You cannot live out of town and out of sight of your neighbours unless you have dogs, at least not in our neighbourhood. Our closest neighbours each have five or six. Two older ladies who live some distance away have twenty-four and a man whose place is quite close has seventy-two. He says he never wanted that many, but he keeps taking in dogs dumped by some kind city people when they go on holiday. He is a good man, but his bill for dog food must be high.

Your dogs wake you when unwelcome people arrive in the depth of the night to steal or worse, they also kick up all hell if a puff adder tries to slip in through an open door. These are very valuable activities, but they also do less useful things like killing innocent creatures, such as lizards, hedgehogs, nestlings and field mice.

By local standards our pack is very small. We have only two, but at one time we had three. The oldest, Astro, looked more Corgi than any other breed. He was always impeccably well behaved, never fighting with the others, never stealing food off the kitchen table or taking part in any such transgression. Next was Chloé, whose parents were the unlikely pairing of a poodle and a pit bull. She was very loving to her humans but a killer of any smaller creature who chanced to cross her path. The aristocrat of the family was the youngest. Her name was Darling and she was the most gorgeous pure white German Shepherd. To see her running through the trees in front of the house, a flashing white coat in the patches of sunlight and shadow, was an unmitigated delight. And no more loving animal ever walked the earth.

It was while the three of them made up the four-legged element of our family that Tramp turned up. He came down the track in the beesplaas, the cattle farm. Standing on the track he looked into our place and decided this was the place and we were the family for him. A wind was blowing and an hour later he had found his way under the fence and he was among us, seemingly blown in on the wind.

He settled in fast, but we struggled to settle in with him. A day after he arrived he ran off, taking our three dogs with him. We managed to round them up and bring them home, including the fourth, Tramp. But keeping him in one place was impossible. Tramp had learnt to travel, hunt and scavenge to survive. His influence on the other dogs seemed to be irresistible. After a while we gave up chasing the dogs through the bushveld and took to waiting for them to come home. Tramp was teaching our civilised, well-behaved, home-bound dogs the ways of the wild rover and we were not happy.

A Free Spirit Arrives on the Wind
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