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Jenny Wells - a tribute

Jenny Wells

Quo Vadis

A tribute by her husband, Tony

The last thing on earth I thought I would be doing is writing this, to all you good folk across the World who knew Jen, but one thing I know, is that none of us should let Jenny’s legacy disappear. Through Jenny, a lot of us have created a Boerboel World where we help each other through times of stress and times of joy, that all these dogs give us. Jenny and I talked on many occasions about why these dogs are so special to us humans and we think it is because they interact with us in such a way, that they seem to see inside our souls. They certainly get into your heart, and all play a huge part in everyone’s lives. As we chose the right owners, we had the best of the best. All of you are special people which makes that wonderful combination. I am not a pack leader like Jenny was, to you all, but together we will be able to help each other in the years ahead with the breed’s development. One thing we have all learnt in the Boerboel world is Jenny’s law, uncompromising in the breeding of these dogs, their welfare, and the understanding of them with their unique qualities.

This breed is incredibly special and so was the person who championed them, and like all people who become experts in their field, Jen spend years and years finding out every detail of the breed’s history in her goal to breed the best. Compromise was not a word in Jenny’s vocabulary, when it came to breeding these dogs. Personalities, cost, and the ruffling of feathers, all went out the window when it came to doing the right thing. You might have wondered how Jen came back to you so quickly, either on the phone or by email. The answer is she was calling people back and answering their questions from 6.30 in the morning till 11.00 at night every day without fail. I used to have to book an appointment with her to discuss different things, unless it was dog related.

I hope you find the remainder interesting.

How did it all begin (Quo Vadis) “where do we go from here”?

Jenny and I had known each other for many years and through circumstances found ourselves together. Jenny through the breeding of Newfoundland for which she won Best in Breed at Crufts and me through having Rotties for many years.

South Africa came up because Jenny’s dad had told her about Cape Town from his travels and I had spent time in Rhodesia earlier in my life.
So, with bags packed, Josh, two dogs and a parrot, off we went into the big unknown from the UK.

The first time we came across a Boerboel was in a pet shop North of Durban. It looked like any other pup to me, but to Jenny it was something special, and how right she was. “Can we get it was the next question” from Jenny, and after stalling for two days, I reluctantly phoned the shop to see if it was still available? No came the reply. Huge sadness came over Jenny, but not to be out done, she scanned all the local rags and came up with a farmer some ten miles away in Stanger who had a litter. Well, I say a litter, they had one left. So, one very dark, wet Friday night we turned up at a typical Afrikaans farm, where out of the shadows came this huge Boerboel, we stayed in the car till we got the ok to get out. The owner came into the living room with a worm ridden, flee bitten, half starved, ball of skin. Under normal circumstances we would have got up and walked, but we felt so sorry for the little thing, he came home with us. Well, they say you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but how wrong they were with Bobby. Once we got rid of the worms, flees, ticks, and goodness knows what else, this fine light coloured Boerboel appeared, and grew and grew. It soon showed our Newfoundland and Rottie who was boss and bush whacked them at every opportunity in the garden. The Zulu’s ended up calling him White Death with good reason as he hated most people. I cannot remember the number of times he had the gardener over the fence with his teeth in her bottom, but she was a good sport and a box of chocolates helped mend her pride, and her bottom. I have to say Bob was a miserable git, and whenever spoken to, replied with a growl. Not that he meant it, just his South African way. Bless him. This was the starting point for Jen and her Boerboels. It was not long before Jen had read every book, spoke to as many people as possible, including Vets, to get an insight into the breed. Clearly, this was a job for super Jen, and with purpose, Jen got in the car travelled some 600 miles and stayed with one of the founder members of the breed, in the back of beyond, to find out everything he knew about the dogs and what was considered a good one. For you that have not been to South Africa you are probably thinking, it was just a long journey, but safe to travel. Let me tell you it was far from that, and it was one of those occasions where ignorance was bliss. The dear old chap even after the onslaught of Jen for four or five days promised to breed Jen a girl to mate to Bob. That is what happened, and Mouse was born. For those of you that may never see Boerboels in the raw, Bob and Mouse made a formidable team, and our farm never had any problems. Jen did lose her underwear one night off the cloths line, but that could have been the wind. (Things get stolen in Africa) Josh could be on his quad bike around the sugar cane, or on the beach, but Mouse was there to watch over him. Boy and dog in harmony. Bob took his job seriously and realised that Jen was a liability in Africa and could not be trusted even to go to the toilet by herself, let along walk in the garden. That is when we started calling them the Velcro dogs. Jen would fly back home to see Joan her Mum every six months and I would take her to the airport in Durban. When I returned two hours later there was Bob upside down against the wall sleeping, and that is where he stayed for two weeks, because he had decided that the liability had left the building, and that old bugger can look after himself. Bob also became a responsible dad and took that very seriously too. Early one evening the pups were playing around the pool with something, which we couldn’t see, but Bob knew. He flew out of the door and launch himself into the middle of the pups, sending them flying. Chomp, chomp, chomp went his jaws cutting the snake into pieces. We had Mamba that bred in the garage, but this was a night adder, so no big deal. With another disaster averted, Bob scuffed the lawn, then back inside to the feet of Jen. Bob also taught us that Boerboels can climb to eat from the medicine tree, which they did quite often. The mums would pull down the branches and teach the young to eat the leaves. Self-medicating dogs.

With the arrival of pups, we had to come up with a name for the kennel. They are such noble dogs, so something special had to thought up. After days of deliberation, I remembered seeing either Ben Hur or Spartacus when a Latin phrase was used “Quo Vadis” (Where do we go from here). So from where we were, we decided that it was an apt name for us.

We went to many dogs shows but as the Boerboel family grew, one of us had to stay on the farm, so Jen went off to learn even more by herself, with a Boerboel always in the car for safety, this time. A lot of you good folk in South Africa probably remember the battle Jen had with your legal system over tail docking. The removal of one of our litters by the dog protection officer and the police, and the legal case that ensued with fortunately common-sense prevailing by the chief justice of KZN, in the end. That case helped save a lot of puppies from being taken all over SA.

One of our pups called Loo Loo, I called her Fu Fu, developed an infection in her spine, which meant she was dragging her back legs, and the local vet told us to put her down. Jen found us a specialist in Durban, and he decided it needed further investigation. So, the three of us took Fu Fu up to the main human hospital in Pietermaritzberg. The vet had a friend in the MRI department, and using the back door we smuggled Fu Fu in on a stretcher for a scan. It confirmed that she did have a huge infection, but with heavy doses of antibiotics over six months we saved her, and Jen and Fu Fu went on to win at the KZN shows two years running. That illustrates that Jen would never give up on any of her dogs, if there was any chance of them coming right.

After the best part of ten years in SA we returned to the UK with seven dogs. Even that was stressful. We had arranged to leave the farm at 4am in the morning with the dogs in two air-conditioned vans because of the temperature which during the day rose to about 40 deg C. Air-conditioned vans meant to the carriers, just open the windows. The journey, over 600 km took all day, for our flight that night. Despite all our efforts Bob suffered greatly and at the kennels in Joburg where we rested the local vet had to be called. We really thought that every breath could be his last, but with the cold hose on him constantly and a jab from the vet he slowly came back to us. The will of Bob to do his duty and see us back to England safely was more important than anything else to him. The spirit to go on, in these dogs is unparalleled. He could not travel that night, so we had to leave him with his sweetheart, Mouse, and he flew the next day. Sony the parrot got separated from the dogs and was put on another flight. As we were landing at Heathrow the pilot came on the pa and said if the owners of Sony look out of the right side of the aircraft you will see your parrot just landing before us. An SA pilot taking his job seriously.

Whittingtree Farm was the start of Jens UK Boerboel adventure. From here Jen started on her quest to use her extensive knowledge of the breed to produce the best Boerboels possible. A lot of you good people out there have the results of that quest. Breeding the pups is only half of the story, the other half is you. Fortunately, most people listened to our advice, and the results prove that. There were tragedies on the way, such as Totie and what seemed the countless number of misses, but there were huge successes such as Freddie and Dillon, and thanks to Ben our lovely Sana. Beauty personified. Sana not Ben. Sorry Ben. One of Jen’s golden rules was never to supply a pup to anyone we had not met, whether they lived in Kazakhstan, America, or wherever. “Can we have pick of the litter “were words that turned Jens red hair to bright orange. Everyone has pick of the litter and no one goes away with second best, was always her reply. When pups were born Jen spent 24 hours a day with them and mum, keeping them safe. Jen did not sleep for the best part of a month so these new treasures would grow up to love and be loved and be a great part of your lives. After that came the puppy parties where all you lucky people would meet for the first time the pup of your dreams. Everything was choreographed by Jen, so everyone had the right time with their pup and her, and all questions were answered, and any problems sorted. Casia, bless her heart provide food fit for a king on many occasions, and you good folk brought along a lot of other goodies. Thank you for the carrot cake.

I always said to people that just because dogs do not run round with mobile phones in their paws does not mean they have not developed over thousands of years. One of the main things about Boerboels is they are extremely intuitive and understand more than most people think. One day, a gentleman and his good lady turned up to visit us and he was full of manure and wanted the pick of the litter and he would pay twice the price for a big dog, etc. That went down well, as you can imagine. After a while Jen had had enough and suggested I showed him Freddie to get him out of the house and on his way. Having got him in the field and half-way up the drive to his car I let Freddie out so he could see what he wasn’t going to have. Now Freddie was a dog as a lot of you know, that was above us mere mortals, did his own thing, and if you were lucky, would allow you to stroke him, if you held his Kong ball. Well, he did no more than run up to this chap, cocked his leg, and weed on the gentlemen. Now if that isn’t being intuitive, I don’t know what is.

I was asked by a visitor one day why we were so fussy who had our puppies. Our answer was, “because we can be”.

It is fair to say that Jen dedicated 20 years of her life in the pursuit of perfection in the Boerboel breed and was helped along the way by Bob, Mouse, Fu Fu, Totie, Georgie, Sana, and Freddie, plus many more.
Jenny also had help from two incredibly special vets, Martin from Ledbury and Frank from the Azores. Martin has been the go-to-vet for Jen

in the UK, for his kindness, understanding, and knowledge. Even when Freddie was getting close to the end of his days, Martin was talking to Jen from Australia about Freddie’s situation. Both great guys.

Fay Fay another gem we had at Quo Vadis ended up with a lovely couple from Chepstow and part of Jackie’s (Fay’s new mum) life was to visit an old peoples’ home nearby. With her went Fay Fay to help the residence. One old lady in the home did not get on with anyone till Fay came along, and they hit it off. She used to call Fay after her mother, but Fay did not mind. Sadly, the old lady passed away and within a few days so did Fay Fay. Coincidence, probably, but these dogs will follow you to the ends of the earth, to be with you, and perhaps even into the next life, as hopefully Jenny has found. Jenny’s idea of heaven was sitting on the grass in the sun with the dogs. I learnt a lot from Jen, that the important things in life are not how big your house is or how fast your car goes, it is about how much love we leave behind us, both to other people and in Jen’s case, through the love for you through the dogs she bred for you.

If one were to explain the journey and the purpose of Quo Vadis in pictures it would read something like this.

The Start

Jens's goal to breed the best.

Bred for you.

And the real reason it was done for. Love.

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You do not judge a book by the number of pages and Jen’s short life was full of the joy of dogs. The love of them, their welfare, the absolute best breeding, their health, and above all, the best owners you can get for them.

I would like to thank you all for the kind words and deeds you have shown Jen and I, not just in the UK, but from around the World, both now and in the past, and we hope that you carry Jen’s law throughout your lives with your dogs. Quo Vadis will go on firstly through Dillon and the babies he sires and with help from Gigi and those who have yet to join us.

Jen and I thank you for showing these wonderful dogs the love and devotion you have and when their time comes, remember you have passed them on to Jen for safe keeping till you meet again.

Quo Vadis (Where do we go from here)

Tony.