Blogger Barry: Here’s another great book about nature, wildlife
and conservation depicting many great natural areas of Southern
Africa. Superbly written by Mario Sesario, about his very special
relationship with his dog, Shylo.
As an ex champion dog trainer myself and a guide dog owner, I
really loved this story.
Life happens. Sometimes it creeps up on you gradually in a
progressive evolutionary way. You hardly notice as you adapt and
adjust to its twists and turns. Quite suddenly and without
warning, the wheel turns abruptly. Your plans go awry and the
journey you’ve meticulously mapped out for yourself, changes
direction from one moment to the next forever. Although I was
enjoying what I considered the most carefree lifestyle imaginable,
there were times when I felt something was missing.
I have always suspected that freedom in its basic, uncluttered
form, teetered on a knife edge. Somewhere between altruistic
responsibility and selfishness.
Barry: Then this tiny Doberman, Labrador cross puppy came into
Marios life. The big issue was that dogs were not allowed in the
prestigious lodge Mario was managing, so he got special permission
on condition the dog would be properly trained in all aspects of
the lodge and bush (no barking and acceptable behaviour around the
Driven by hunger, they persisted in feeding in the lodges grounds
where they drew the attention of more than our night watchman.
Inevitably, the concentration of smaller prey animals would attract
predators, which quickly began adapting their hunting techniques to
Shylo’s ears missed nothing. Being able to hear the creatures of
the night, but not being able to see them, was intimidating for the
young puppy, and I suspect he may even been able to smell them on
occasion. When he barked, I would tel him “Aah Aah” before “No,
No”. Unable to contain himself, he would growl. When he growled,
I praised him. The growl would involuntary break into a Yip and if
left unchecked, he would try to bark again. A few lessons later,
even the Yip disappeared. Soon, with a good measure of
reassurance, I had Shylo growling instead of barking at night
sounds. So the visitors to the lodge never heard a barking dog.
Thanks to Shylo, I was able to keep my end of the bargain.
Very few dogs that live in Africa’s big game country will die of
old age and invariably, it is the bravest of them that will die
It was no different with Shylo, except that he was trained when,
what and where to chase, or not to chase. In the bush, there’s no
time to dillydally, so training in this vital aspect of his conduct
with wild animals began when he was a little over 4 months old.
Early the next morning, Shylo jumped into the Land Cruiser and, as
usual, assumed the position of rearing to go. With his mind on
other matters, he took absolutely no notice as I leaned across and
placed the collar on him. It was as if he knew this was going to
be a temporary discomfort. AS it happened, this would be the only
time Shylo would feel a collar around his neck for the rest of his
I then secured the loose end of the lead to a seat strap and drove
out to the air strip, where I knew Impala and Wildebeest were
likely to have spent the evening.
Sure enough, the Impala were milling about concentrating on two
Black Backed Jackals. Shylo was quivering with excitement, so I
stopped and switched off. As I did so, he jumped out and began to
run after the now fleeing Impala. At the same moment, I shouted
harshly after him, “Aaah!” Almost instantly, with the command, he
was yanked to an involuntary stop.
The lead had played out until the inner tube had stretched to
a point, and no further, stopping him so assertively that his front
legs were momentarily lifted off the ground, causing him to loose
his balance and fall on his side. There was a mixture of surprise
and possibly, even embarrassment in his eyes, when he ran back to
To add to his dejection, the Impala bounded away half heartily, as
if teasing him with their classic rocking horse gait. The jackals,
masters of subterfuge that they are, had simply disappeared. After
lavishly praising Shylo and letting him know how much I loved him,
it was back to class.
Barry: I would copy the entire book for you but, in terms of
brevity and legal concerns, it is not possible. So the next
extract of Mario and Shylo’s life is in Shylo’s twilight years as
he heads to 14 years old.
I heard the frost on the grass crunching behind me. Someone else
had also got up early. Shylo’s tail wagged hard against my leg as
I turned around to see Gerrie approaching us out of the darkness.
“Morning Mario, may I join you?” he asked. Then detecting a
modicum of hesitancy in my reply, he added “As a observer, just to
watch your dog do his thing.” Of course. I was happy and proud to
oblige him, but explained that I need to slow Shylo down, so would
be limiting him to no more than half a dozen birds that morning.
Needless to say, Shylo did not disappoint. But then, I can’t
recall that he ever did. The mixed feeling of contentment
qualified with an almost imperceptible twinge of sadness came over
me as I drove back to the bush later that day. Instead of lying in
the back of the truck on his mattress, or staring out of the
window, Shylo was curled on the front bench seat next to me. His
weary, but happy head in my lap, while my left hand rested softly
on his chest as he slept.
It had been a wonderful trip. Shylo had had a great time. We had
collected a few ducks for the freezer and as an unexpected bonus,
his reputation had been vindicated by Big Beard himself.
“When you are sorrowful, look again in your heart and you shall see
that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight”
– Khalil Gibran
Barry: I’d love to add a photo of the book as a bit of visual
stimulus, but as my books come to me on a CD disk and from the SA
Library for the blind, I guess a pic of the CD would be rather
One of my presentations “My 6 legged walk to Freedom” is about the
funny and trusting stories of my 3 beloved guide dogs.
Blogger Barry: Thanks for your time. Hope you enjoyed. Please
use the comment and follow buttons.
Barry Blomkamp Nd. Bsc (UL)
Professional Public Speaker, Trainer and Corporate Entertainer,
Motivational speaker, Guest & Key note speaker, Seminar &
Conference speaker, Team Builder, Comedian, Master of Ceremonies,
For your Strategic Planning sessions, Management or Sales meetings,
Conferences and/or Seminars, Award functions, Year end parties,
Cape Town, South Africa.