My Besenji: The Dog Who Was A Cat

March 17, 2017 | We Recall | Story by Tara Renner
I’ve never lived without a dog, usually with multiples of dogs. Living in a home without a dog is a state of existence I couldn’t really even contemplate. When I finally (more or less) entered adulthood, and became engaged to my fiancée, we made the decision to continue living with our parents for a while. This was not because we were old fashioned, but cheap. We would stockpile some cash until we could afford to move out. I couldn’t wait to pick out our first dog together.

Unexpectedly one day, I came across a curious puppy. Perky ears and a shiny coat with tan markings first caught my eye. Bright, inquisitive eyes followed me everywhere. But the cutest thing about her was a tightly curled tail perched on her back like a tiny croissant. I just had to have this dog. She came along with me into marriage.

If you don’t know basenjis, they are a unique breed. A barkless hound imported to the U.S. in the 1920’s, they date back to the time of the Pharaohs. They are not for the faint of heart.

Savanna and I soon became locked in a battle of wills. I said she would potty outside; she decided that would only happen if the weather was acceptable, and if she was in the mood. I said the furniture was not a dog’s chew toy. She chose to differ. The funny thing about a basenji: they do not behave much like a dog. When scolded, Vanna did not cower, lower her ears and tail, or make a sad doggy face. She stared you in the eye. She was cocky and often walked away in the middle of being reprimanded. Sometimes I worried the neighbors could hear my demonic screeches when I accidentally left the window open during a dog vs. furious owner confrontation.

“Sometimes I worried the neighbors could hear my demonic screeches when I accidentally left the window open during a dog vs. furious owner confrontation.”

And yet she could totally crack us up. When being introduced to strangers, Vanna would hop in their laps, push her nose to theirs, and stare them down. It was disconcerting to our guests, but we giggled. As neurotic as she was, we finally realized she just needed someone to boss around. After we had Savanna for about a year, I happened upon a stray puppy in a not-so-nice neighborhood (where I was stationed for my job), and brought her home. This worked magic on Vanna. Now she had a minion of her own, and she was content to leave the stuffing inside the couch.

She was also a quiet, clean and graceful dog. She didn’t like to cuddle much, but she did love us in her haughty, silly, stubborn way. And we loved that tough little croissant-butt dog. I still miss my crazy basenji, she of the wall-eye and the bad attitude. I know she’s waiting for me, with all my other good dogs, on the other side.

Photo credit fugzu via

Tara is currently writing an article about her rescue dog Willow, soon to be published in a compilation of stories about rescued animals. She is the mom of many rescued animals, and foster mom of several others, and also two lovely human boys. She holds a B.S. degree in biology and resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

If you enjoyed this post, you should read “Gizelle’s Bucket List” here.

Do you have a similar story to Tara? Do you have any experience with a besenji? Share below!

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