My dog, whom I wanted to call Vixen but who, on Lesley’s insistence, we ended up calling Vicky or Victoria, was a runty fox terrier whom I preferred to represent as a true-bred miniature. I cannot say whether I truly loved her, but it is clear that the dog was favoured in many of the photographs of me taken at that time. In the picture here, I sit with her, perhaps on the day I got her. Behind me stands Raymond with Glinka, my mother’s dog, named after a Russian dancer. Although I am certain that I often played with Vicky, I cannot recall the warmth and contact that others report with their pets. Although small, she was a farm dog and was expected to get on with it and not bother the humans too much.
There were spotted eagle owls that nested on the rock-face of the koppie, enormous birds whose wingspan was as wide as Anton was tall. One dusk, such an owl swooped and picked Vicky up off the back lawn, flapping heavily away among the trees. Bitchy, an ageing dog of no known breed, raced after them barking and howling. But I think that it was Vicky’s weight that defeated the owl, for after maybe twenty wing-beats, the owl dropped the squealing and yipping Vicky and flew off. I can recall this scene in vivid detail – the barking dogs, the dark and pale wings flapping silently in the dusk, the trees looming above. However, I believe that I did not actually witness it – my mother had been present and had reported it to me.
Something that did happen to me, perhaps that same year, was that the owl buzzed me, as I climbed on the koppie near her nest. She flew at me several times as I cowered on the open granite face and then, lowering her talons like the undercarriage of a Spitfire, she scratched my cheek, narrowly missing my eye. I ran down to the rondavels of Luitingh’s Guest Farm below, crying and holding my bleeding face.