18th Jan, 2019

Written by Heather Pieterse, Volunteer, PAWS – Plett Animal Welfare Service

Photography by Natalie Russell

Seven-year-old Stella hails from De Vlugt, along the Prince Alfred Pass. Originally a happy hound at a home in De Vlugt, Stella had been abandoned by her owner when he moved to Cape Town. Luckily, she’d been semi-adopted by the owner of an outdoor restaurant and spent her days being loved and fed by community members and the restaurant community. Sadly, however, visitors to the restaurant began to complain that she was a bit of a nuisance to them while dining, so the time for her to move on had arrived.

A kind member of the restaurant staff brought Stella to us, partly for her own safety, partly because it was hoped she’d be adopted to a home where she could be properly cared for. Sweet-natured and biddable, Stella was not quite happy, always looking towards the gate for someone.

An elderly lady eventually adopted her and was very fond of Stella indeed, but she didn’t know how to cope with Stella’s food-snatching and separation anxiety. Stella was returned to PAWS and we were concerned about her, as she seemed to be really sad.

Saskia, who’d recently brought us a neglected Rottweiler from the local township and had come to visit him, passed Stella’s kennel run on the way to him. Stella reached out to her and Saskia was smitten! She pulled Saskia’s outstretched hand towards her as Saskia started to move on. Returning home, Saskia could not get Stella out of her mind. Her sad brown eyes had tugged at Saskia’s heartstrings as only one other dog had. That was Chico, whom she’d owned for 12 years and who’d recently passed away at the age of 16 years. She and her husband had also recently lost another of their dogs, Ambrato, to cancer.

To our great relief Saskia adopted Stella, and the introduction with her four male dogs went well. Stella settled down quickly and demonstrated her sweet, gentle nature, also proving to be perfectly house-trained and easy to walk on lead. Saskia’s heartache at the loss of Chico and Ambrato was soothed by her joy in seeing Stella happy in her home.

Stella had a few issues: the food snatching, the separation anxiety… and a constantly wagging tail! As Saskia explains:

“All of us have issues, mainly imparted on us by the less pleasant and sometimes downright cruel experiences we’ve had to go through in life. When it comes to dogs, it is up to us humans to change our way of doing things, to help the dog adjust and in turn change their behaviour.”

Ambrato had been a food thief, but since his death, Saskia had become less vigilant and discovered that Stella was very skilled in sniffing out food and getting it off the kitchen counter! Saskia soon re-learned her previous habit of keeping food well out of reach. She easily understood Stella’s separation anxiety, as she told us:

“If you had been abandoned twice, how would you feel about your human leaving you?”

Stella would regularly run back and forth along the front fence, screaming with joy when her people returned home.

Fortunately, the calming influence of four other dogs has helped Stella a lot, as have her humans, ignoring her erratic behaviour and only giving her attention once she’s calmed down. Stella’s happily wagging tail has not stopped, sometimes requiring veterinary intervention. Enthusiastic wagging as she moves through the home has had it slamming against hard furnishing and causing endless wounds. Her tail has now been surgically shortened and no longer gets hurt.

We recently had fires, again, in the Garden Route, and De Vlugt was one of the affected areas. Just imagine if Stella had still been wandering in the area? Would she have escaped unscathed? Luckily, we don’t have to wonder, as she’s safe with Saskia.

To conclude, in Saskia’s words:

“When I made the decision to welcome her into our family, I did so accepting all her quirks and kinks and I am so happy she’s in my life. Stella, I love you and I am your ‘furever’ mom, come what may!”

Follow Stella’s life on Instagram on @brato_the_senji