Written by Bianka Lerm
Professional photography by Kym Clayton Photography
It was in 2013 that our paths first crossed…
I was working full-time at a textile company and had some free time to browse Facebook. Back then I wasn’t as active as I am now in networking animals and being involved in animal rescue, so it was a complete stroke of luck that a photo of a beautiful young golden-cream dog looking for a home appeared on my newsfeed.
She was mine already
I had no idea of what breeds she was mixed with or what size dog she would end up becoming... and it didn’t really matter. I already had a six-year-old Fox Terrier, Mika, and two 13-year-old cats, Mona and Sheryl, which I’d rescued when I was a student in Stellenbosch.
Her name was Mona-Lisa and I couldn’t believe that she hadn’t yet been adopted. She was already approximately five months old and her sister had long since been adopted. Almost immediately, I contacted my partner and sent him her photo.
I got in touch with Yolanda Hamman at Pet Pals in the Strand, outside Cape Town, and received further info. I was informed that Mona-Lisa was in a foster home (Lynne Bakewell and Robert Hohne) and still available for adoption. She was one of a litter of about eight pups that had been dumped at a local animal shelter and, tragically, aside from Mona-Lisa and her sister, all had died due to Canine Parvovirus; the mother was apparently from a wine estate in the area.
Even though I hadn’t pictured myself getting another dog anytime soon, especially a medium/large breed, something just clicked when I first saw her photo. I knew she HAD to be mine… that she was mine already.
I went ahead and applied and, that very weekend, we went to meet Mona-Lisa. She shared her foster home with two other beautiful rescue dogs, Romy and Zoe, and was lovingly cared for by Lynne and Rob. Mika had come along but she minded her own business at that stage and didn’t really seem that interested in Mona-Lisa at all.
I sat down on the ground, whereupon shy, timid little Mona-Lisa came to me almost immediately. There was a light, cool wind blowing and she stuck her nose and snout inside my jersey.
It was love. Instant love. My white wolf found me.
Soon thereafter I brought her home for introductions with Mika and the cats. And she fitted in right at home (although Mika still wasn’t sure if she was overly joyous about this new arrangement). Even though a puppy, I could teach her very quickly to respect the cats’ boundaries. She stayed with us for almost a week and then, because we’d already planned a trip to Turkey before seeing Mona-Lisa, she returned to the foster family. I felt it would be better for her and safer to stay somewhere she was used to while we were away.
Bringing Mona-Lisa home
Just over a month later, we went to fetch “little” Mona-Lisa – who was NOT so little anymore! She’d just been spayed and had grown quite a bit, but was still the exact same wonderful creature I’d met in the beginning.
I soon realised that Mona-Lisa needed a new name – when calling my cat (Mona), both my cat and Mona-Lisa would come running... and this is how our precious Lila got her name. Mona and Lila has formed a very close bond... they sleep together, and Lila even grooms Mona - which she LOVES!
It didn’t take very long for Mika and Lila to form an incredibly special, close bond. Mika taught her the ways of the world and so many other things I could never have achieved myself. They are still wrestling and playing to this day.
The two of them started going to Puppylove Daycare in Durbanville; dropping them off every morning and picking them up after work made me feel like a real mommy. Not only did they love it, they were so exhausted and relaxed when we got home and it gave the cats some “free time” to relax or roam the garden without inquisitive doggies around.
Life with Lila and the furkids
We now live on a big plot where the dogs can play to their hearts’ content. We often go camping at doggy-friendly campsites and love visiting the beach with them too. Although she was carsick when we first fetched her, Lila has gotten over her queasiness and now enjoys her car rides.
Sadly, my cat Sheryl died in August 2015 from various nose illnesses and cancer that we couldn’t get under control, despite specialist vet care. My heart and soul were totally shattered when I had to let her go, but Lila carried me through it. She always senses when I’m upset and comes to lie with me.
We adopted another rescue from one of the outreaches I attended – Sassa is a young nine-month-old mixed-breed dog – and my partner’s cat, Kattekwaad, has also joined the family. And, more recently, our little family has grown richer with the acquisition of another little Foxy-cross: Leentjie, whom we adopted from TEARS in Sunnydale, Cape Town.
So, Mona will be turning 19 this year, Kattekwaad 17, Mika 11, Lila just recently turned five and Sassa not even one yet... and now little Leentjie who is about 12 weeks old.
I cannot imagine my life without any of my furkids. Each holds a very large and important place in my being, Lila more so for what she has taught me. The most tolerant, loving, affectionate dog one could ever meet. Lila absolutely loves giving kisses to just about anything! Hence the name Lila-lekkies-Lerm!
Lila and I went for training earlier this year with Geoffrey Coetzee from K9 Intervention – it just proved again what a “holistic” doggy she is and what an amazing calm energy she has around other dogs! It lasted six weeks and we enjoyed it immensely! Lila didn’t really need it, but it helps if we ever need to go on a leash somewhere and it also provided some much-needed bonding time for the two of us.
I couldn’t contain my curiosity and had a genetic test done on her with MuttMix to determine what mix of breeds she really is. I’d always been under the impression that she was some sort of Labrador-mix; to my surprise, not at all! But, really, it wouldn’t have mattered what breeds she is – she isn’t going anywhere, ever.
Lila’s MuttMix Results:
Level 2 German Shepherd Dog
Level 3 Parson Russell Terrier
Level 4 Papillon
Dominique of MuttMix says…
Papillon, while in low amounts, has impacted on Lila’s coat colour, producing what one would call a Swiss Shepherd look; the breed also has a curly tail, which could be responsible for that too!
All our dogs are microchipped, which is the safest way to make sure you can be traced should your pet get lost. Our cats, luckily, never leave our garden – strange but true.
I urge everybody to adopt an animal and not shop. Familiarise yourself with ALL of the facts, requirements and expenses concerning dogs; dog ownership – no matter where they come from – isn’t for everyone. If you can’t adopt, then try to foster an animal temporarily.
And, if you cannot foster, then try to support an animal welfare organisation in whichever way you can, be it donating funds, food, blankets, etc. – whatever the need – or giving your time or expertise.
Should you not be able to donate, then please educate people. Local animal shelters and animal welfare organisations are overflowing with unwanted animals and are under immense pressure, especially financially.
If we all do our bit to assist and start making a change, then the lives of so many animals can be saved and all the exploitation taking place by irresponsible breeders and irresponsible pet owners that don’t spay/neuter (sterilise) their pets, can start being addressed.
♥ LOVE ♥ADOPT ♥RESCUE