The photograph is of the dog I had in Ivory Coast, West Africa in 1969. The
creature with the dog, blocking it, was our pet monkey who was very fond of the
At the time, I was a college student doing anthropology research and living
with four other American women. We decided to buy a dog as protection since our
small town had been plagued with a gang of burglars. In that particular area, dogs
are animals of no value at all; most live as scavengers, staying far away from peo-
ple and belonging to no one. Finding a dog, therefore, was somewhat of a problem.
We let word get out that we were looking,and within a few days, people began arr-
iving at our door with fat puppies of uncertain parent age. All of them were cute, of
course, but eventually we settled on a red and white flop-eared hound-like puppy
of about eight or nine weeks. We paid the equivalent of four dollars for her, a hil-
arious sum of money to pay for a useless dog, as our neighbors told us.
We named her TOULEPLEU after a nearby village, and self-confidently set out to be good dog owners. After
four weeks of struggling with TOULEPLEU in matters such as housebreaking, refraining from vomiting after
every meal, and other assorted dog behaviors, I began to give up (I was the one who spent time with her - the
other girls lost interest when they found she never paid the slightest attention to anything a person said). She
never, by the way, was housebroken, and therefore spent her nights in the woodshed with the monkey. She
wandered and made friends during the day, eating anything she could find and came into the house whenever
she was tired or too hot. Then suddenly, one day, her ears stood up and that long tail began to curl over her
back. I was puzzled by her new appearance and spent a lot of time wondering what it was she reminded me of. It
came to me finally that she looked exactly like a photograph of a Basenji I had seen once with the Pygmies in the
Since I don't know of anyone who breeds actual purebred dogs in that part of Africa (a farming economy
that hasn't much use for hunting dogs), I can't imagine where she came from. TOULEPLEU did bark, using it as a
threat or warning (she was an excellent watchdog and defended our house and yard strongly, even as a three-
month-old pup), but in every other quality was as much a Basenji as any pedigreed show dog , I have ever seen.
She was mule-headed, regarded people as pleasant morons who exist to serve dogs, and like my two present
Basenjis, totally disobeyed me unless I was foaming at the mouth with fury.
There are two brief stories about her that I'd like to tell you: they are reasons I decided to get Basenjis when
I wanted a dog years later. When she was three months old, still clumsy and rather chubby, a burglar apparently
entered our house during broad daylight and stole a purse belonging to one of the girls. The purse was a large
straw bag and contained her passport, her plane ticket home to the United States, with traveller's checks, Ameri-
can money, and Ivorien money, as well as her immunization booklet (a record of all the medical things she'd had
done for the tropics). We all had hysterics, fell into gloom at the thought of trying to replace them while living
out in the bush country. We decided, on the chance the thief had thrown away all the things he couldn't use
(everything except the Ivorien money, in fact), to search the surrounding rice fields and bushes. Along with do-
zens of neighbors, we searched for hours and found nothing. Little TOULEPLEU had been waddling along after
whoever took her interest at the moment, but when we met back on our front porch, she was nowhere in sight.
We called and called but no TOULEPLEU. Suddenly I saw her coming slowly around the corner of the house
dragging something. Little useless TOULEPLEU, untrainable, and all ten pounds of her, was dragging home the
stolen purse, which was quite a bit bigger than she was. It remains a mystery to me to this day where she found
it, why she even paid attention to it, and why she went to considerable effort to haul it home. (It did contain ev-
erything except the Ivorien money, as we had predicted).
The second story is about the time TOULEPLEU was stolen from us. While dogs had no value, as I said,
someone apparently thought they could hold her for ransom - or perhaps someone simply took a strong liking to
her since she was so much more attractive than the average village dog. She vanished at any rate, and for three
days while we asked questions and sent children out to look for her, no one saw hide nor hair of her. We check-
ed the sides of the roads for a body, asked every child in the neighborhood, looked everywhere. Three days after
she vanished, she returned. Around her neck a heavy rope had been chewed through. We never knew who had
taken her, but didn't worry overly about her being stolen again since she had demonstrated that she was perfect-
ly capable of escaping on her own.
TOULEPLEU was a wonderful dog. We left her with the Peace Corps teachers in town, much as we wanted
to bring her back, since taking a tropical dog used to running loose back to a college town in Minnesota where
she would have to be leashed seemed more than cruel. The teachers wrote a year later to say she had in her in-
dependent way, moved by herself to a village and settled into being a mother on her own there. She always in-
sisted on choosing what she wanted to do herself, but never failed to defend our house, attack rats, protect the
monkey from other dogs, and keep track of our belongings.
My two Basenjis now - OOLAA and PANKA have lived up to TOULEPLEU'S reputation in almost every
way except they attack mice instead of rats, and protect my parrots instead of a monkey. (And they also vomit at
the drop of a hat - however, I have managed to housebreak these two). They are also independent, appear con-
vinced I'm a harmless fool, and rarely listen to me.
The picture is the only one I have of TOULEPLEU - I wish it were better. I am curious about whether Basenji
breeders feel she is one, or what she is, if not a Basenji. In the photograph, her tail looks straight, it only uncurl-
ed when she laid down and relaxed, but was quite curly otherwise.