Facing battle for life, dog-fighting survivor won’t give up


International Fund for Animal Welfare partner Community Led Animal Welfare (CLAW) received a call: There’s an injured dog which has been lying in a ditch near the scrapyard at Davidsonville for a few days.

CLAW hurried to the scene, where director Cora Bailey found a shocking sight: a Pitbull-type female dog, one front leg ripped right off below the shoulder, resulting in an appalling injury that revealed the bone. She had multiple bite scars, savage evidence of injuries in many past fights; her jaw had been broken at some stage and had reset skew, leaving her snaggle-toothed, while six teeth on the left side of her mouth had been smashed out; and as if all that wasn’t bad enough, her battered body was seething with maggots.

But despite her suffering, this dog could still communicate. “We had her on the table covered in a blanket. We gave her pain relief, and then we had ‘The Conversation’,” says CLAW director Cora Bailey.

‘The Conversation’, of course, was about what would be best for the dog: would she survive treatment? Did she have the physical resources to cope, or would it be worse to put her through more suffering, rather than sending her to sleep peacefully?

“As we talked over her head, she started wagging her tail,” says Cora. “She was responding to us.”

The thump of her tail spoke for her. The decision was made in an instant: Cora and Dr Kati Loeffler, the International Fund for Animal Welfare vet who was helping out at CLAW, would do everything in their power to save this dog, whom they named Maggie.

Just pulling through that Monday night was a challenge: Maggie was very thin, the outline of her pelvic bones and ribs visible through her skin; she had survived three nights of bitter cold, the worst the Johannesburg Highveld had experienced this winter, with temperatures dipping close to freezing.

She’d been without food and water and in terrible pain.

“She was hypothermic and had sepsis,” says Dr Loeffler (sepsis is a life-threatening complication of infection in a wound.) “I don’t think she would have survived another night out there.”

So the treatment she received was conservative: a drip for fluids and pain management, the wounds cleaned up and hundreds of maggots removed. If Maggie made it and gained strength, she would need to have the infected, messy stump of her leg removed; but the first goal was to help her fight the infection and the weakness and get her through the night.

The more they worked on the dog, the clearer it became that her suffering was a consequence of dog-fighting, a scourge that is exploding in South Africa.

“This dog had been fought many times,” says Cora. “There were old scars all over her body. The area where she was found is notorious for dog-fighting – we’ve actually broken up several fights there.”

READ: CLAW helps bust dog-fighting ring, saves dogs

But that tail was still wagging. That rounded head, warped like a bonsai by her injuries, lifted at the sound of kind voices; her battered mouth gladly struggled to take the soft food offered her; and her tail wagged constantly.

Unbeknown to the brindled, white-headed dog fighting for her life, she’d become an online star. Her story zipped through online networks, and CLAW staff and volunteers fielded queries about her wellbeing from across the world. Several people have offered her a home once she is well and managing on three legs.

Five days after she arrived at CLAW’s Durban Deep clinic, I met Maggie for the first time, and heard the strange purring growl with which she communicates – she’s a very vocal dog and has no qualms about asking for attention. On Saturday afternoon she hobbled out into the sunshine and happily greeted some of the dogs visiting the clinic for vaccinations.

The next day, she spent more than an hour outside, enjoying the company of human visitors who stroked and cuddled and scratched her tummy until she lay almost comatose with pleasure on the green grass.

Knowing her story, it was quite startling to see her scramble onto three legs and fearlessly hobble off to sniff a passing dog.

Maggie is hungry for human love – she soaks it up – and canine connection (she shows almost no aggression). She has a gentle nature, in spite of her life of trauma, and a happy smile.

And a very speaking tail, that wags joyously in the sunshine of this new life. And wags. And wags. And wags.


You can help us care for dogs like Maggie and other animals around the world.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy