Throughout history, my canine ancestors have protected, served and loved their human owners. If you are kind to us, our love knows no bounds. We will even risk our lives for you. Grey Friars Bobbie is a perfect example of how faithful a dog can be. He was a Skye terrier who lived in Edinburgh in the 19th century and when his master died, he slept on his grave for 14 years, refusing to leave until he too passed away. A modern day example of doggie devotion is Tinkerbell the chihuahua. She lives in a pink kennel, complete with chandelier, in Beverly Hills and loves her owner, Paris, despite having to wear ridiculous, horribly uncomfortable, fuchsia outfits.
Yesterday I went to Simon’s Town, Cape Town’s coastal suburb where Jimmy and his troop live, but this time it was not to see the baboons. I went to learn more about a much loved South African dog called Just Nuisance, who lived there during World War II. He was a pedigree Great Dane and a great friend to all of Simon’s Town’s residents and the sailors landing in it’s Naval port. An unwitting comedian, Just Nuisance, helped sailors, who had been subjected to the horrors of war and were missing home and their families terribly, to forget their worries for a little while and laugh again. Furthermore, he provided tonnes of much needed love. That’s essentially what we dogs are – pure love.
There is a life size statue of Just Nuisance in Simon’s Town. Let’s just say I wouldn’t steal a stick from him! However, what was truly extraordinary about this canine was not his size, but the fact that he was the only dog ever to have been officially enlisted in the Royal Navy. This came about because Just Nuisance made it his business to look after all of the seamen who berthed in Simon’s Town. He would climb aboard moored boats and lie on the gangplanks, always getting in the way, which led to him being affectionately known as ‘Nuisance’. I also have an uncanny knack of getting under my mum and dad’s feet; it must be a dog thing.
When the sailors were given leave to go ashore, they would take the opportunity to hop on a train for Cape Town which is around 22 miles away. Just Nuisance would go too, boarding the train completely unattended. Dogs were not allowed to travel on the train and if a conductor found Just Nuisance, he would be thrown off at the next station, even if his fellow passengers kindly offered to pay his fare. This did not bother Just Nuisance though, he knew the score and would either wait to get on the next train or walk to another station.
Sailors were amused to note that Just Nuisance preferred the first class carriages. Much more comfortable and accommodating for his long limbs. If there were no seats available, Just Nuisance would decide upon a row and using his big strong head, he would push all of the occupants off their seat and onto the floor! I don’t think that I would get away with something like this, but luckily in Nuisance’s case, nobody minded too much. The sailors in particular thought that it was hilarious when Just Nuisance would calmly climb up onto his stolen seat and stretch out luxuriously to his full length.
Once in Cape Town, Just Nuisance would join the sailors at the pub for his usual two pints of beer and listen to their drunken banter. Near closing time he made his way round all of the pubs, barking loudly at the sailors to let them know that it was time to get back on the last train for Simon’s Town. He would get very cross if any civilian dared disturb one of the sleeping sailors after a celebration in Cape Town. When the train arrived, Just Nuisance would walk through the carriages to make sure that nobody was left snoozing behind.
After many years of Just Nuisance illegally riding on the trains, the South African Railway officials threatened to have him put down if they caught him again. The horrified sailors pleaded with the Navy to intervene and they did! The Navy decided to officially enlist Just Nuisance as a member of the armed forces, which meant that he would receive the same benefits as any other sailor serving his country, including free rail travel. When his enlistment form was filled out on the 25th August 1939, his surname was entered as ‘Nuisance’, and not wanting to leave his Christian name blank, the sailors wrote “Just”.
Although Just Nuisance’s naval duties were all on shore, he almost went to sea once. Some smitten Aussie sailors smuggled the Great Dane onto a ship heading for Australia. The boat cleared False Bay and was just about to cast off its last tug, when Just Nuisance appeared on deck. The commander was furious and said that there was no way that Just Nuisance could stay. A sling was quickly improvised and poor Nuisance was unceremoniously hoisted over the side into a tug and returned to Simon’s Town. He really lived up to his name that day, even though it was not his fault.
Mum and Dad tell me all the time about how I have enriched their lives. Apparently dog owners are healthier and happier than those without a dog. Just Nuisance was not the best behaved sailor, often scrounging, losing his collar and sometimes even refusing to leave the pub at closing time, but he was certainly one of the most loving and loved in return. From the corgis at Buckingham Palace to the cattle herders of Australia, that’s the greatest achievement that a dog can ever hope for.
Love & Licks,