Written by Jorislie Dunn
On 28 June 2017, animal lover and networker Yanou Olderwagen added a post to her Facebook page, pleading for someone to adopt two Jack Russell Terriers, Hailey and Sammy. Along with the photos was a video in which it was clear that the male, Sammy, was absolutely terrified of anything and everything, especially humans. I saw the post, tagged my husband and then shared the post, filled with hope that these two would find a happy home.
What do you think?
After 1.2k shares and 273 comments, Hailey and Sammy were still out there, waiting. People from all over South Africa contacted Yanou with regards to her post, including some who were considering flying down to meet them. However, it was decided that it would not be ideal to upset them any more than they already were by subjecting them to travelling, especially flying.
A couple of sleepless nights later, I asked my husband what he was thinking. My husband is not a man of many words; he just looked at me and said, “What do you think?”
My answer was: “I don’t know!” Well, we already had six dogs, two of them Great Danes, plus I’d promised myself I wouldn’t get another Jack Russell as they’re such active little dogs, so we went to sleep that night without discussing it any further.
The longer they stayed, the greater the emotional damage
I sent Yanou a message saying that we had to meet the next morning. And that’s exactly what we did. We met at the Swellendam SPCA and she introduced me to the scared little pair. I don’t have any words to describe my thoughts or feelings the moment I saw them; my disappointment in humankind. Seeing the absolute fright in their eyes. I don’t even want to start by telling you what I think of people like their owners. (I’ve since found out who the dogs belonged to and cannot, but cannot, believe their doing.)
Normally, I really think these things over but, when I saw them, there wasn’t anything to think about. I immediately said we would adopt them. It was just the obvious thing to do.
However, it wasn’t as simple as just taking them home – there were a lot of complications. They’d been dropped off there and not officially signed over, meaning that their owners could still come to collect them. The law states that they have to be at the shelter for seven days, giving their owners time to search for them or collect them if they change their minds.
Our main concern was that the longer they stayed in the shelter, the bigger their emotional damage – they were already absolutely terrified. The male sat in the same corner for three days without moving, wetting himself just there. The staff repeatedly changed the blankets to keep him comfortable. We needed to get them out of those kennels as soon as possible.
I arranged with the head of the SPCA to collect Hailey and Sammy before the weekend, with the agreement that should their owners come forward before the seven days expired, I would willingly return them.
A place to call home
I excitedly went shopping for them: new baskets, collars, leashes – the works – and come Friday I headed into town with my two-year-old daughter to collect the poor little souls. After meeting them and taking some pictures, we lifted them into the car, where they huddled together at my daughter’s feet. We have a 30-minute drive home, and the whole way my daughter sat with her hand on Hailey’s head, patting her. It was clear from the beginning that they had a special bond.
Getting home went just fine – our other dogs accepted the newcomers with open arms (or, I guess, open paws would be the correct way of putting it). I kept them in our en suite bathroom for the first day, just in case, but it was obvious that they were comfortable and nosy, wanting to see what was happening in the rest of the house.
By the first night I had them in front of my bed. Sammy was very scared and when he heard my husband’s voice, he headed into the closest corner and wet himself. Also, he wouldn’t come out to eat; I had to put his food bowl inside his basket. But we wouldn’t give up on him.
Let the healing begin
The weekend came and went, and they remained unclaimed – for which we were very glad.
Slowly but surely the healing began.
We renamed the boy Basie, and while he’s still very cautious of people, he happily comes to eat when I call him and allows me to hold him; the kids can also sit with him.
The girl, whom we named Nonna, just wants love and it’s obvious that she has more trust in humans. She sleeps in our bed and we love it – she jumps up onto the bed herself and comes when she is called. Nonna loves being cuddled and happily allows the kids to carry her around.
Basie and Nonna also enjoy playing with the other dogs. They really love their treats and snacks, and Basie adores snoozing all day in his basket, placed right in front of my heater. All in all, they are doing really well.
We still have a way to go to heal them completely and to regain their trust in humankind, but, with unconditional love, we will do our level best. And we know it will work.