was about two-foot from the ground, but when she jumped up at us there was absolutely no need to be afraid she’d knock us over! She would jump and almost stop in mid-air before her front paws landed like a feather on our chest; such a gentle soul!
Unlike her Lab/Rottweiler buddy, meal times were taken at a leisurely pace! One crumble at a time, savoured, chewed and enjoyed! And in the few Shaggy Dog Shows we entered her, she did us proud with at least two certificates, one for Best Ex-SPCA Dog! We just needed to point if we needed her to go out of the room, and at meal times just to stand, without a word, and she would sit politely!
In December 2006 with our eldest two children independent, the remaining three of us emigrated to the UK. Once again it was moving from a home with friends and family to the unknown. There was no way we could take two dogs and two cats with us. So Nicole took the two cats, a church friend took Tigara to their farm, and Purdon, a very special friend in Howick, took Tess to live with him and his family of two or three dogs. She still had a large garden and a perimeter fence to hare around and she was loved and spoilt with Purdon’s other dogs for the next five and half years!
Today I received a letter from Purdon to say that at the age of 15 years, Tess collapsed one Friday in July as if she’d had a stroke. She was unable to stand or walk. By the Monday she only followed him with her eyes. The vet went to the house, and she slipped away in her own home to no more aches or pains.