I have a friend that has a dog that doesn't bark. Little did I know the impact those words would have on me.
I have always loved animals, especially dogs -- so much, in fact that I even had visions of becoming a veterinarian someday. Oh well, so much for visions!
I met my husband, Paul, in the fall of 1972. At the time we both worked for Pacific Bell, and each of us had a pet dog. We soon became one household. All my family dogs were from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Animals. I had never heard of a Basenji or even been to a dog show. Well, that all changed after meeting Paul's friend with the "barkless dog." I was hooked! My first introduction to basenjis also included the dire statement that they couldn't be trained. Well, That sounded like a challenge if I ever heard one! I told my husband I would put his name in history -- I just didn't tell him it would be backwards!
I celebrated Valentine's Day 1974 by purchasing a 10-week-old male basenji puppy for my future husband. We named the puppy Taj (a.k.a. Rujak's Golden Ajmal), and raised him like any "normal" dog. Meaning he enjoyed the many freedoms typical of other breeds but not normally advised for basenjis. For example, he went camping off lead with us and Nellie, our goat. Much to his credit we can proudly say that Taj never ran off.
Paul's boss at the time was a friend of Della Biggs (Pero Basenjis). He introduced us, and Della not only invited me but also accompanied me to my first dog show in August of 1974. At the time, Della's beautiful little red and white basenji girl Charm (Ch. Pero's Precious Charm) was being campaigned. Novice though I was, I was smart enough to look around that show ring and realize that my beloved Taj was not show quality. Even though he wouldn't have done well in the conformation ring, I am proud to say that I went on to put a CD on him!
In 1979, I was offered a little bitch out of Charm's sister Classy (Ch. Pero's Classy Chassis). The Pero basenjis greatly appealed to me, for I liked their little ears, and good tail sets, and toplines. Classy was bred to BIS/BISS Ch. Pero's Kruggerand, and together they produced my little girl Pepper (Ch. Pero's Cayenne of N'Gi).
For those of you that don't know me, I was at that time somewhat shy and very self-conscious. That being the case, I decided to hire a handler to show Pepper. After ten shows, she had acquired only one point and one reserve. The handler told me to take Pepper home and make a nice pet out of her. While that news might have been extremely disappointing to some, I was born under the sign of Taurus the Bull (maybe that's where my stubbornness comes from), and I was somewhat competitive. Heck, I used to ride horses in gymkhana! So I told this handler, "Well, I'll give it a try! I feel I have about ten years to learn with her." Even though it took me three years of local shows, I finished Pepper myself. In that three year period, I met many great people, one of them being Russell Henderen of Asari Basenjis. He was one of my mentors and taught me a lot about movement, which I feel is one of the most important traits of the breed. Type is next on my list, but if its a basenji that can't move properly, I don't care how pretty it is.
I bred Pepper three times. The second breeding was to Ch. Asari's Envoy. I watched Envoy move at a show one day, with lovely open side gait and a good topline, and I decided that was how I wanted my dogs to look when they moved. Pepper and Envoy produced my top winning BIS/MBISS Ch. Arubmec's The Victor. Victor went on to win 26 group 1s (20 of these breeder/owner handled), one BIS, six BISS, and the 1986 Basenji Club of America, handled by Mike Work. Victor's BIS win was a thrill I'll never forget. He made history as the first basenji to go BIS in California, plus he was breeder-owner handled.
One funny story I remember about Victor is that I sent advertising copy to a superintendent for an ad in a specialty catalog. The ad was supposed to read, "Like fine wine and gourmet cheese, he only gets better with age." Apparently, someone couldn't read my writing, and the ad was printed slightly different -- "Like fine wine and nut cheese, he only gets better with age." From then on, Victor was shown as the "nut cheese" dog. Victor lived to be almost 16. In his lifetime, Victor produced 47 champions and was a great dog to live with. In fact, he produced many a great dog, including MBIS/MBISS Ch. Sonbar's Celestial Wizard (Bravo). Bravo had that beautiful side gait that Victor was known for, and he passed it along to many of his offspring.
I must take a moment to thank Victor's mother, Pepper, for passing on her great tail set, topline, and little ears. Pepper lived to the age of twelve and was another easy dog to live with. I am forever fortunate to have a foundation bitch with such good health. Breeding is such a big gamble, and in many cases you rely a lot on pure luck.
I bred Victor to his litter sister, Ch. Arubmec's Mandy. They produced Ch. Arubmec's Thika and Ch. Arubmec's Precious Thisbe. I specialed Thisbe in 1990, and she was also a group winner. Thika was my keeper, and I bred her to Ch. Djakomba's Spotlight, owned by Doris Daniels. Spotlight reminded me alot of Victor. Thika and Spotlight produced Ch. Arubmec's Liberty Lady (Libby), a pretty dark eyed litle basenji girl that I bred back to Victor. Libby and Victor produced Ch. Arubmec's Jon-Luke.
Luke is a great-moving little dog that has consistently produced very typey, sound dogs with some of the best temperaments I have ever seen. Libby past away 5-04 at the age of 15, and her son Luke died on 1/05 at the age of 14. Both died of old age.
I also bred Thisbe to Spotlight and together they produced Ch. Arubmec's Intruder (Trudi) and MBISS Ch. Arubmec's Roadrunner a.k.a. Wiley the Wild Man. Out of all my basenjis, Wiley was probably the most fun dog to move, for I enjoyed his big, open side gait. Wiley now lives with my dear friend Bill Reeves in Dallas, Texas. Bill continually asks, "Will he ever settle down?" Even at age eleven, Wiley remains quite the wild man!
Trudi was bred to a Victor son, Ch. Jato James T. They produced a nice litter, including Ch. Arubmec's Solitary Man (owned by Erin and Collin Gray), who won Best in Sweeps Veteran this past summer at a specialty show. His sister, Ch. Arubmec's Autumn Serenade (Sara), is owned by Rae Johns and Kelly Collins and was finished by Kelly herself. Rae and Kelly have been great friends and wonderful support at many shows, in addition to having been a great asset to my breeding program. (As a rule, when I sell a show bitch I require one pick puppy back so I don't lose my breeding stock). We bred Sara back to Luke and my puppy back was my very pretty Ch. Arubmec's Autumn Mist (Misti). Misti is very tightly line bred (something I fully believe in). She is a multiple group winning and a Award of Merit winner at the 2000 Westminster dog show. I was so pleased with this breeding that I asked to lease Sara and repeated the breeding two more times. The second breeding produced Am./Jap. FCI Ch. Arubmec's Play it Again (Sammi). He was sold to a fancier in Japan and has achieved #4 all-breed and ten BIS wins in Japan in only eight months of showing. The third breeding produced BISS Ch. Arubmec's Encore, SC (Cori), who was a multiple group winner before reaching two years of age, and finished #5 basenji his first year as a special, having only been shown for eight months.
Knowing I had to improve in some areas, I out-crossed Misti to BISS Ch. Sukari-Jasiri's Parker Stevenson. I felt this dog could help improve my coats and rear angles. These two basenjis produced Ch. Arubmec's Ronni (a.k.a. Bud), who won the BBE class at the *2000 BCOA National Specialty out of an entry of 24. Also, at that same National, Luke's kids did quite well, winning red/white puppy bitch class with Ch. Arubmec's Tisa Idaho Jewel, owned by Fred and Joyce Hughes. Fred and Joyce are very special friends to me. We've enjoyed great times at shows and have shared many, many laughs. Without their help and support, I don't know how I would have made it in the ring at some shows! Luke's daughter, Multiple group-winning Ch. Explicit Habit Forming (Tinky) -- bred and owned by Bill Reeves, won BOS at this national.
I now have my latest Victor great-grandchildren, who I hope will turnout as nice as their ancestors. My latest special Ch. Arubmec's Sweet Spot, JC , is out of Misti and MBISS AM/CAN Ch. Nyanga Signet Sweet William, JC, bred and owned by Brenda Cassell. He has a nice coat and good rear angles I was striving to get, and he is already a multiple group winning at 16 months of age.
Whenever I bring out a new basenji, I set the goal to at least try to get that basenji in the Top 10. My other long-term goal is to continue producing healthy, sound, good-tempered dogs. On health issues, again I feel I've been very lucky to have been able to start with a nice healthy foundation bitch, and I still continue to line breed on her. After 42 years in the breed, I believe it is working. To the best of my knowledge, I've had only three cases of Fanconi and have three generations of basenjis with excellent hips. My hope is that in the future, DNA marker will be found to identify and eventually help eliminate all the problems that currently plague our fascinating breed.
In closing, I would like to thank everyone who has shown interest in my dogs by breeding to or purchasing them, and to all the judges who have recognized the good qualities these dogs possess. I also cannot forget all the friends who are too numerous to name -- I apologize to those of you whom I forgot to mention!
Pat Cembura --The Basenji June 2002