I, like most people, was saddened by the news of the death of Debbie Snashall. Then the news broke, on Facebook, about the fact that Tanzo and Misty were going to be euthanased. We were very aware of all the unpleasantness that went on about that. So you can imagine my surprise when I was contacted by Liz Hodgson (whom I’d met a couple of times on Bouvier days with our previous beloved Bouvier, Keira). She spoke to me about the possibility of our adopting Tanzo. Even while I was on the phone, my husband was saying to me, Yes! Well take him!
But….we have a cat….Tom…who is very much part of the family. Tom had been a half feral teenage cat who used to pop in for a quick meal. Then one day, he decided that actually, he wanted to live with us, moved in, tamed Keira and became a McDermott.
I chatted to Liz about this and she said that although Tanzo hadn’t lived with a cat, she was sure that he would adapt. (Liz later told me that she’d made enquiries and that, in fact, he had been known to chase cats!) And so the preparations began. My first call was to Thineke Momplé, who is an animal behaviourist in Paarl, that I know well and I trust her methods and advice. She said that with a lot of patience and time, it could work, but that if it didn’t, I should have a Plan B. Liz said she would be my backup Plan B! That she would take him if things didn’t work out between Tanzo and Tom.
So my next call was to our local SPCA to borrow a crate. I needed to have a safe space to put Tanzo when we couldnt supervise, especially at night. Fortunately, from his show days, Tanzo was used to being crated. This crate was huge! I had to rearrange and move furniture out of our lounge to fit it in, but thought that the lounge would be the best place for him to get used to us. When Tom was with us he would be safe. Tanzo would be able to watch Tom come and go and sit on my lap in the evenings etc. Importantly, with the rearrangement of the lounge, Tom also had a lot of safe places he could get to, should he need to escape from an excited Bouvier.
Eventually the day to collect him at the airport arrived. Liz had arranged everything! (She really has been amazing!) We were very excited except, the night before, I suddenly wondered, what will I do if Tanzo growls at me and other scary, silly thoughts like that! Well, I needn’t have worried. Tanzo is the sweetest, gentlest soul in the whole world. Liz took me to the airport to collect him. He obviously was extremely stressed when he arrived. Thineke was at the house waiting for us. I’m also so grateful to her. She stayed with us for about 2 hours, giving us lots of advice and helped us with the introduction of Tanzo and Tom. One of the main points was that Tanzo needed to be able to learn self control with regards to accepting Tom, that it shouldn’t be a forced discipline.
At first, when Tanzo got too excited in the crate, we would just lower a blanket so the he couldn’t see Tom. Once he’d settled, wed lift the blanket again. At no stage, ever, was there any shouting or scolding. We fed Tanzo lots of treats when Tom was around. If he got too excited when he was out of the crate, we would put him in it again, until he calmed down. Tom too, was contained at times during the day. He was closed in the bedroom where he slept, so that Tanzo was able to move around freely. In the beginning, we made sure that we always watched them when they were together. Then, one morning, I opened the door of the crate where Tanzo slept and went into the kitchen to make coffee. I came back into the lounge, and there was Tom, lying in the crate with Tanzo. What a breakthrough moment!
In the course of the next month, there were many more breakthrough moments. The time came when I was relaxed with the two of them being alone in the house, but Tom still got chased when he was outside. Fortunately, it was just a chase. No malice, just the chase.
And then, after about 2 months, I realised that there was peace in the land. Tom and Tanzo had become friends and family. The crate was returned to the SPCA. They both now have the run of the house, sleeping in our bedroom at night. In fact, Tom now often bosses Tanzo. For example, he’ll take over the spot where Tanzo is sleeping. After all, he is a cat! Looking back, I am amazed how quickly and smoothly their friendship and acceptance of one another took place. I know that Thineke’s advice and expertise is the reason. Calmness and positive reinforcement and consistency. Never any aggression, in any form, from us.
I have many other stories about Tanzo. When he arrived he was so stressed, overweight with dull eyes, and was pretty listless. The poor chap had been through a lot since Debbie’s passing. But now I’m amazed how quickly he settled in with us. (When I think back, I can’t believe that its only been 7 months. It feels as though he has always been here).
I remember things like the first time he barked. That was so exciting! His walks and rides in the car a daily highlight! How his self confidence has grown. And mainly just about what a wonderful addition he’s been to our family. He has brought us so much joy. I know that he is happy and settled. He has regained that boisterous love of life that all Bouviers possess. But THIS story is about Tanzo and Tom.
Finally, I really want to thank both Liz Hodgson and the Snashall family for entrusting this wonderful boy to us. We love him very dearly!
PS. You may not recognise him now. His show hair cut is long gone. He lives in hot Wellington, and runs in the open field with his dog friends on his walks, where there are grasses and all manner of prickles, so a long coat is just not practical.