Michélle Myburgh believes in paying it forward, one bucket of kindness at a time.
Her journey started when Neena, her 3,5-year-old Staffordshire terrier, went missing in July this year.
Since then Michélle has been working tirelessly to be reunited with her beloved canine family member. Her efforts have taken her across many parts of Gauteng. She has visited almost every dog shelter in the region, searching for Neena.
Michélle, who lives in Springs and home-schools her three children, is also the driving force behind Pawsome Acts of Kindness. Efforts are underway to register it as a nonprofit organisation. Michélle explains, “We raise funds and buy pet food for animal shelters in need. We also spend some quality time with the animals.”
But how did it all start? It appears that Neena got outside their property through an unattended open gate. It happened on a busy Friday morning when her husband Nico, who runs his business from home, was getting ready for an early morning function. His team of workers arrived before sunrise and nobody took notice of Neena while uploading vehicles.
Michélle recalls, “When I got outside later I realised our other staffie named Diesel was alone. Our frantic search began. We drove for hours on end but we could not find Neena.”
She remembers feeling deeply distraught. Michélle made and distributed flyers and took to social media in the hope that someone might have seen or heard anything. “There were many people reporting that they spotted a dog that resembled our Neena being picked up in a white bakkie. None of this could be 100% confirmed and our search continued.
“Days turned into weeks and then, eventually, I heard that a dead brown female staffie was dumped in someone’s garden in Benoni. I decided to go and search the Weltevreden landfill where the dog’s body was taken.
“I was accompanied by a very dear lady, Angi Smith, who has a small rescue centre in Sundra. But we couldn’t find anything. I even contacted a reporter from the Benoni City Times (the local newspaper) looking for photos of this dog, just to be sure.
“I was so relieved that it was not Neena, but saddened by this poor girl who was now buried under heaps of garbage at the site. I kept wondering: Where are her owners? What happened to her?”.
“Our search continued and more weeks went by. I met amazing people from all over, who were helping and praying for Neena’s safe return. The Staffordshire Rescue South Africa has been incredibly supportive.”
Michélle recalls, “During our search, my eyes have been opened to the reality of so many homeless dogs and cats, just waiting for a second chance to find a loving home.” Michélle came up with the idea of donating buckets filled with food and treats to local rescue shelters.
“I couldn’t stand the heartache I was faced with at these shelters. I just wanted to do something to help make a difference.”
Initially, she started out with providing approximately 40 of these buckets. She paid for them out of her own pocket.
She then asked people who have been following her search for Neena on Facebook to sponsor a 5-litre bucket for R55 each. The response to this call for support has been overwhelming. To date, she has distributed about 450 of these buckets to different shelters.
Her family has been supportive of her efforts. Even her kids, respectively 4, 8 and 10 years old, are now helping out with the project.
“Michelle Botes, a dear friend I made on this journey, has now joined me in this drive. We hope to somehow make a difference in the lives of these animals in shelters.” Even if it is by spending a night in a kennel to help raise funds for them. I have now done it twice and it was awesome.”
She got sponsored both times and used the money to fill more food buckets.
Neena is still missing, but she is not giving up. “We hope to grow our efforts and that Neena’s legacy will have a lasting impact.”
Says Michélle, ‘”Amazing people have opened their hearts and we were able to increase the reward for information that can help us find her to R20 000. To date, we have also spent over R18 000 on flyers, newspapers and advertising to help create awareness in the hope that someone will see our girl and bring her home.”
Michélle says she has been deeply moved by the plight of so many abandoned or mistreated dogs as well as the people working to provide new lease on life for them. “In some ways, I feel like I have found my purpose in life.
“You get tough days when you feel despondent and people brush you off. And then you wake up one morning and find that random person has deposited R5000 into your bank account to sponsor 10 more buckets.
“It makes you believe in people again. There is always hope.”
Follow her page – Pawesome Acts of Kindness on Facebook