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.