My dog died. I was told the only way to alleviate the searing pain of a
loss of that magnitude is to get another dog. It sounded reasonable
enough so I started investigating what kind of dog would be a good fit
for my lifestyle. I wanted one that didn’t shed a lot as the last one
was basically a mop and her hair would find its way into even my Fruit
Loops. I was doing a lot of hiking so I wanted a dog that was sleek and
could keep up. Also, I wanted an interesting breed that would spark
conversation.

After some investigation I found a rare breed that fell within my wide
parameters and seemed to be a natural fit…a Basenji. A Basenji is one
of the oldest breeds on Earth. They were kept by the Pharoahs of
Egypt and were known as skillful hunters. With a greyhound like
build, long snout, alert disposition, short hair and an abundance of
energy, I thought I could not have built a better fit! They also donâ
€™t bark. They are known as the "Barkless Wonders." They aren’t
silent, they have a distinctive yodel that always make you smile and
their wrinkled forehead lets you know they are always thinking. No,
not thinking, the word I need to use here is "scheming."

I went to a breeder an hour outside of town to choose from a litter of
Basenjis. A spunky crowd of eight Basenjis frolicked within a pen on a
farm in the high desert. Most were tri-colored; red, white & brown,
they call this coloring "brindle." But there was one that was black-
white. She was the only female of the litter and obviously the runt.
She seemed a little aloof compared to the rest of her siblings and not
real interested in what I was thinking…I chose her. She bit me on the
way home.

I decided to name her "Layla." Layla was an Egyptian name that
means "Born at Night," which I was told she was. I also was an Eric
Clapton fan and his smash hit always touched me. It seemed a natural
fit.

There was no house breaking horror stories with Layla. She would
never go "potty" inside her house. She was as neat as a cat. Licking her
self clean like a cat and quiet like a cat. This was not the only
attributes that she shared with the feline persuasion. This dog could
jump like a cat too! Nothing was safe on the kitchen counters.
Sandwiches, steaks, loaves of bread, anything with plastic on it, edible
or not, was a target. After a few nights of forced hunger, because Layla
had eaten my dinner, I learned to put everything in or on top of the
fridge. After bringing home a prized muffin, I watched as she eyed it
up. I laughed at her and put it on top of the fridge while I did some
laundry. I returned to the horror of seeing Layla trying to choke down
the whole muffin, paper and all in one bite! I chased her around the
house like a headhunter with a bone in my nose! It was futile. Basenjis
run like a greyhound. They actually race these dogs and there was no
way I was catching her until she let me. That muffin was toast. She
had taught herself a new trick. She could now jump on the counter
and then jump on top of the refrigerator. These were the first inklings
of the mayhem that would lie ahead.

Like I said, Basenjis rarely, if ever, bark. So you would not think it
much of guard dog, but not Layla. If someone or something came
near the house all hell broke loose. She would dart around the house
at light speed while whining like a siren then launch herself into the
surprisingly thick plate glass window. People began walking across the
street. Layla wasn’t all bad. She had her gentle qualities too. If you
were lounging around on the couch she would insist in curling up
with you, in her quieter moments, between your legs, and nap. Of
course, this would keep you from any amount of comfortability and
you would sleep as a pretzel to accommodate her. At bedtime she
always slept under your covers and Lord forbid if you touched her.

This dog soon proved much smarter than me. Layla was a heretic
genius. She used her genius for evil, sort of like Lex Luthor. She was
also Houdini. Every chance she got she would escape. I have a garage
attached house. If you didn’t ensure the garage door was down all
the way when you opened the entrance door, she would bolt and slide
under the door like Paul Blart Mall Cop as it was coming down. Before
I could utter, "What the…?!" she was off on a mad dash around the
neighborhood. I would next be running down the street in whatever
inappropriate garb I was wearing; a robe, my heart boxers, no shoes,
etc. After ten frenetic minutes and with the help of four of my
neighbors we would find her sitting on someone else’s porch,
looking as if she enjoyed my exasperated expression.

Now I know you are all thinking "Cesar Millan!" But Layla is now ten
years old and this was all before his "Dog Whisperer" show. I tried
taking her to an obedience class and she got an ‘F’ on her report
card. I sought out other Basenji owners for any insight on how I could
control her. One man told me: "Basenjis? Oh, they are great dogs! I
have three of them!" My incredulity made me slack-jawed. "Three of
them?!" "Yeah" he said, "They're untrainable you know…and they
live forever."

Layla grew to her full size of nineteen pounds. Not a big dog at all. So I
could pick her up like a football when I needed to extricate her from
the constant mayhem that she was involved in. I tried all of the usual
tricks to frighten her into submission; squirting her with a water
bottle, cans with coins in them, yelling, threatening, newspaper
swatting, rubber hoses, knives, guns, etc. None of these fazed her. So
now she does what she wants and she has me trained. The house is not
just baby proofed it is on lock down.

The garbage became a constant battle of wills with her. No matter
where I put it she gets it on the ground. After cleaning up coffee
grinds for the third time, I moved it to a cabinet under the sink. She
opened it. I put a baby latch on it. She opened it. I put a hook and
eyehole lock on it along with the baby latch. She was now opening it
quicker than I could. I now have a combination lock on it. She has
already figured out the first two numbers.

I have met other Basenjis. They are nice and fun to play with. So
Layla should not be indicative of the breed. Maybe it was being the
only black and white runt female of the litter that caused her
psychosis. Maybe it was me. My friends and neighbors always wonder
why I put up with such a dog. I even had one offer to drive by and
"accidently" hit her. But I look at it this way, I’m building karma.
A friend who works at a shelter commended me for putting up with all
the trials and tribulations. "Her words were, "Thank God there are
people like you to care for a dog like this. We’ve had to put down
dogs because they shed!" So that’s why I put up with it, karma. I
have enough karma now to build a house!

Maybe you reading this story and thinking, "Ah, she isn’t that
bad." You have no idea. This is only the introduction. I’ll continue
to chronicle my other adventures with Layla as I get time but right
now she is eating my couch!

LAYLA PASSED FROM THIS EARTH ON MARCH 26, 2014
MORE ABOUT LAYLA
LAYLA
THE LEX LUTHOR OF DOGS