Written by Daleen van Niekerk
Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography
On the afternoon of the 19th of November 2019, a group of youngsters walked down our street. They looked at another house to see if they could grab a Jack Russell but were scared off by the other dogs that weren’t so friendly. Then they came to our gate. My three Jack Russells are very friendly and lovable, so they came to greet the people, not knowing they were bad.
Lara was the only one that jumped high enough for them to reach and grab, which they did, and they promptly ran off with her. We have the whole incident on CCTV footage, and the case is currently with SAPS and Jerry Selwane of Soweto Animal Rescue & Advisory Centre.
I immediately started posting on Facebook, and a miracle happened. Thanks to the help of people far and wide, the news of Lara’s dognapping spread quickly. We received countless pictures of similar Jack Russells, but none of them were our precious Lara.
My husband, Pieter, went to the SPCA to see if she might have ended up there, but he came home empty-handed, unfortunately. During the following Thursday we began putting up reward posters, and by Saturday I was desperate with worry over Lara’s welfare. In an act of desperation, I headed to the nearby taxi rank with a picture of Lara, asking people if they had, by any chance, spotted her.
After the taxi rank I started driving up and down the streets. On street corners where guys were sitting waiting for people to give them jobs (painters, gardeners, etc.), I stopped and handed them our posters, and I also put posters up at the spaza shops. At a supermarket there was a young girl begging for five rand. I gave her the poster, and her words to me were, “Ek gaan tannie se hond kry.” She also claimed to know one of the guys from a photo I showed her on my cell phone that I’d taken from our neighbour’s CCTV footage.
That Sunday I received two calls from people informing me that they had my dog, but neither of them led to anything; they hadn’t found our precious Lara. At the same time, we got busy with welding new, higher gates for our property.
At about 6pm my phone rang, and the caller told me that a girl had asked her to contact me as she knew where my dog was. She also said that the girl had asked her to give me the name of the guy in the photo, so I immediately knew who this was.
We headed out to meet her, even though we knew it was a potentially dangerous situation. The lady who’d called me had summoned the help of her husband and son, who were tracking the people who had our Lara to ensure that they didn’t sell her on before we got to her. At first we headed to Roodepoort, and then on to an informal settlement. Guided by the woman who helped us, we eventually spotted Lara walking down the road with a group of young men. She had a rope tied to her neck as a makeshift leash. We jumped out of the car, and I grabbed Lara. The rest of this adventure passed by in a blur of adrenaline, fear and relief as we dropped the woman who’d helped us at home and then headed home with Lara in our arms.
Lara was extremely tired and fell asleep in the car. When we stopped at our gate, her eyes lit up as she recognised the smells. Once inside the property, we put her on the grass and she started bouncing around, happy to be on soft grass. Then she heard the two boys, Bullet and Teddy, inside the house. She raced to the door and sniffed at it. I opened it and they began kissing each other through the security gate. As soon as I opened the gate it was the most awesome reunion of mom and boys.
Once inside she drank a lot of water, and then we gave her some food. After that it was our turn to enjoy cuddles from her. She then started playing her cuteness games, and halfway through a rolling game she just put her head down and slept.
We had to treat her paws, as they were quite sore from walking on all the horrible roads. But today they’re fully healed.
We’re still working with SAPS and Jerry Selwane to see if the criminals can be caught. Just because I found my girl doesn’t mean that I’ll stop this fight against the criminals that cause so much sadness when they steal people’s animals.
Lara’s dognapping remains an important lesson for all of us: always ensure your pets are microchipped, and make sure they’re secured in the back of your home. Anyone who can spot your pets from the front of your property could easily steal them.