About a dog (the Spirit of the Great Heart)

After last weekend you probably expect me to write something about the rugby and the world cup and SA, the Springboks, winning it again after 12 long years. It really was tremendous and I probably will write something about that sooner or later.

But what I do want to write about today, is not sports. It’s about a dog. Two dogs actually. Or three.

There is this book, most of the South Africans know it, about a gold prospector/journalist/transport rider and his dog and their adventures in the Eastern Transvaal about 100 years or so ago. Yes, I’m talking about Jock of the Bushveld and Sir Percy Fitzpatrick. I read the book and saw the movie (the one with the sad ending) when I was small, the last time about 10 years ago. So when I saw the dvd available, I decided to buy it – true Africana!

I watched it with memories running through my head. The last time I saw it, was at veld school in the same Pilgrim’s Rest where the events took place and the movie was shot. I enjoyed it, watching the bushveld unravel before my eyes: impalas galloping, giraffes, elephants, hippo’s, crocs…wonderful scenery! We really do have a beautiful country. I can’t say that enough.

But about half way through, my mom phones me: a snake (probably a puffadder) has bitten Milo, one of our Jack Russell’s back at home in Vryheid, and by the time they got him to the vet, it was too late and he had to be put out. My heart sank in my shoes. That wasn’t good. That was really terrible. You see, the other Jack Russell male we had, Rassie, my dad had to shoot because he started to chase sheep and when that happens, you don’t ever get it out of them and the risk of other people sueing you is just to big.

So now both our Jack Russell males are dead, and the movie wasn’t finished yet. I knew the ending, I knew what was waiting for me after 90 or so minutes.

But it happened earlier than I expected. I started crying already when Jock got kicked by a kudu and lost his hearing. Then Fitzpatrick and his team lost their oxen due to sleeping sickness and he lost his friend (that was going to marry the girl HE loved and lost, too) to the same sickness or malaria or something. Then his frontman, Jim Makokel, had gone away and Fitz went back to work in the bank. Jock was sent to his friend Tom to stay on the farm, because his deafness caused him to be in danger in town.

So by this time I was sobbing like a baby. And then the ending followed, with Tom accidently shooting Jock, mistaking him for the chicken killer-dog that Jock already took care of.

So I cried for Rassie and Milo and Jock. And I cried because of the extreme losses we experience throughout life. I cried because we can’t control what we lose: our hearing, our friends, our loved ones, our team mates, our possesions.

But (and there is always a ‘but’) there are some happiness yet to be found. Fitz ended up marrying Lilian, the girl that he lost to his friend, eventually. And years later, when he told the tales of him and Jock and their adventures in the Bushveld to his children, his friend Rudyard Kipling convinced him to write it down in book form. And we read the tales. And we got to learn about the “Spirit of the Great Heart”.


  1. October 22, 2007 at 12:27 pm

    Sometimes a sad story can bring the tears we wouldn’t allow ourselves to shed when we really needed to. I remember after my Mother, Grandfather, and Grandmother all passed away, when every sad movie would break me down. The food thing was, it had a cleansing effect. I have always loved dogs, and especially Jack Russells. D

  1. February 10, 2008 at 2:57 pm

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