Lorraine Smalberger and a few happy Pekes
Written by Sunhet Prinsloo (aka Peke slave)
A luxurious fluffy coat, flattened face, round eyes and short legs combine in a dog breed that’s been winning hearts for over 2000 years. The Pekingese (Peke) or Lion Dog has been favoured by ancient Chinese royalty and is a popular companion pet around the world. But along with its popularity and adorable looks come a host of major health problems, over- and inbreeding, and neglect. South Africa, sadly, is no exception.
And that’s where Pekingese Rescue South Africa comes in.
Pekes have always been Lorraine Smalberger’s passion. Knowing their genetic health issues and inbreeding problems, that passion became a mission when she saw a need for a breed-specific rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming organisation for Pekingese. She quickly built up a devoted team, and Pekingese Rescue of South Africa was established in 2011.
Today, it is an active organisation that rescues, helps and rehomes these magnificent little dogs throughout the whole of South Africa.
We’ve successfully rehomed between 600 and 700 Pekes in the last seven years. Although we can’t save them all, every day we keep on trying to save more voiceless souls by educating, rescuing, sterilising and just not giving up on this endless, increasing problem. As Queen sang: “The show must go on; inside my heart is breaking, my makeup might be flaking, but my smile stays on.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Some rescue cases are truly heartbreaking; these are the cases that make you realise you had to lose your mind to find your soul, as the saying goes. But we’ve also seen some incredible rescues and wonderful happily ever afters. We will not give up.
Pekingese do not cope well in cages or kennels, and so the organisation established a foster team. Because Pekes are prone to a multitude of health concerns, our foster homes are specially chosen as you need to have a special kind of love kindness and understanding.
PRSA rescues and receives Pekes from all over, ranging from shelters and humane organisations to family pets; many are regretfully given up by caring owners for reasons beyond their control. Therefore, the condition of the Pekes we receive varies greatly, from the neglected, abused, and forgotten to the well-kept and much-loved family member.
All of our Pekes are carefully evaluated and provided with care in one of our foster homes. The ultimate goal is adoption into a loving and responsible household that’s been carefully selected based on the needs and habits of the individual dog.
We strongly advocate for sterilisation (spay/neuter) as one of the best things you can do for your Peke. It decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers, pyometra (uterus infections) and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Ensuring Pekes are treated for parasites, such as worms and fleas, and vaccinated for contagious diseases is also important.
These big dogs in little packages are independent, loving, and witty little dogs that contribute greatly to the homes lucky enough to have them. However, they unfortunately tend to have more than their fair share of health problems. We’ve seen some truly worst-case scenarios within the last seven years; we’ve also been successful in treating numerous health conditions. Many diseases and health conditions seen in Pekes are genetic.
The types of medical conditions we deal with on a regular basis include the commonplace (like parasites and contagious illnesses) and some more Peke-specific issues; many are related to their brachycephalic head shape (flattened face and domed skull). These can contribute to neglect and surrender when owners realise they can’t cope with or afford all the medical treatment their Peke may need.
Common Peke health problems include:
- Dental problems due to a shortened, small jaw.
- Eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness and most of which can be extremely painful. Glaucoma, dry eye and cataracts are a common cause of blindness.
- Lip-fold pyoderma and irritated skin between the folds of the face.
- Respiratory distress, snoring, and general breathing difficulties which are usually caused by Brachycephalic airway syndrome. This is due to a combination of undersized nostrils, narrowed windpipe, shortened nose, and elongated soft palate.
- Musculoskeletal problems due to their short legs, long bodies, and abnormal gait, particularly intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). Hip dysplasia and luxating patella (where the kneecap slips out of place) are also common.
- Portosystemic shunt (PSS), in which the liver is deprived of proper blood flow and can’t effectively remove toxins from the body.
- Certain types of kidney and bladder stones.
- Inguinal hernias.
- Anal gland trouble, which can become a painful, long-term condition.
- Obesity can be a significant problem, and it can worsen or cause many of their health problems, including joint and back pain, and heart disease (the leading cause of death among older Pekes).
In terms of behavioural issues, Pekes are bred to be companion dogs and, as such, they need lots of company and interaction with their people. While this makes them excellent pets for people who are able to keep them around them all the time, it does mean they dislike being left alone and they can become terribly lonely. They can also become very attached to one person, which, if not managed properly, can result in jealousy and resource guarding. They are not generally ideal with children, and if not raised and socialised early with children, they may become snappy or resentful.
Because they were also bred to be courageous and self-confident, this can, if not managed from an early age, turn into stubbornness and make training challenging.
All of these issues can take owners by surprise and result in Pekes needing to be rehomed.
All of the Pekes we receive are groomed, receive professional medical evaluation and attention, and undergo any treatment necessary to lead a normal life. All Pekingese are neutered or spayed before placement for adoption.
Pekes are placed in competent foster homes where they’re evaluated for habits, likes and dislikes. Each Pekingese remains in its foster home until a suitable permanent home is located. Basic obedience and manners are taught when possible, and we do recommend post-adoption obedience training in certain cases.
Prospective adopters are required to complete an adoption application before a home check is done. When approved, the prospective new owner is urged to meet the Peke to evaluate the behaviour of both Peke and owner. We don’t sell Pekes but do have an adoption fee to cover our costs.
We wouldn’t have been able to be part of so many happy tails over the past seven years without the support and loyalty of our fosters, supporters and, last but not least, the wonderful people who adopt a Peke in need instead of buying puppies.
Peke Rescue SA focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming but also strives to educate and provide resources to Pekingese fans and owners.
Lorraine and her admin team are available 24/7. The team tries to be available with help to all Peke lovers on social media with queries and concerns about their beloved furry friends.
Please watch our YouTube video to see what we do: Pekingese Rescue SA (https://protect-za.mimecast.com/s/uAGKCLg1nGHNyGBzfBrJyH)
We try to help all big and small. The help we offer is only possible due to our supporters’ donations and adoption fees we receive.
There are many ways to donate:
- SMS Pekeme to 40131
- Make a monthly pledge or once-off donations
- Add us to your My School, My Village, My Planet card.
- Donate via PayFast
- Come to one of our fundays