South Africa clinic treats, cares for two dogs who cope with hardships differently

Goldie was one of two emaciated dogs that arrived at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic within days of one another. She was the more friendly and enthusiastic of the two.Recently we had two emaciated dogs arrive at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic, an International Fund for Animal Welfare partner, within days of one another.

Although they had clearly suffered similar hardships and weighed less than half of their respective ideal weights, their response to our treatment was very different.

Goldie, a Boerbul cross about a year old, made herself quite at home within hours of being dumped at the gate early one morning.

She readily allowed herself to be stroked and examined and then exuberantly and gratefully accepted a meal. By the next day she was rushing towards us, begging for attention and returning our affection with enthusiastic kisses. When left to run around with the other dogs she engaged in play and was, all in all, a very happy, albeit skinny, young dog.

Toni, on the other hand, resisted any interaction, he stiffened up when touched, kept his head low and avoided eye contact, tail tucked firmly between his legs. He moaned when lifted up to be examined each morning but we could find no source of pain. Still he pulled away from me and showed no pleasure at being touched and was deeply depressed.

Toni refused to eat even the tastiest offering until he was alone and no one was watching. Although he was eating fairly well he gained no weight at all and after two weeks l began to despair.

Toni resisted any interaction, he stiffened up when touched, kept his head low and avoided eye contact, tail tucked firmly between his legs.

Not knowing quite what to do, l plonked myself on the floor, pulled his stiff, bony body onto my lap and began to talk softly. l told him l understood that humans had let him down, that he must have been very frightened and lonely during those long, cold, hungry nights, but that he was okay now.

I said I would understand if he wanted to leave this physical realm but l needed him to give me a sign that he was ready to go.

And then l promised him that if he decided to stay I would find him the most loving home with a green lawn to run on, sunny spots to snooze in, a warm bed and wholesome meals. Then I carried him to his cage, wrapped a blanket around him, pushed his bowl closer so that he could easily reach it and said goodnight, all the while fighting back the tears as Toni continued to ignore me.

READ: Boerbul makes gallant effort in Mdzananda

The very next morning, up on the examination table, he raised his head and looked directly at me for the first time since his arrival, and gave a slow, cautious wag of his tail! This was my sign. He was not ready to leave us.

Toni now spends his days playing with Goldie and the others. He comes quickly to get hugs and kisses and he is picking up weight. Toni is learning how to let go of his traumatic past!

Although Goldie is older and taller than Toni they look very similar but their personalities are quite different. Both will make wonderful loyal companions, although each will always be uniquely special.

Goldie had an innate ability to forgive and forget. Toni needed to be shown that he had a choice.


Post a comment


Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
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