Saved from the most deplorable conditions

Back at CLAW’s Durban Deep clinic 20 minutes later, he proves to be a gentle and affectionate soul.

A foul smell rises up from the concrete ditch through which a small trickle of water runs. It comes from two dead dogs whose bodies have been tossed in here. The light glares off this bleak channel, littered with rubbish, and the stream, which flows in a straight line from the nearest mine dump, has the lemon-copper colour of acid mine drainage, here in Krugersdorp, Gauteng Province, South Africa.

But there’s a living creature down there, a dark brown dog lying on the concrete—wary, weak and hungry.

CLAW had received a call from local residents who had seen him here for about two weeks; he was unable to scramble out of the deep concrete slabs on either side of the ditch, but they’d fed him occasionally and presumably he was quenching his thirst from the stream, awful as it is.

How did he get here?

Where did he come from?

Pointing out the dead dogs, the residents tell us this is an evil spot where they often find dead animals thrown out like rubbish; they suggest he may be abandoned, thrown in here to die. But of course, it’s always possible a living dog, perhaps a stray, had fallen in and then found the walls would not let him out.

We call in Johannesburg SPCA; Ronald and Xolani join the little CLAW group (Cora Bailey and volunteers Thomas and Thando) to plot a rescue. The dog is on his feet, nervous and alert, ready to run; Cora throws some pellets down to keep him on the spot and signal our good intentions.

Now we can see that he is a Shar-Pei, the fighting dog of the East, with his folded ears and deeply wrinkled pelt.

Thomas and Xolani make their way a hundred metres or so upstream to block him should he rush that way; Ronald scrambles down the steep side of the ditch, carrying a huge green net. Spooked by his approach, the dog makes a break upstream, but spins quickly when he catches sight of Xolani and Thomas, pelting back towards Ronald.

In a second it’s done: the net, skilfully handled, sweeps him up in its folds. The three men make a neat parcel with a rope, and with help from the residents, Thando and Cora, the dog is lifted from his foul prison.

Back at CLAW’s Durban Deep clinic 20 minutes later, he proves to be a gentle and affectionate soul; his tail may have been a little injured during his terrible adventure, but it wags freely when his rescuers greet him.

He shows immediate interest in the dogs who rush to greet him, and lies patiently still for a quick once-over to ensure he’s alright.

He’s thin and has some minor abrasions, but is otherwise in good health, and will do well.

We’re left wondering how he ended up in the ditch – and if he was abandoned there, how could anyone have dumped such a friendly softie in such as dreadful place?

--MS

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Experts

Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Gail A'Brunzo, Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Manager, Wildlife Rescue
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters