Peter’s job tracking down and recording tsetse fly took him into the bush and local villages almost on a daily basis. One day, he returned from such a trip and entered the house holding a sleeping, very dirty, very thin, rib-protruding, pot-bellied, dark brown, huge-eared puppy. All the other dogs rallied round, sniffing curiously at this stranger. I took the pup and Peter pointed out the burns on his underside which had been caused by him sleeping on or near hot coals at the fire outside his previous owner’s hut, and which were covered in bits of charcoal and ash. I gave him a bath, put ointment on the burns and placed a dish of meat in front of him. Needless to say, he tucked in enthusiastically and could not stop eating, but by the time he had had his fill his little, shrunken belly had swollen up like a balloon. He then actually staggered away from the dish as if drunk, toppled over and instantly fell asleep. We named him Dingus. Over the weeks his physique improved greatly and he joined the other dogs in the back of the Landrover on the regular trips into the bush. Any sight of game such as kudu, zebra or impala would have him and the other dogs, quivering and yapping excitedly, wanting to chase but, of course, not being allowed to.
Although we had managed to acquire some furniture we had nothing on the floors but, luckily,we were able to buy a large, deep red carpet from friends who were about to leave Kariba. This we placed in the lounge and while we were standing back admiring it, and thinking how it improved the decor, Dingus came running in through the French doors straight onto the carpet. He bounded across a few paces but, then, stopped suddenly. We watched as he strangely began to lift each leg up in turn as if marching, ears back and tail between his legs. After doing this for a few seconds, he sped across the rest of the carpet , and straight out back to the garden. Laughing our heads off, we realised he was in shock at the strange feel of the material on his pads, something he had never experienced before.
We nearly lost him one day when Peter was out fishing at the edge of the Lake. Waiting patiently for something to take the bait, he suddenly heard yelping and turned to see Dingus being dragged into the water by a crocodile. Jumping up, he managed to grab Dingus’s legs before he was pulled under the water, and so began a tug of war between Peter and croc with Dingus screaming his head off all the while. After a real struggle at last the croc let go and swam off. Peter rushed back to the house. Poor Dingus was in a complete state of shock, head lolling, eyes rolling, and with some nasty gashes across his ribs and legs pouring blood. We dried him off, bathed the wounds and poured warm milk and whisky down his throat. He slept for 24 hours.