Remembering Miss Happy Fantastic
By Joanne Kalisz
I first met my beautiful brindle girl Happy, on August 9th 2000 when I picked her up from baggage claim at the T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I. I will never forget the expression on her face as they threw her crate down the cargo chute. She was absolutely terrified and has a paw in each corner of her crate to brace herself for whatever came next. Lucky for her it was a safe ride back to my apartment in Massachusetts where she quickly became the love of my life and my very best friend.
Happy came to me from Denver, CO as a BRAT rescue when she was over 8 years old. Over the past 10 years, Happy was the most wonderful and fantastic dog I have met (and probably will ever meet). That is how she got a “Fantastic” added onto her name because she was such a wonderful and fantastic creature. In her prime she was absolutely gorgeous with an adorable kind face with big round eyes on top of a curvy striped torso and long lean legs. We had been stopped on the street hundreds of times with people mesmerized by her beauty and form.
Happy Fantastic was a very quiet basenji. Actually, she was very “un-basenji-like”. Happy’s #1 goal in life was to please me – which is quite unusual for such an independent and strong-willed breed. I would joke about what she must have been thinking and I am certain all that went through her head was “Must please mom, must please mom” with an occasional “Cookie? Cookie? Where? Opps, not a cookie, that’s mom’s finger! Must please mom even harder now that I bit her finger!!!” Happy would pride herself on being “perfect” and she will give out nasty dirty looks to both dogs and humans who were rude or uncouth. Unlike most basenjis who just LOVE to chew and be destructive, Happy had only been destructive once (she gutted a fake fur ponytail holder). Yes, she attacked a few tissues, but in her defense those tissues were invading her territory and should not have been on the floor. Happy only yodeled twice and that was after she had returned home from having been hospitalized for a week with pancreatitis (even though I did visit her twice a day at the vets that was clearly not enough mommy contact). Happy was always VERY respectful and obedient towards me – I could leave a hot and steaming OPEN pizza box on the coffee table and tell her “That’s mommy’s pizza”. From those words alone Happy would understand that it was her job to guard mommy’s pizza and no one -including her- could have it. I could even go into the bathroom, shut the door, and return with the pizza untouched. Of course, this only holds true for mommy’s food, food belonging to other humans/dogs was fair game – because she was my dog and my dog only.
Being a basenji living in New England, Happy was always been cold. When I first got Happy, Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell had yet to become celebrities so finding dog clothes to fit a 32-pound basenji was nearly impossible. I started to make Happy her own designer clothes and that led to selling my dog collars and dog clothes as well as items for women and children at outdoor art markets in Vermont where I now live. Happy would always come with me to my outdoor art shows and all my customers knew her by name so I decided to name my art business after her, Happy Fantastic Designs.
Even though she was a female basenji, Happy was always kind to (or at least tolerant of) other dogs. She has only tried to attack a dog once and that was by far the funniest thing I had ever seen. We were at the dog park and I was using a can of E-Z Cheese to train her to go on the new agility equipment. Somehow, she got a big dollop of cheese stuck to her nose and a big, blundering, brute of a dog named Argo came up to her and casually licked the cheese off of her nose. Happy screamed and pounced on him -- going right for his throat. I was prepared for a nasty dogfight, but Argo just playfully flipped Happy and pinned her to the ground so her could continue to lick the cheese off of her face. Happy was peeved! She lay there hissing and spitting as this lowly mutt of a dog slobbered all over her stealing her precious cheese!!!
Happy Fantastic had always been a one-person dog. She only wanted to be with her mom and would “stalk” me from room to room. Even when her legs failed her she continued to obsessively stalk me with her eyes. Her obsessive devotion to me was trying at times as if I was sick Happy refuses care from anyone else and going away on vacation was out of the question. Happy would always refuse to listen to anyone except me and would refuse to walk when others tried to walk her and she refused to eat when others tried to feed her.
Happy would act as if she was not a dog but instead was some remarkable, extraordinary being. Happy was known to have “delusions of grandeur”. In her youth, Happy appeared convinced that she could both fly and move through material objects. This resulted in many small injuries to Miss Happy such as the bloody nose she got from trying to fly UP + OVER the garage stairs and head bumps from trying to run through my solid metal bed frame. According to Happy, she was never at fault for these injuries and would give a huff/snark and a dirty look to the object that purposely did it to her.
Over the years I learned a lot about Happy. I learned that her registered name was Jerlin’s Stained Glass (because of the beautiful v-shaped stripes down her back). I learned that she has almost 100 decedents including grandkids and great-grandkids some who are champion show dogs many of whom I am in contact with and all who agree that there is something extra special about the line of Jazzetta basenjis that are descendent from Miss Happy. In January of 2008 one of Happy’s granddaughters (Toni, now age 11) needed to be re-homed and I feel so blessed that her prior owners chose me to be her new mom.
It was really hard to watch Happy grow old. The last year of her life was especially difficult. Her vision and hearing began to fail and she would often have trouble finding me even when I was right next to her. She has had mysterious neurological problems that the vets can’t figure out (possibly small seizures). And she would have good days and bad days. On her good days she could respond to her name and some commands (if I said them loud enough) and she could walk 1/2 a mile (but even on a good day she would fall down 2-3 times). Our kind neighbor built her a ramp so she could go out in the back yard, which even in the cold and snow she still seemed to enjoy. Her bad days were the worst as she would get a glazed over look in her eyes and would have trouble walking. For the last year of her life she would wear a diaper indoors which has helped with her stress when she can’t get to the door in time.
On April 16th, 2010 I woke up and Happy was unable to stand at all. She spent the next 5 days unable to get out of her bed. By the 2nd day she was refusing even her most favorite foods and by the 4th day she was refusing water. And given that Miss Happy was over 18 years old I knew from the look in her eyes that dreaded day where she crossed the rainbow bridge was almost here. Those 5 days were very difficult but I am forever thankful for the supportive e-mails and phone calls from fellow basenji owners. On April 20th I had an at-home veterinary service to come to the house to evaluate Happy. The vet agreed that Happy’s body was failing her and it was only a matter of days before she would be gone. So I made the decision to have her put to sleep at home where she could be safe in my arms with her granddaughter Toni and her pal Calvin nearby.
Happy was a remarkable dog. She was kind, loyal, sensitive, obedient, and a wonderful companion. Since the day I brought her home, Miss Happy’s # 1 goal was to please her mom. In her younger years, I could definitely say that I could trust her with my life and that she would have given hers to protect me if the situation called for it. She was the most amazing dog and I will be forever thankful that she shared a portion of her life with me. I will always love you Miss Happy Fantastic and I will never, ever forget my little angel.