SA’s own Hachiko from Bethal

If asked why you’re a dog person, one of the qualities that most of us would put on our list of reasons is that dogs are very loyal animals. In fact, as a dog owner this is something that you have probably experienced yourself. And even though you might have a couple of examples lined up, chances are you don’t know the true extend of your furry friend’s loyalty. Not until you hear about Hachiko from Bethal.

Almost three years ago, the owner of a mix-breed Akira decided to pack up and leave the small town of Bethal in Mpumalanga, abandoning the dog in the process. But in stead of taking off as well, the loyal dog decided to stay and wait for its owner’s return. Days turned into weeks and then months, and before long everyone knew about “Die Plakker” (The Squatter), the homeless dog on the corner of Malherbe and Kleinhans Streets.

This story bore such striking similarity to the tale of Hachiko – the Akira who waited day and night for 10 years for his deceased owner to return home from work – that Plakker became known as Bethal’s own version of the remarkable Japanese dog, and even had the same name given to him.

Over the years Hachi, as he is affectionately known around town, has won over the hearts of residents and many have taken it upon themselves to ensure that he is well looked after in the absence of his owner. Norma du Plessis is one of these kind souls and has ensured that Hachi sees the vet on a regular basis, goes on a daily jog around the block and has even provided him with a kennel. Feeding Hachi is a communal affair too as passers-by keep his feeding and water bowls filled to the rim daily.

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More dogs like Hachi
Although Hachi’s story has a happy ending, not all dogs are this lucky. According to the NSPCA the festive season sees a marked increase in the number of abandoned animals. And although there are a number of reasons for this – like owners simply not being able to afford to look after their pets or moving into complexes that don’t allow animals – one of the major causes is owners leaving on holiday and not bothering to organise a pet sitter.

The City of Cape Town alone has over 200 000 abandoned dogs roaming its streets and the city’s NSPCA branch estimates that another 2000 animals will find their way to its doorstep during the holiday season alone.

It is with these numbers in mind that we urge families to avoid giving puppies and dogs as gifts this festive season and to always make adequate provisions for pets when going on holiday. If you are leaving your dog at home, arrange for a pet sitter (be it a friend or family member, or professional sitter) to feed them and take them on daily walks while you’re away. It’s also worth keeping in mind that your dog can travel with you should you make the right preparations. Just check out our “Ask the Expert” article on Travelling with your Dog and you’re good to go.

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