Ask The Expert - Don't buy a dog as a gift

The gift that keeps on breathing

It was Christmas eve and Mark was sitting comfortably on the couch, watching the extended family’s children unwrap their presents. His nephew opened his parcel — a big, red remote-controlled truck! Then his niece — a pair of Hatchimals, the newest craze! Even better! Mark sat back with a knowing grin on his face. His 4-year old son, Adam, was about to open his big box, the one with the little air vents and the bright blue ribbon around it. The family heard a soft, high-pitched bark and something that sounded like little paws scratching on carton… Adam’s little face lit up. Surely, it can’t be what he thinks it is… That will top all the other gifts. That will be like the best gift in the world… EVER!


For like 15 minutes. And then someone will have to clean up the cute mess it made on the Persian carpet. And look after it, once Adam has lost interest and preferred the big, red truck of his nephew after all. In fact, someone will have to look after it, feed it, potty-train it and exercise it not just for the rest of the festive season, but for the next 15 years or so.


The truth is that many people will receive the ultimate gift of a cute puppy this festive season, and while some might be expecting it and be 100% prepared for the responsibility, unfortunately there will be those who didn’t even ask or want a dog in the first place. The bottom line is this: if you are unsure about whether someone might want a dog, then DON’T GIVE THEM A DOG.


The decision to own a dog should be one person’s only and that’s the person who has to take care of the dog every day. Often people make the mistake of thinking that giving a dog to their parents or other older or lonely people will be a good idea. It might be, of course, but it all depends on the person receiving the dog and their circumstances. Firstly, you’ll want to make sure the person actually wants a dog. Secondly, you’ll want to let the person choose the dog him or herself. It’s not a refundable item they can return or exchange for a better size. Thirdly, even though a person might want a dog, they might not be financially able to properly care for the dog or their working or living circumstances might make it very difficult for them to properly take care for and enjoy their dog.


The other pitfall is buying a child a dog if he or she is not yet old or emotionally mature enough to come to terms with the responsibility. Of course, any under-aged child’s parent or parents will end up carrying the financial burden. But you don’t want the scenario where your child loses interest in the dog and you then have to begrudgingly become its ‘real’ owner out of necessity.


Worse even is if the puppy or adult dog has to be taken to the SPCA or shelter because no one wants to care for it anymore after the puppy cuteness has worn off. There are literally thousands and thousands of homeless dogs out there looking for homes already, so adding to this problem is not just cruel towards the dog, it’s plainly irresponsible. Also remember that the festive season might not be the best time to get a dog as you’ll probably want to spend more time socialising with loved ones and not be at home as often.


However, if you have done your research and are as sure as you can be that you’re ready to get a dog, don’t forget that you don’t have to buy a puppy from a breeder, but can easily adopt one of the wonderful puppies or adult dogs at the many dog adoption organizations around the country.


One of these is Oscars Arc, a non-profit organization in the Western Cape that takes healthy, happy and ‘homeable’ dogs from shelters and places them in the WOOF Project. This dynamic pop-op project travels across the Western Cape and provides a customer-friendly and efficient adoption experience and gives incredible exposure and PR to dogs that would have otherwise been sitting in an overcrowded kennel somewhere.


The fun, interactive metal container has become a bit of a landmark in and around Cape Town as volunteers give the dogs exposure to potential new owners in a friendly, public space with the eye on finding a safe, happy home for the lucky dogs. The WOOF Project will be located on the Sea Point Promenade for the whole of December, and will even have Santa deliver your new best buddy on Christmas day.

Watch a video on their Facebook page

For more information on the project, visit Oscars Arc’s website and check out the schedule of the traveling WOOF PROJECT.

Oscars Ark



Stoffel, the undercover canine cop

There’s this public perception about your average police dog. It’s the vicious German Shepherd, riding at the back of a police van, ready to pounce with speed and aggression the moment its let loose on the unlucky souls who stepped onto the wrong side of the law. Or the English Bloodhound, slobbering away as he pulls Sherlock Holmes along the scent of a conniving criminal.


Yet, there’s another side to the brave K9 cops of South Africa. Meet Stoffel, one of the specialist dogs at the SAPS K9 unit in Pretoria. Stoffel does not fit the stereotype of ‘police dog’. In fact, one could be forgiven for thinking old Stoffel is just your normal playmate of a family’s children in the suburb.


But don’t be deceived. Behind the friendly, happy-go-lucky face is a detective brain that works overtime. Because Stoffel, the small 6-year old Jack Russell, is, in fact, a specialist biological detection dog who has been working alongside his handler, Warrant Officer Tommie van Staden, for more than 4 years. Stoffel can smell trouble a mile away, and is the unlikely hero they introduce when biological evidence is what they’re looking for at a crime scene. Stoffel’s thing is sniffing out blood and other bodily fluids. If a murderer or rapist left DNA evidence behind, you can bet your life on it that Stoffel will find it and wag his tail enthusiastically.


Yet not every dog is cut out for this kind of work. According to Warrant Office Theo Taljaard, the Training Manager at the Pretoria K9 Unit, dogs are carefully selected and accessed by an expert panel. Potential candidates then go through rigorous training at the Roodeplaat K9 Training Academy before earning their stripes as either patrol dogs or specialist (sniffer) dogs.


Police dogs perform a range of tasks. These include tracking and apprehending dangerous criminals, narcotic and explosive detection, fire detection, biological body fluid detection (like Stoffel), currency detection, carcass-and-hide and protected species detection as well as the gathering of sheep during theft investigations (hello Border Collies!).


Not all dogs have the right temperament or ability. Traditionally, certain breeds are preferred across the world for police work. Border Collies, German and Belgian Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Cocker Spaniels and Dobermans were the usual suspects. Yet, surprisingly for many, the majority of specialist dogs, or ‘sniffer’ dogs, today are Labradors or Golden Retrievers. Even Rottweilers work in the unit to sniff out explosives and drugs. And then, the enthusiastic Jack Russells like Stoffel.


“We look at a dog’s eagerness and abilities. If a dog is keen to play and retrieve a ball, it’s the first sign that it has the willingness and intelligence to be trained as a police dog.” Sadly, the numbers of trained police dogs nationwide have been dwindling. Buying purebreds dogs are expensive, so SAPS relies heavily on donations of young dogs from the public. Dogs between 9 months and 2 years are considered. If a slightly older dog shows exceptional potential, he might make the cut.


Naturally, there is a very close bond between the dogs and their human handlers. Every dog has one handler, and often the bond is a lifelong one. When a dog reaches its ‘retirement’ age, usually after 10 or more years, its handler gets the first option to buy the dog and let it live its retired life at home — a well-deserved rest after many years of loyal and unselfish work in the service of the general public.

Here’s a warm JOCK salute to Stoffel, and all the other unknown K9 cop heroes!

If you want to donate a young dog to the SAPS K9 Academy, contact the K9 Donation Office on 012 808 8787, Warrant Officer Taljaard on 082 778 9326 or email

‘I should be so lucky’: a canine hero called Kylie

In the heart of the north-east Free State, just outside the town of Frankfurt, lies the farm Palmietput. This part of the country is a landscape of sepia tones. A landscape made up of subtle, rolling hills and grassland painted with a subdued palette of rustic hues. For over twenty years, Elize Janse van Rensburg and her husband, Izak, have farmed on this picturesque piece of land, providing milk for a big supermarket group and the town’s retirement home.


But on 15 September all hell broke loose when a runaway fire erupted along the Heilbron road, racing along the dry grassland with thirsty red tongues, crossing the fence and tearing its way through the cattle’s wide open pastures.


For a couple like the Janse van Rensburgs, leaving their beloved farm behind to the mercy of the flames was not an option. Besides, the farm is the only home of not just them, but a family of their ‘children’. There are the chief mischief-makers, two pet weeper capuchin monkeys. Then there’s Kat, a stray cat rescued years ago, and then there’s a mixed breed rescue dog called Kenzie. Which brings us to the second dog in the family — Kylie.


Five years ago, Izak heard of the Australian Cattle Dog. This breed, stemming partly from the Australian dingo, is renowned for its intelligence in herding cattle and was, of course, the perfect farming partner for a dairy farm. As luck would have it, there was a local breeder in Frankfurt, and soon Kylie — yes, you guessed it: named after Australian pop star Kylie Minogue — made Palmietput her home. Elize says of the day Kylie chose them as parents:

“You know, my husband always says you don’t choose a dog, a dog chooses you. The day my husband went to view the dogs, he went on his knees and called the puppies. The only dog that came to him was Kylie, and so she picked my husband.”


Fast forward to 15 September 2017.

“My husband and my sister-in-law, Judy, were helping to fight the fire. Her friend, Belinda, and I took the motorcycle to get some of the cattle out of the fire’s path. Kylie always follows my husband on the motorcycle, but this day she followed us. I was concerned about her safety and chased her back to the house. She obeyed, which was very strange indeed as she normally doesn’t want to miss out on any action.


“We were herding the cattle about 2 kilometres from the house. There were still some calves at the house, so I instructed Belinda to go back while I continued herding the cattle on foot. But I underestimated the strength of the wind and the flames were approaching faster than I thought possible. When the flames hit the poplar wood close to the house, it looked as if someone threw petrol on it. I started praying out loud. My monkey-children were still at home and I was fearing for their lives as well.”


At this point, Elize was starting to struggle.

“The smoke had become so thick that I lost any sense of direction, and I started coughing badly. I kept running but the wind kept changing direction and caused the fire to start spreading from all sides. I asked the Lord to help me, because I simply did not know which way to go, and I actually started making peace with the fact that I could burn to death that day.


“Then, as I looked up, I saw Kylie standing in front of me. At this point, I was actually close to the road but I would never have found it if it wasn’t for her. She was obviously exhausted but guided me to the road, staying by my side all the way to the farm gate —  and safety.”


Elize insists that a divine hand was involved in guiding Kylie to find her that day.

“I believe it was a miracle and that Kylie was sent that day to come and find me.”

Of course, it’s been proven that dogs have an incredible sense of directional knowledge. On top of their exceptional sense of smell and hearing, research also points to dogs’ ability to detect the earth’s electromagnetic waves — aiding them further to find their way home.


Whichever way you choose to explain it, that day Kylie found more than just the road home. She also found new respect as the undisputed star of the Janse van Rensburg’s loving household.

Celebrating the gift of giving this Mandela Day

If it’s true that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated, as Mahatma Gandhi once put it, the pupils of Edenglen Primary on Johannesburg’s East Rand represent a tiny universe of animal heroes.

Launched on July 18 in 2009, the annual Mandela Day — or “Nelson Mandela International Day” as it’s formally known — marks the famous South African leader’s birthday and extraordinary lifetime of sacrifice.

To observe his legacy as part of this year’s event, the school’s 1 250 pupils collected donations for organisations across the city. But with so much hardship everywhere in the city, how did they decide which organisations most needed their help?

“We gave the kids a selection list: from organisations dealing with animals to babies, to general social welfare,” says principal Heather Broodryk. “They then had to create a presentation with a speech and poster, advertising why their charity should be chosen.”

“Animals appealed to the little ones,” says Heather. “So we decided that our pre-primary school, as well as grades one and seven, would collect donations for the nearby Edenvale SPCA and other animal shelters.”

Once the parents were notified, it was “full-steam ahead”. But with 500 pupils assigned to the operation, it was no modest undertaking.

“We placed huge boxes in the classrooms, which the kids filled with supplies like biscuits, wet food and blankets,” she said.

It wasn’t long before the class containers started overflowing with dog goodies, and the school’s staff had to heap it all at a collection point in the hall.

“One or two parents even got their companies to sign up,” says Heather — but adds that this “giant effort was all based on the kids’ initiative”.

It was so ambitious, the final offering pile weighed close to 500kg, or several bakkie loads — not only for the local SPCA, but the South African Guide Dogs Association and Paws R Us, an animal-rescue and rehoming group.

“It’s been phenomenal. Our staff actually had to make some of the deliveries before Mandela Day because we couldn’t keep it all on the premises. It was just getting too big,” she smiles.

One delivery was made at the end of June, and the others will be made after the school holidays towards the end of July.

Maureen Robinson of the Edenvale SPCA adds: “The dog food has ensured that each animal got a delicious bowl of food daily during the harsh winter months. Donated blankets have provided cozy spots, helping to give warmth during these cold days and nights.”

One lucky dog who benefited from Edenglen’s entrepreneurial spirit was a “beautiful girl called Dusty”.

“She and her pups had been dropped off in front of the SPCA. They were all very thin, especially Dusty. The donations helped us build her up. Her pups have all found a wonderful home. Dusty is still with us but we feel positive she’ll soon have a home of her own,” says Maureen. “Without public donations, we would be unable to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The 500 participating pupils took to the project “with such heart” that one or two even adopted their own shelter pets.

The SPCA’s motto is ‘Adopt, Don’t Shop’ was taken to heart by Connor in Grade One who adopted two little dogs, including a Jack Russell-type terrier, with his mom’s help. “He was so excited,” says Heather,  “when his class had to do a project on their favourite thing, he chose his new dogs.”

Heather suspects there’ll be more adoptions. “We took a few children for adoption visits, so I’m sure more will be forthcoming once everyone returns to school.”

It’s inspiring to consider the difference a single school can make to the wider community. Edenglen’s Mandela Day drive also collected toys, clothes, toiletries and baby food —“whatever was on that organisation’s priority list” — to social causes at the Johannesburg General Hospital, as well as the Forest Town School Foundation for children with special needs, among others.

Reflecting on how the experience shaped the children’s worldview, Heather echoed an observation by the French poet and novelist Anatole France — that the “soul remains unawakened… until one has loved an animal”.

“The big thing is they weren’t aware of people or animals in need beyond their household. This has created a broader social consciousness. Now they’re volunteering services like, ‘Can we walk the dogs, can we go and pet the dogs, can we clean the cages?’” she comments. “When children immerse themselves in the well-being of animals, it deepens their humanity.

“I’m hoping it won’t stop here. That the experience has inspired them. That the children will continue to give of their time, effort and resources.”

Visit; as well as ‘Paws R Us: SA’ and the Edenvale SPCA’s Facebook pages to support their work.


Celebrating the gift of giving this Mandela Day - JOCK Dog Food

Celebrating the gift of giving this Mandela Day

If it’s true that the greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated, as Mahatma Gandhi once put it, the pupils of Edenglen Primary on Johannesburg’s East Rand represent a tiny universe of animal heroes.

Animal Heroes: The Cape of Storms and Flames

“Has anyone brought in my dachsies?” a distraught — but still hopeful — Knysna resident queries as he rushes into the town’s animal-rescue shelter. He has just lost everything in the hellish, early-June fires ripping through the historical Western Cape town. But his home and possessions are insignificant compared with his irreplaceable dachshund companions.

Elsewhere, the man’s girlfriend is stumbling through the smoked-up streets, repeatedly calling after the dogs. They’ll magically emerge from this dystopian dust — they must, they must — she keeps reassuring herself.

If anyone has turned them in, he knows they must be here, at the shelter.

“I’m sorry, I … no,” is all manager Annelien Kitley can offer, amid hosing down the building to brace it against the approaching flames, and taking in emergency cases by the minute. Trapped as they are at the edge of town, will she and the tens of dogs, cats and other animals in her care live to see sunrise? She has sent home most of the workers, except skeleton staff. Still, she has the presence of mind to ask for his contact details. They’ll call him.

“I … I don’t know … my phone was burnt,” the man splutters. There’s nothing for it: he’ll have to come back another time … maybe tomorrow? Kitley looks on helplessly as he melts into the carroty dusk outside.

Ten, perhaps 20, minutes later, the South African Police enter reception carrying two wary dachsies —  Kitley wastes no time trying to soothe them with her obligatory dose of Rescue Remedy.

The dachsies’ arrival would have been scripted to Disney perfection — if only they had turned up a moment or two before. Now the owner might be gone for good.

But a hunch  — or perhaps it is sheer hope — sends Kitley’s office manager racing into the parking area, only to find the devastated man has not left: strapped up for a drive to nowhere in a burning town, broken down over his tightly gripped steering wheel in racking sobs.

“We got the dogs,” comes the whisper through the window.

Kitley’s voice breaks when she recalls what happened next: “He ran out of his car, and fell down, flat on the ground, in front of his animals… let me tell you… that guy simply lost it. And his two dachsies were kissing and jumping all over him — they were practically climbing down his throat.”


Inferno erupting all around the shelter


And the sun had not even set yet on the nightmarish night to follow, punctuated by the horrific soundtrack of “things exploding in town”.

“It was rough,” is all Kitley can offer. Or, put it this way: imagine being at home as your neighbourhood turns to charcoal during an uncontrollable fire — fanned by some of the greatest winds in generations. For the sake of your family — your life — you know you should leave, and yet destitute community members keep turning up with their pets, begging you to take them in: you’re their only hope. What would you do?

For Kitley, abandoning the 50-odd, and growing,  number of animals at the shelter to save her own life was not an option, even as the trees on the property started caving in.

While attending to the distressed pensioner, Kitley heard a sickening sound outside: a resounding, drawn-out crack, followed by a thud. It was coming from near the animal clinic.


When community means everything

“I was like, ‘What on earth is happening?’” she shudders. “It was a massive tree. It had snapped, missing the clinic’s roof by centimetres. I was overcome by relief.  That clinic was keeping us alive.”

Both sides of town had been closed off by the seemingly boundless, fateful fire that mysteriously erupted on June 7 — and would ultimately incinerate 100-odd kilometres of world-famous Afromontane woodland, strand thousands of people, claim several human lives, and kill many domestic and wild animals.

By midnight Kitley had not had a moment’s rest. The phone lines were “down” and they had lost cellphone reception. She and her brave smattering of staff heroes were on their own. It seemed there was not a cat’s chance any of the sister shelters in neighbouring towns would reach them that night to evacuate the animals pouring in through the door.

“We had no space left, but I just thought, ‘We’ll make a plan. We’ll make a plan.’ And I kept telling everyone who came in, ‘Don’t worry, just get out of here. We’ll keep your animals safe. It’ll be okay. I’ll do what I can. I promise.’”

The smoke was “so bad” Kitley, her staff and the animals breathed with “great difficulty”.

At thirty past midnight: a miracle. When the SPCA group in neighbouring George could not reach Kitley by phone, they gathered a small army of vehicles in the small hours, and drove 60 kilometres east towards Knysna, where they waited at the infernal barricades before emergency services would let them through.

“I had no idea they were coming — there was no way of knowing. ‘You’re angels,’ I cried. They loaded up every one of my animals — old and new — and drove them back to George.”


Help from animals lovers across the world

The fire never did make it to the premises, allowing Kitley to take in more destitute animals: “I met so many heroes during this time. One man was barricaded from entering his farm. The police said, ‘You can’t go in. It’s burning.’ And he said, ‘I don’t care. I’m going in there, and I’m going to get my mom, and my cat.’ We are now treating the cat: her paws were burnt, but the medicine is working. Gemma’s such a trooper.”

During the next few weeks, as the fires died, flared up and subsided again, help came from all over South Africa, as well as pharmaceutical companies and animal lovers in the United Kingdom and US, in the form of financial donations, burn-wound medication, antibiotics, painkillers, dog food, blankets, bowls and leads.

“I have no words. The way this community of heroes has banded together, taking in strangers and their animals… People drove from Johannesburg to help. I had so much surplus I could share supplies with the town vets.”

Still a long way from ‘normal’

Kitley, her staff and local veterinarians have treated and safely homed so many animals that she has lost count of the patient list. The motley mix has included a pony, some 30 geese and 50 chickens.

“I’m only getting back to some kind of routine now. We’ve been working nonstop. We even had a pig sleeping in the dog kennel… we are still looking for his owner,” says Kitley.

Many animals must still be reunited with their owners: “I would never say no to anything that comes in. I will organise safe-keeping. Whatever it takes.”

Reflecting on the transformative experience of the past weeks, she says: “My staff are awesome. No one moans to work extra hours — they just keep going, transporting bakkie-loads of food all over town. Their bodies are sore and yet we’re all still out there in the veld, looking for animals.

“Yesterday I sat here and I said, ‘I am tired. Me. My body. Mentally. Physically. Tired.’ Then I got a good night’s sleep and today I’m ready to go again.”


With a little help from my furriends — here’s how to help: 

Get in touch with any of the animal shelters affected by the 2017 Cape disasters.




Finding Emma: The remarkable tale of a canine escape artist and her homecoming

Our story begins on a hot summer’s day in Cape Town. Batty, an eight-year-old pavement special, is sniffing around Alan and Marianne McLean’s home. His partner-in-crime, Emma, a beautiful German Shepherd is nowhere to be found. His puzzlement has a simple cause: Emma has been taken to the local vet to be spayed. She will be back later that day. Well, that was what the script said…


The great escape

Later that same morning, the family receives a call. In an odds-defying act of bewilderment, Emma has not only escaped the vet’s rooms, but also managed to scale the wall and jump over a live electric fence, shocking herself and falling three and a half metres on the other side before making a beeline past astonished peak-hour traffic motorists and disappearing towards the suburb of Observatory. And that’s the last anyone sees of Emma for a couple of days.

How does a dog simply disappear in the middle of a big city, one might be forgiven for asking. Surely, it will simply come to its owners if you just know where to look and call her name? Not so simple, in this case. Firstly, the live electric wire traumatised Emma to such a degree that she fled as far away from any perceived danger as possible. Secondly, Emma is a loving, but shy and skittish dog to begin with. Thirdly, along the suburb of Observatory runs the Liesbeek River with its surrounding marsh and grasslands — the perfect hiding place for a dog that feels the need to go undercover.


The search is on

After initial efforts to find Emma proves unsuccessful, posters are also put up at the Cape of Good Hope SPCA in Grassy Park and a Facebook group, ‘Finding Emma’, is set up. This has the desired effect, with several people coming forward with sightings of the shy German Shepherd in the area. After a couple of false alarms, Alan McLean is called at work on the 23rd of February— Emma has been spotted by workers cleaning the river. He races to the river and, along with the workers, manages to locate Emma in a bed of reeds. Unfortunately, Emma wants nothing to do with being found. She’s clearly still traumatised and goes on the run again. This game of hide and seek continues for several days.

At this point, Emma’s owners realise that a different tactic is needed. Emma clearly needs a little help to come to her senses. They hire a porcupine trap from the SPCA and start leaving chunks of KFC inside — to no avail. However, as days turn into weeks, the official search party grows. Marianne and Alan’s daughter, Helen, a veterinarian living in Robertson offers invaluable encouragement and advice on a daily basis. Her brother, Eddie, who lives near the river, joins the search, and family friend, Jason Mears, takes careful note of Emma’s tracks along the riverbed — recognisable by her lead dragging behind her. They also notice that the food being left out for her is disappearing — a good sign.


A snapshot of a porcupine and a clever cat

The McLeans decide to set up a night camera to try and figure out who is eating the food and to see if they can catch Emma on camera. It pays off. The first night’s footage shows images of a porcupine, but also of Emma, eating food from her bowl. After much research, a decision is made that a leopard trap is the way to go. On 21 March (now more than a month after Emma’s great escape), the camera is set up again. What it reveals, is that a big black homeless cat has been taking full advantage of the food left out for Emma every night — having a feast early evening before Emma’s appearance around midnight. After a reshuffling of the feeding routine, the time finally arrives for the leopard trap, donated by the Graham Beck Wildlife, to be set up.



Finally, on 27 March, everything is in place for the last final gambit. At 22h30 the leopard trap is set up. At 01h30 the family return to the trap and, lo and behold, there’s Emma in the cage, calm as a millpond — like she’s actually waiting for her owners to come get her! So, after a month and 7 days, Emma is finally reunited with her family! Apart from severe weight loss, Emma shows no signs of injury and seems to slide back into daily life with the McLeans, and her best friend, Batty, as if nothing happened. When the McLeans’ eighteen-month-old grandson, Michael John, comes to visit, she even recognizes him and spends the day getting grubby with him.


All in all, a truly remarkable story of one family’s determination to defy all odds and bring their beloved K9 back to the warmth of a loving, caring family. The kind of feel good story that we, at Jock, love to hear.



By Eckhard Cloete














From neglected breeding dog to rescued pet, a Pit Bull gets her Happy Ever After

Just last month, we featured the Mdzananda Animal Clinic and the brave and wonderful staff who work there. The stories they shared were so heartwarming, that we decided to share this special story about a rescued Pit Bull named Daisy-Mae.

In March 2016, the Mdzananda Animal Clinic received a call from a distressed Khayelitsha community member about an emaciated Pit Bull who was used for breeding purposes and was badly neglected.

“At Mdzananda, we believe that education is of utmost importance. Confiscating one pet will simply result in a new pet filling its place, experiencing the same or worse conditions,” explains Marcelle du Plessis, Fundraising and Communications Manager. “Our approach is to first attempt education and to work with the owners on changing their mind-set. Many people are open to this, but unfortunately some are not.”

After their attempt to work with the Pit Bull owner failed, Mdzananda partnered with the SPCA inspectorate team to place the owner on the SPCA investigations list, to ensure repeated negligent treatment of animals wouldn’t occur. And so, the Pit Bull’s road to recovery started at Mdzananda.

At first a shy dog and unsure of humans, it took Enzy (as she was named by the staff) some weeks to pick up weight and learn to trust humans. Her stay at the clinic lasted seven months in total and in the first few critical weeks, she received daily checkups, medication, good nutrition and real care – for the first time in her life. During her time at the clinic, her confidence grew slowly; she started trusting humans and made friends with the staff, following them around.

“Unfortunately finding a home for her was not easy,” says Marcelle. “She was ready to be adopted after three months of being with us, but the right home did not come along. Towards the end of her time at Mdzananda, she fell into a deep depression from being in a kennel for so long. A desperate video appeal was released on Facebook.”

Along came Monique Quénet from Benoni, Johannesburg, who saw the video and immediately contacted Mdzananda to adopt her. “Enzy and her heartbreaking history were in the past. To celebrate her new start I gave her a new name: Daisy-Mae,” says Monique. “Our journey together has not been easy. Initially when I tried to touch her she cowered. It took a lot of time and patience to earn this girl’s trust. One day when I got home from work, instead of being looked at with suspicion, I got a happy dance. Daisy-Mae was excited to see me.”

From that day on, the relationship between Monique and Daisy-Mae blossomed and over time she turned into an energetic, loving dog that adores children, and loves playing in the local park and being touched by everyone who passes her. “I am pretty sure she has it in her head that her role in life is to show every person that Pit Bulls are the most lovable, misrepresented dogs on earth,” says Monique.

Although her life started with tragedy, due to the staff at Mdzananda’s dedication and care, and Monique’s open heart, Daisy-Mae got her happy ending. This is just one of the many stories that make Mdzananda Animal Clinic and the people who work there and those who support them, a symbol of hope in the community.




Khayelitsha veterinary clinic brings hope and happiness to community

What started as a community member with a big heart wanting to help out with his neighbours’ pets, turned into the success that is the Mdzananda Animal Clinic, based in Khayelitsha, just outside Cape Town. Serving up to 1000 pets every month, the clinic started with only a handful of volunteers and became an animal haven over a period of 21 years.

Mdzananda Animal Clinic’s story started in 1996, with a community hero who wanted to help animals in his neighbourhood. Mr Joe, a local Khayelitsha resident, took it upon himself to push a trolley and water bucket around the community, bathing and feeding community pets. He soon attracted volunteers who helped out and over time, they secured funding and the clinic grew into what it is today: a permanent, non-profit animal hospital providing primary veterinary healthcare services to the fast growing community of Khayelitsha, which never had access to such services before.

The early days weren’t easy, as the volunteers – including Animal Welfare Assistants Lazola Sotyingwa and Maria Limani, and veterinarian Brian Bergman – functioned from a single donated shipping container with no running water or electricity. Today, thanks to the support of donors and funders, the clinic is a fully functioning animal hospital running six days a week.

“The general opinion among the public is that people in townships should not own pets,” explains Marcelle du Plessis, Fundraising and Communications Manager. “At Mdzananda we have a different opinion. Anyone who visits us has the pleasure of meeting owners who adore their animals.”

A day in the life of a veterinarian at Mdzananda can take on many forms, including emergency surgeries, numerous sterilisations and deworming, educating community members and getting to know everyone who enters the clinic’s doors. “Our reception is the first stop for people who are visiting the clinic. Here you can buy goodies needed for pets, such as food, leads, collars, flea products, and so on,” says Marcelle. “From basic treatments such as vaccinations, deworming, and treating minor wounds, to surgeries – including sterilisations, X-rays and orthopaedic surgeries – our days can be filled with any amount of activities. No day at Mdzananda is the same.”

Although Mdzananda doesn’t have shelter facilities, they are determined to help out where they can. “Many pets are left at our doorstep or handed over due to their owners’ inability to look after them, while others are confiscated due to severe neglect or abuse,” explains Marcelle. “We try to find new homes for them as soon as possible, but it’s not easy as we don’t have a dedicated adoption team in place. We desperately need volunteers who can assist with adoptions and fostering of these pets, who all deserve a second chance.”

Mdzananda also has a mobile clinic that visits the community two days a week for door-to-door education, and three days a week for medical procedures, such as vaccinations and deworming, while pets that are very ill are taken back to the clinic for in-house treatment. Additionally, the animal ambulance responds to distress calls from community members in cases where animals are severely abused or neglected, or too ill or injured to make it to the clinic. Marcelle explains that they have a strong focus on community empowerment and education, and on understanding the community’s needs, embracing it, and gaining their respect and trust.

“There are happy times and sad times, but I practice my profession with one philosophy and that is to do the best for each and every animal that enters my life,” says veterinarian, Dr Nicolaas Kriek. He continues, “Every day is different – different challenges, different cases and different emergencies.”

Mdzananda has 22 staff members, 77% of whom are from the Khayelitsha or surrounding communities, who have all received training from the clinic’s veterinarians. “The thought of meeting new dogs, conversing with new people, challenging them with questions about animals and, most of all, saving another animal’s life, gets me up every morning,” says Animal Welfare Assistant, Lazola Sotyingwa.

With a drive to make a real difference within the community, Mdzananda Animal Clinic and its staff are adamant to use animal welfare to reach the heart of Khayelitsha residents. “Our belief is that a community that loves animals is a healthy community,” says Marcelle. “Through loving an animal one learns respect for life, non-violence, responsibility, compassion and companionship – and this spills over into all aspects of life.”

From the days of Mr Joe – who is now an elderly man who still visits the clinic often and loves to sit in the consultation room speaking to visitors – to what the clinic has become today, Mdzananda Animal Clinic is a place unlike any other. Its character lies in its staff and supporters who so generously give of their time and skills to contribute to the bigger picture of animal education.




The dog that survived an attack by an African Rock Python and lived to tell the tale

Meet Jess, the German Shepherd, Jamie Traynor and Kari Wesighan – three friends and co-workers who came face-to-face with a 4m African Rock Python at The Rhino Orphanage in Limpopo one Sunday morning in January. Due to each of their bravery and strength of spirit, Jess survived the attack, and lived to tell the tale.

Jess, a security dog at the orphanage, was behind Jamie, an animal health student and orphanage employee, when the snake appeared and grabbed her above her front paw and started to curl around her. “Jess is such a special girl, she has a very shy personality, but once she trusts you her sweet nature really shows,” says Jamie. “She’s very protective over us and whenever we need to sleep with the rhinos, Jess comes to sleep outside and guard the door of the rhino room.”

It is no doubt this special bond that drove Jamie, who has been working at the orphanage for two years, to act swiftly when the snake attacked Jess. She immediately started pulling at the snake to get it off the dog, shouting for Kari to assist. “Seeing the size of the snake, I knew it would be able to eat her,” Jamie recalls. “The snake was incredibly strong, so I started screaming for Kari to come and help me, because I knew I would not be able to get it off myself.”

A volunteer from the US, Kari is petrified of snakes, but she overcame her fear to help with Jess’ rescue. After what sounds like a tug of war between python and the young women, the snake eventually released its grip and let go of Jess. The women grabbed Jess, phoned the orphanage manager, and Jess was rushed to a nearby vet, who opened his practice on a Sunday morning to clean and stitch up Jess’ wounds. “Jess was very calm and remained still during the whole ordeal [with the snake] and that really helped us get hold of the snake to pull it off her,” Jamie explains. “I think she knew exactly what we were trying to do.”

The snake was relocated far away, as there are two security dogs on the premises – Jess and Zandrof – among other pets, such as Jamie’s cats. “I grew up with two German Shepherds, so I’ve always had a soft spot for them,” Jamie says. “I’ve been living at the orphanage for the past two years, so Jess and Zandrof have become part of the family.”

Jess has made a full recovery and is happily back at the orphanage. Her wound has healed completely, and she is still happy to go out for walks. “But she stays clear of the long grass,” Jamie adds.

It just goes to show that in times of need, it really helps to have friends (the human and the fur-kind) by your side.