Just Nuisance

Photo Courtesy of Angel Castillo

On April 2, 1944, under full military honors, including a gun salute and playing of “Last Post,” Able Seaman Just Nuisance was laid to rest. He lived a life that would leave its mark on the Royal Navy and those who reside in and visit Simon’s Town, South Africa.

Who was he, you ask? Why, he was a Great Dane. Just Nuisance, as he would later be known as, moved to Simon’s Town as a pup with his owner, Benjamin Chaney. Chaney was to run the United Services Institute, which was visited mostly by Royal Navy sailors. As Just Nuisance grew, he became quite popular with the sailors. They would give him treats, take him for walks, etc. Like any young boy, he liked being with his friends. So, he began following the sailors to the naval base and around the dockyards and the ships. He soon found a favorite place to lounge: the top of the gangplank. Because of his insistence for staying on this spot, along with his extra-large size, it was difficult for anyone to board or leave the ships. He affectionately got his new name that way.

Photo Courtesy of Angel Castillo

Now, Just Nuisance was allowed a lot of freedom, and because of that, he often would follow sailors on leave right onto the train, heading as far as Cape Town (twenty-two miles north, including twenty-seven train stations). This began to cause some friction with the train conductors, however. Railroad officials gave Chaney an ultimatum: Confine the dog, pay his fares, or get rid of him, or else they would have him put down. When Nuisance’s friends, both sailors and civilians, heard about the action the railway was willing to take, they showered the commander in chief of the Royal Navy with letters pleading for help. And help he did. He decided the best course of action was to “enlist” Nuisance. Not only would he get to be with his sailor buddies, but he would also be able to ride the rails for free. (During World War II, those in the armed forces got to ride the trains for free.)

On August 25, 1939, Just Nuisance was enlisted into the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman. His trade—“bonecrusher”; his religion—“scrounger.” (Though later, that one was changed to “Canine Divinity League (Anti-Vivisection).”) All his papers were signed with a paw print. Shortly after, he was promoted to Able Seaman, which allowed him to receive rations. His service record was not spotless, however. His conduct sheet lists three offences, which can be seen at the Simon’s Town Museum.

  • Traveling on the railways without a pass. Punishment awarded: Confined to the banks of Froggy Pond, Lily Pool, with all lamp posts removed.

  • Sleeping in an improper place, namely in a bed in the petty officers’ dormitory. Punishment awarded: Deprived of bones for seven days.

  • Resisting ejection from the sailors’ and soldiers’ home. No punishment awarded.

And although he never went to sea, he did occasionally go AWOL to Wingfield, where a pilot would take him up in is Fairy Fulmer to look for submarines.

Just Nuisance kept up the morale of the sailors and those of the town. He frequented parades, posed for postcards, and did anything else to help raise funds for the war effort. This included his “wedding” to Adinda, a female Great Dane. The happy couple had five puppies, two of which (Victor and Wilhelmina) were auctioned by the mayor of Cape Town to raise money for the war effort.

 

At some point during the height of his career, Just Nuisance was involved in a car accident. This led to him developing thrombosis, a blood clot, which was causing paralysis. So on January 1, 1944, Able Seaman Just Nuisance was discharged from the navy. Due to the progression of his condition, along with his age, he was put down on April 1, 1944, at the recommendation of his veterinarian. A granite gravestone marks his grave at Klaver Camp on top of Red Hill, and a statue of him was erected in Jubilee Square. The Simon’s Town Museum has an exhibit displaying all of his official papers, his collar, and photographs of his time in the navy. As of April 1, 2000, an annual Just Nuisance Commemoration Day Parade is held in the main streets of Simon’s Town. The fellow Great Danes participating hope to win the Just Nuisance lookalike contest.

 

Now you know the dog behind the legend.

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