Written by Imogen Tarita, Volunteer for Cluny Animal Trust
Professional photography by @Strike a Pose Photo / Video
Picture this: in front of the house is a handsome, well-fed dog; he has a kennel, he has a running chain, he has access to food and clean water every day. Then, in the back of the house, two pups are locked in a cramped cage; they have no shelter against the elements, they only have water when it rains, and they’re tossed the odd scrap from time to time… The excuse? “They’re my son’s dogs, and I don’t have food for them, and he hasn’t been here in almost a month to feed them”!
Neglect beyond comprehension
This situation played out in Clarens in early January 2021. The entire team were shocked to the core by this level of neglect. How anyone can feed one dog and ignore little pups, we’ll never understand.
It’s especially hard to swallow considering that Cluny Animal Trust volunteers are in the area every single week.
In addition to being completely starved and underweight, they both had serious cases of demodectic mange. In short, this is the most common form of mange, and it’s caused by a parasitic mite that’s triggered when a dog’s immune system is depressed (usually due to them being stressed and malnourished), but thankfully it isn’t contagious to other dogs or humans and is treatable.
So, the team uplifted these two and had the owner sign them over to us immediately. We spent time educating the owner, and we’ll keep a very close eye on his property from now on to ensure that he doesn’t take on any new dogs.
It was touch-and-go
We didn’t post a story on social media about them until we’d had them in our care for almost a month. Although we gauged that they were about five to six months old, their growth had been extremely stunted due to the starvation. The reason was that in the first couple of days with them it was honestly touch-and-go: they required round-the-clock care as they were so malnourished, but they quickly flourished.
It’s amazing to see the difference that almost four weeks made; Dr Katherine Barker put a very strict treatment plan in place that we all followed to the letter.
We were thrilled when our very first Facebook post got the attention of Simoné Warber and Mike Kemp. They’d sadly lost their beloved dog, Heidi, during lockdown, and something just clicked when they saw the post about the girls. They knew that they were ready to open up their hearts and their home to them. They enquired about adopting both of them immediately (we’d decided that due to their situation they had to be rehomed together – they were clearly a bonded pair), and they completed the paperwork and got it back to us the same day. The best part is that they understood that it would take time to get the girls back to 100% and they were happy to wait, so we honestly couldn’t believe our luck!
From strength to strength
Over the next couple of weeks, we watched the girls go from strength to strength, putting on weight slowly but surely. But the best part was that we saw a massive change in their behaviour: they went from being terrified of absolutely everything to normal, happy, and very inquisitive puppies.
Each week they needed to have a skin scrape to check on the mange, and we were thrilled that, after seven weeks of treatment, they both had a negative skin scrape, indicating that the mange was gone. This meant that we were now able to sterilise them and then they’d be ready for their new home… together!
They scored the adoption jackpot
It was around this time that the home check was done with Simoné and Mike, who passed with flying colours, so we were able to give them the happy news: the girls would be theirs. To say they were excited is a complete understatement. They also did something that no one else has ever done: they immediately booked a weekend to come to Clarens to meet them and to fetch them. This was fantastic, as it allowed their foster mom, Chantel Van Den Berg from the Cluny team, who’d been with them for almost five weeks, to do a proper introduction with their new mom and dad.
Almost two months to the day that we’d found them in that terrible, cramped cage in Clarens, starved, mange-infested, and close to death, they met their new mom and dad for the very first time. Chantel had set up a picnic for them all under the trees, and it became pretty clear very fast that Simoné and Mike had already fallen head over heels in love with Ada and Nora (short for Elenor). And we were ecstatic, because it was obvious that they’d scored the adoption jackpot!
Then, after a quick photo shoot in a meadow covered in cosmos flowers, with Mt Horeb (Clarens) as a backdrop, this happy family made the journey back to JHB.
Sad but happy
We asked Simoné and Mike how they’re settling in, and they had this to say: “Some days it’s like having toddlers in the house; they’re just so curious and nosy, they get into everything. But they respond very well and listen. They’re calm and loving. We have to thank the Cluny Animal Trust for the most amazing gift; we feel so blessed to have these two angels in our lives.”
We’re not going to lie: we’re sad as a team to see them go, because they crept into all of our hearts. But we’re thrilled that we’ve done our jobs, which is to nurse them back to 100% and find them the very best forever home.
This story is one that we’re so glad has a happy ending, because it could’ve turned out very differently. We believe that EVERY dog has the ability to be a great dog; all they need is care and attention and, of course, a family to love them.
OUR VERY OWN TRAIL DAWGS
Mike and I lost our previous dog, Heidi, in June last year. She was very old (we estimate 12 years, but I can’t be certain since I adopted Heidi when she was fully grown from the SPCA in Pietermaritzburg in March 2010). We, especially me, took Heidi’s death very hard and were not even considering getting another dog, let alone two, because of the anticipated pain of losing another fur-child.
Let’s get them
However, one morning I came across a Happy Tails Magazine Facebook post on the girls, who were then called RiRi and B. The post included some details of the conditions they were found in and my heart went out to them. It dawned on me that Mike and I had a lot of love to give but, after losing Heidi, had nowhere to place it. Seeing those two turned a switch in both of our minds (or our hearts), and I knew that if it was possible, we’d like to home those two and give them all the love. I messaged Mike, and straight away he responded with: “Let’s get them!” I immediately sent an email enquiring about adopting them. That was on the 9th of February 2021.
We had to wait a while for Ada and Nora to be rehabilitated before we could see them; they were severely malnourished and still needed their vaccinations. We followed up regularly to let Cluny Animal Trust know we were still serious about adopting them, and then, one day a few weeks ago, Mike and I got the call we were waiting for: the adoption was approved and we could take them home in a few short weeks.
We were ecstatic and immediately started collecting everything we’d need to make them comfortable at home.
Bringing them home
On Saturday the 13th of March, Mike and I drove from our home in Johannesburg to Clarens to meet the girls who were staying with their wonderful foster mom, Chantel. She did such an amazing job training the girls while they were with her. We spent an afternoon with Nora and Ada alone and then rejoined Chantel for a braai with her mum, some friends and a group of energetic dogs. I don’t think many people have the empathy and intuition with animals that Chantel has; she’s one of a kind, and the girls were lucky to spend that time with her, adjusting to their new happy lives, learning some manners and socialising with other dogs. The girls spent their last night with Chantel and her mum, Michelle, and on Sunday the 14th of March, after a quick photo shoot in a beautiful cosmos flower field in Clarens and a bittersweet farewell to Chantel, Mike and I brought the girls home to Johannesburg.
Both Nora and Ada are sweet-natured puppies with an insatiable curiosity. Ada was the first to come out of her shell while Nora has taken a bit more time. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home most days, and during the day I often get visits from Nora, who quietly comes into my study and nudges me with her nose. She’s swiftly followed by a bounding Ada, and of course a play break ensues.
It’s wonderful to witness the bond between these two angels, and when they include me in their games with each other, my heart is happy. We can already tell they’re both very intelligent, and we’re looking forward to taking them to puppy school. We plan on having loads of adventures with them – Mike and I love to hike and ride mountain bikes, and we’re stoked to have our very own “trail dawgs”.
About Cluny Animal Trust
Learn more about Cluny Animal Trust here https://www.happytailsmagazine.co.za/news-articles/helping-the-animals-of-the-eastern-free-state/, follow them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/clunyanimaltrust.co.za or visit their website www.clunyanimaltrust.co.za