The date was 1 April 1937 when, in the leafy suburb of Rondebosch in Cape Town, a Great Dane puppy was born. The first few weeks of his life were quite uneventful, as life in the suburbs can be, until he was sold to Benjamin Chaney, a newcomer to the city and newly-appointed head of the United Services Institute (USI) in Simon’s Town. The events that followed became an unforgettable piece of South African history and transformed the little puppy into a four-legged hero.
Where it all began
Back in those days the Royal Navy controlled the Simon’s Town Naval Base, which meant the USI was frequented by sailors. The Great Dane grew attached to these servicemen and would join them on long walks, often ending up on the docked Royal Navy ships. A particular favourite was the HMS Neptune, where he would curl up on top of the gangplank and make it very difficult for anyone to get past. Which garnered him the name ‘Just Nuisance’.
Joining the Royal Navy
Just Nuisance also accompanied the seamen on shore leave and would take the train with them, often as far as 27 stations away from his home. And sometimes he would just hop the train by himself. This amused the passengers and sailors, but didn’t go down well with the railway company, which sent Mr Chaney repeated requests to keep his dog under control.
Things got worse when the railway company threatened to put the Great Dane down, which prompted his friends to come to his aid. Word soon reached the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Navy who enlisted the dog as a means of saving him. Those being the days of the Second World War, enlisting volunteers were issued with free passes for train travel.
Bad Boy Of the Navy
Although he never spent a day at sea, Just Nuisance was a fully-fledged member of the Royal Navy and, like the other sailors, had his own conduct sheet. His is still on display in the Simon’s Town Museum and details Just Nuisance’s range of misconducts, like going AWOL, sleeping in the Petty Officer’s dormitory, losing his collar, fighting and killing other naval mascots, and, of course, taking the train without his free pass.
He also found the time to marry another Great Dane, called Adinda, and have 5 beautiful puppies. After a hero’s welcome, the little dogs were auctioned off for quite a sum by the Mayor of Cape Town to raise funds for the war.
The Legend’s End
On 1 January 1944, after almost 5 years of service, Just Nuisance was discharged from the navy. At this point he was slowly losing the ability to walk due to thrombosis caused by a car accident. His health continued to deteriorate over the following few months, until the navy took the decision to put him down.
On 1 April, the day of his seventh birthday, Just Nuisance was transported to the naval grounds one last time. Here, at the naval hospital, he was gently put down by the surgeon. The following day he was buried by his fellow sailors with full honours and as a canine legend known the world over.
Images sources from Commons Wikimedia