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Home > Pet News and Articles > Nuisance, A National Icon

Nuisance, A National Icon
Article By: Glenn Redmond

A lady called me recently inquiring about dog training. She had a long list of complaints about her furry friend, which came to a head during a 30 minute chase around the neighborhood after the dog had bolted through the front door when dinner, in the form of a pizza, had arrived. The frustrated voice on the other end of the phone summed it all up by saying, "He is just a nuisance, that's all."

Her words brought me back to a time, almost a decade ago. I had recently started dating Tasha and my dog Dakota, who was 2 at the time, still had issues. Tasha and I had tons in common and enjoyed each other's company immensely. The one sore spot in our relationship was our views on dog training. Tasha viewed Dakota as a 100lb cuddle toy and was overly permissive in allowing him to get away with murder, or at least behavior that I deemed inappropriate. I had come such a long way in his training and could not swallow any setbacks from the "anti-trainer," as Tasha was now affectionately known.

Six months into the relationship, Tasha went to South Africa for 2 weeks on business. I knew that I would certainly miss her, but secretly viewed her time away as an opportunity to gain control over the situation.

14 days later and after a thorough re-establishment of doggy etiquette, both Dakota and I were quite happy to pick Tash up at the airport. She had brought a gift back for me: a children's book about a dog in South Africa written by G.R. Stibbe. After I got over the feeling that this was somehow a comment on my intellect or a slight on my training views, I sat down to read a story that still amazes me to this day.

On April 1st, 1937, a Great Dane was born to parents of impressive pedigree. He was sold to Benjamin Chaney of Simons Town, South Africa who ran the United Services Institute, a popular watering hole for servicemen. Sailors of the Royal Navy were the most frequent inhabitants of the institute, and the dog was friendly to all who wore that uniform. He would follow the sailors all over Simons Town and even onto the ships, often lying on the gangway of the ship, not moving for anybody and forcing sailors to work around him. He would follow sailors onto the trains and pretty soon began boarding them on his own. The massive canine would take up 3 seats and the railway conductors had an extremely difficult time trying to remove him. Even if they managed to get him off the train, he would sit and wait for the next one. These antics and many more acquired him the name of "Nuisance" as sailors and railway workers could often be heard saying, "You nuisance, why don't you move?"

As time went on, Nuisance, despite his shortcomings, became a hit with all of the sailors and visitors to the town. One day, he put his large paws on the shoulders of a persistent conductor who was trying to remove him from a train and growled in his face. This prompted talk among the rail workers of having Nuisance put down. The talk resulted in an outcry from many townspeople and sailors. Letters poured into the commander and chief of the Navy, forcing him to do something never done before. He enlisted Nuisance into the Royal Navy, complete with medical examination and documentation all signed with a paw print. This meant that the dog now had every right to be on any train and could ride for free.

Nuisance was given his own bed in the barracks on which he would lie outstretched with his head on a pillow. It was the duty of one of the seamen to ensure the dog was showered, brushed and wearing his hat to official functions. During his off-time, he would visit many of the local bars and was always welcomed with pies and beers. Nuisance would often escort sailors who had a bit too much of the grog safely back to their bunks. On more than one occasion, Nuisance himself was observed to be a little unsteady on his feet. A memo was issued to all bars and hotels asking them not to allow sailors to buy the canine more than six quarts of beer.

South Africa became involved in World War II during this time. In an effort to raise money for the war, a marriage was arranged between Nuisance and another top of the line Dane. Two puppies were born from this union, a boy named Victor and a girl, Wilhelmina. When the pups were old enough, both parents and offspring were brought to Cape Town. A massive reception was organized with members of the public greeting them upon arrival. The crowd cheered and waved flags as Nuisance and his bride arrived riding in the back of the mayoral limousine.

In 1944, Nuisance was treated for poor health and after becoming very ill, was put to sleep on his birthday. The next morning, able seamen "Just Nuisance" was buried with full naval honors, as more than 100 officers mourned the loss. A statue was erected in his memory, looking over the waters of Cape Town and many tourists visit his grave site to this day.

So if you feel your dog's behavior is bad enough to carry the label nuisance, please remember a nuisance that captured the hearts of an entire culture.

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