Barkless Does Not Mean Mute!


I wrote this piece after getting to know my own Basenji dog for three and a half years. Unfortunately, this past week, on Memorial Day, my beloved basenji girl’s life was cut short due to advanced, end-stage liver disease. In her brief life, Xena put a smile on the faces of everyone she met, including non-dog lovers! She had a gentleness and charm about her that put people at ease and she stole their hearts. To anyone who has ever loved and lost a dog, I am so sorry and my heart goes outr to you. This is a tribute to the Basenji breed and especially my beloved, Xena, who will never be forgotten.


In so many stereotypical American dreams, a family consists of a mother, father, two kids, a dog and a house with a white picket fence. Living in New York City changes perceptions of what it means to achieve the American dream. Small studio apartments in prime locations easily trump the desire to have that white picket fence, but for many people, including me, the dream includes having a dog in the family no matter where the residence may be. I believe that I may have discovered the perfect breed of dog for both types of lifestyles…the Basenji.


The Basenji is a small (under 25 pounds) dog with large, pointed ears, a wrinkled forehead and a tightly curled tail. This breed is especially known for its inability to bark. While the Basenji may not bark in the traditional sense, they can produce a range of sounds from a whine to a single bark to a yodel or baroo, which sounds like a very unique howl.


As far as apartment living is concerned, the Basenji is very adaptable. They can be perfectly happy with three walks a day or being involved in running events such as lure coursing. Xena, my Basenji, is happiest when she is running up and down the hallway of our building or snuggling under a blanket and keeping warm. She is extraordinarily quiet and occasionally makes a little roo sound after she yawns. She has emitted a high pitched growl at another dog a handful of times, but other than that she is silent and pensive. She loves to meet new people, especially children and is very friendly to most dogs she meets. She is wonderfully behaved in the Vet’s office too. She will stand quietly while being examined and even when being given a shot.

The Basenji is notorious for being willful and stubborn, especially when it comes to obedience training. Xena failed out of puppy obedience school, and since then, she learned to sit and shake. She usually comes when she is called, and I have let her off the leash before in large wide-open spaces, but I’m careful to always know our surroundings before I do that. Basenjis are very curious dogs and are not aware of the dangers of cars or roads. In city situations, they always need to be on a leash. If you have your Basenji is a fenced yard, try to avoid chain-link fences, as Basenjis are adept climbers.


Xena has some other amusing habits which are characteristic of the Basenji breed. She is fastidious about keeping herself clean, and washes herself like a cat. She sheds very little. She also loves to climb on the backs of furniture and settle herself in the most precarious positions on top of couch cushions. Sunny days are her favorite, and she will search out any little patch of light in which to sunbathe. One thing that Xena absolutely cannot stand are rainy days or watery conditions. She hates to get wet!


Basenjis are beautiful dogs which can come in a variety of colors but they always must always have white on their legs, chest and the tip if their tail. Xena is brindle and white, but other acceptable color combinations are black and white, tricolor, and brown(red) and white. The Basenji is an ancient breed and one if the ways this manifests itself is that Basenjis only have one heat cycle per year, while most other breeds have two. Incidentally, the Basenji closely resembles two other ancient breeds, the Pharoah Hound and Ibizan Hound.


The Basenji is a lovely, willful little dog which has an endless supply of love to give and antics to make her human companions laugh. Xena has made my life and my husband’s life so much richer and full of love. Should you decide to allow a Basenji into your life, you will be rewarded by the company and adoration of a loving friend for the life of your dog.


“A dog wags its tail with its heart.”


“Please allow me to be the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”