Written by Cindy Ferreira of PEAR (Port Elizabeth Animal Rescue)
Professional photography by Hilette Hatting
On Friday the 3rd of February 2017, I answered a call from a concerned resident in KwaZakhele, an impoverished area near Port Elizabeth. His friend’s dog’s skin looked terrible and he was sure that the dog was in pain. I asked him to send me the address and a photo of the dog. Two days later, I received them, as he’d promised.
What I saw left me horrified; I knew she would look bad, but even on the blurry photo I could see that the poor dog was in a shocking state. Because it’s not safe to enter the area alone, I spent the whole day trying to get someone to help me. I finally got hold of Beverley Rademeyer from Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL) Port Elizabeth and she arranged for one of their staff members who lives in KwaZakhele to fetch her.
The little dog was one big mass of scabs
Monday morning dawned and I was on the phone first thing to Bev; the dog was there and she was in a terrible condition – and the owner wanted her put to sleep. I immediately phoned the owner and got her to surrender the dog to me. I then sped to AACL to fetch her and get her to my vet. What I saw was dreadful: aside from a few tufts of sandy-coloured hair along her back, the rest of her – from her face and ears to the tip of her tail – was literally one big mass of scabs and sore, thickened skin and she had a hairless “rat’s tail”. She could not open her eyes at all and was boiling hot. She had sarcoptic mange with secondary infections. I left her at the vet in the knowledge that she’d get the treatment she needed.
That afternoon I returned to check on her. Unfortunately, sarcoptic mange of this severity isn’t a quick fix, so all they could do, aside from initiating antibiotics and mange treatment, was to administer vitamin boosters, cortisone for the itching, and a tick and flea treatment.
All she saw were ticks
I took the poor hot, skinny little scrap and sat quietly with her on my lap. I’m not squeamish as I don’t mind mange or blood, but one thing I cannot stand is ticks. And, because she’d had the tick and flea treatment, the horrible things were crawling off her en masse and dying; all I saw as she sat on my lap were ticks – hundreds of them. But because the scared dog had stuck her little head under my arm, there was no way I would take her off my lap. So there we sat, and for the next week that was our daily routine.
Daily I visited and she would fall asleep on my lap until the vet closed. I decided to name her Arizona, after the pretty doctor on Grey’s Anatomy. It took a couple of days for her eyes to be able to open and when they did she still would not look up at you. With her hanging head, Arizona really was the saddest little doggie I’d ever seen. Because she had sarcoptic mange, which is contagious, I couldn’t walk her without risking other animals; it was only after two weeks of treatment that she could start going outside. She loved her walks but hated – and still hates – walking on grass.
Day by day Arizona got stronger. By day five, her scabs had started to go and she was a pink and hairless pooch. She was starting to look better but was still itchy – and I know exactly how she felt because I got her mange (called scabies in humans). It burns and itches something terrible, so the poor dog was in a fiery, itchy hell.
As she improved, she became friendlier. The vet practice became home to her and she happily trotted around greeting everyone and getting treats. There was, finally, a sparkle in her eyes.
On the 18th of February, Arizona could finally come home with me as she was no longer contagious so my dogs weren’t at risk of contracting mange. Once there, she slept for two solid days before venturing outside. She’d dash out to do her business and then quickly run back to her bed in the bathroom – her safe place. But the better she felt, the more her confidence grew and she was soon running around with my pack, although it took another two weeks for her to start barking.
Every animal deserves a chance and Arizona is living proof of that. And she just gets more beautiful every day as her hair grows out blonde and soft. The vets used to call her Crusty, and then Baldy when she lost all her fur and was bald and pink. Now they call her Beautiful Arizona.
As the days passed, I watched Arizona become a beautiful little girl with the sweetest, most loving nature imaginable. I still cannot believe she is the same mangy dog I first saw that Monday morning. Once strong enough, she was spayed, after years of having litter after litter of pups. She fits into my pack of 11 dogs perfectly and doesn’t even chase the cats or the guinea fowl in the garden; she and another of my dogs, Henry, join me at work daily and from the very first day she was as good as gold.
Our little blonde beauty really is an amazing little girl: despite her terrible past, she’s completely house-trained, has learnt all the basic commands in no time, loves “playing soccer” with a soccer ball and chases after tennis balls – and she especially loves her yellow duck that someone gave her. She takes all the other dogs’ toys and puts everything in HER bed. And – bonus – she’s the world’s greatest kisser and loves to snuggle. All of this has convinced me that she was someone’s beloved pet that either got lost or was given away to someone living in KwaZhekele.
Sweet home Arizona
I would have homed her had the perfect home come along, and there were offers; but as people started changing their minds and making excuses about adopting her, I knew that she was meant to stay with me. On the plus side, three other PEAR doggies also found their forever homes.
Arizona crept into my heart from day one and I cannot imagine my life without her in it. From the moment I saw her photo that Monday morning in February, I knew I would do everything in my power to give her the life she deserves.
Thank you to the vets and staff at 9th Avenue Vet for her care; to everyone who donated beds and blankets and the special food for her; and thanks especially to the lady for her beloved duckie. And thank you also to everyone who donated towards Arizona’s vet bills.
Arizona is now in her Forever Home.