Written by Chantelle Murray, founder of PAWS R US (SA)
The world of animal rescue is filled with daily disappointment in the human race. We see humans at their most irresponsible and cruel, and innocent animals paying the price. However, it also offers us the opportunity to see humans at their best – those who care enough to put compassion into action, who know the meaning of unconditional love for a furry friend, and who go the extra mile to make the world a better place...
The story of Misty and Stalker is such a story. It encapsulates the triumph of two dogs who beat the odds, and chronicles the story of a blind mixed-breed who shattered every stereotype about her ‘disability’. It proves that wonderful humans still exist who step up to the plate, open their hearts, and care enough to do more. In weaving this story, Misty and Stalker remind us that magic can still happen.
Misty and Stalker made waves on Facebook in late 2015. Their story grabbed hold of many hearts, resulting in a tremendous sharing and concern on social media. Misty is a blind Rottweiler-mix girl and Stalker, a gentle Labrador boy, is her best friend. Their human family was immigrating to New Zealand in early January 2016, and, having explored the full quarantine protocols for incoming animals into New Zealand, they felt that they could not put Misty through that level of stress and adjustment. Because they were so bonded, they couldn’t be separated.
The family approached PAWS R US (SA) three months before their departure date, and asked if we would help rehome them. The result was a massive team effort over three months. By December, everyone was praying for a Christmas miracle.
Hope on the horizon
And then, two weeks before Christmas, Marilyn and Bruce made contact. The PAWS team were delighted and hugely relieved – finally, a homing prospect! However, when we heard that they lived on a smallholding with 12 dogs, we were very hesitant. There was no doubt that this was a great home – all the dogs were rescues and the family clearly treated their furry kids like family. We were just concerned about the challenges facing Misty. Not only would she be thrust into an unfamiliar environment, but she would need to learn to navigate, not just an ordinary yard, but a big smallholding.
For a blind dog, that is a very daunting prospect. We were also worried about her having to integrate with 12 other dogs – a big ask for a girl who had always known only Stalker, and a life of quiet tranquility in a suburban home.
However, the emigrating family’s flight was imminent. The sands of time were running out. We had to take Marilyn and Bruce up on their generous offer… As we drove to the smallholding on 19 December, we decided to have faith in something greater than ourselves – after all, dogs are resilient spirits who teach us daily about unconditional love. We hoped that magic would happen.
Misty makes the difference
It took two hours on a blazing hot day. The family led the family dogs into an open space, two by two, to meet Misty and Stalker. Their original family was there to help, and we facilitated the introductions. Once again, the magnificence of animals surprised and humbled us. The existing dogs were all rescues, and older dogs, and they seemed to intuitively understand that these were two new friends. They embraced Misty and Stalker relatively easily with a good once-over sniff.
Misty blew us away with her dauntless spirit – she explored the wide open spaces with so much confidence and curiosity! She would walk in a very specific way to navigate every new area – both front paws lifted high as she walked, like a trot. This helped her pick out the steps and slopes from the flat and level areas. It wasn’t all smooth sailing and she would walk into walls and fencing, and then promptly turn and continue her exploring. Never once did she look like anything other than the fearless spirit that she is. Big brother, Stalker, would circle protectively around her and then dash off to play with his new friends. Their connection is beautiful to see!
Two-and-a-half months later and the dogs have become one big pack, thanks to Marilyn and Bruce putting real effort into the integration process. Marilyn has also oriented Misty to the pool and she’s turned out to be a real water baby! She continues to astound the whole family with her adventures and indomitable spirit.
Doing the right thing
We close off this story by saluting Misty and Stalker’s original family. In a time where animal rescue organisations are flooded by emigration cases and animals being left behind, often at very short notice, this family did the best thing they could for their animals. They researched all the quarantine requirements for animals going into New Zealand, carefully deliberated the pros and cons for a blind dog, and, in the end, realised that Misty would better be able to deal with the upheaval of a new home here, than go through the stresses of an international flight and quarantine.
They then contacted an animal rescue and rehoming organisation, THREE MONTHS IN ADVANCE of their departure, and as such, a proper networking campaign could be rolled out. They did not leave the future and well-being of their dogs to the 99th minute…
We appeal to anyone emigrating to do likewise: Do everything in your power to take them with you – they are family and should be treated as such. However, if you have done all the homework and considered all the angles, and are not able to take them with you, respect and love them enough to rehome them right (i.e. not ‘free to good home’). Animal rescue and rehoming organisations screen prospective adopters and do home-checks to ensure that each animal finds a secure and solid home. Partner with them in the best interests of your dog or cat – and give them enough time to do full justice to the next chapter of your furry child’s life.