Blackie The Ambassadog

Written by Heather Pieterse, Treasurer and Social Media Manager, Plett Animal Welfare Service

The handsome black-and-gold German Shepherd dog was found wandering around Main Road, Plettenberg Bay, on the 18th of September 2017 and taken to Plett Animal Welfare Service (PAWS).

PAWS posted his picture on their Facebook page in search of his owner but nobody claimed him, and so, after the prescribed holding period, the healthy two-year-old, which PAWS kennel manager Tracy van der Byl had named Blackie, was put up for adoption. Little did they know that Blackie had a very special future ahead of him.

Finding Blackie

Crystie Spurrier, Blackie’s rescuer, recalls finding him: “I was driving past Pippa’s Flowers at about 7:45am from Plett Primary to Checkers when I noticed what looked like a purebred German Shepherd dog (GSD), off lead, plodding along with two men who were rummaging through dustbins.

“It didn’t really seem like the dog was with the men, so I decided to follow. Unfortunately, with cars behind me, I was forced to turn up a side road, and in the time it took me to come back, the dog was gone. By this stage I’d phoned Tracy, who was nearby, and she went to talk to the men.

“Meanwhile, I drove along Main Street, looking for the dog. I found him at a petrol station, where I parked my car, grabbed a lead that I keep in my car, and jumped out to catch him.”

Frozen in terror

Says Crystie, “When I caught up to him, he’d made his way into the little staff room, where a lady petrol attendant sat frozen in terror while trying to eat her breakfast. He was clearly hungry so I asked the lady for some food so that I could entice him into the leash.

 “I must admit that I was pretty nervous as he was a big guy – and the first strange dog that I’d approached since being bitten by a stray two months earlier. But he slipped into the lead really easily, much to the relief of the lady who took the first opportunity to make a hasty exit.”

Not your average stray

Crystal was delighted to discover that the big dog didn’t seem aggressive at all, although he did want to keep moving in search of more food: “I gave some money to another staff member and asked him to buy me a loaf of bread while I kept an eye on the dog.

“Out of habit from training our puppies, I commanded the dog to sit before handing him a piece of bread. He didn’t even hesitate and promptly plonked himself down, sitting to attention, waiting for food. That’s when I knew that this was not just an average stray dog.

“I was rapidly running out of bread when, to my relief, Tracy arrived with her dog cage. The last of the bread enticed him into the cage; we lifted him into her bakkie and off we went. And that’s how he came to be at PAWS.”

Help needed

The Plettenberg Bay Crime Prevention Association (PBCPA) was formed in 2011 to combat rising crime levels in the Plettenberg Bay area. The association often needed to call in the help of South African Police Service (SAPS) K9 handler Officer Waldo Gerber to help track criminals. However, as Gerber covers the entire Garden Route area, he isn’t always available.

Therefore, the PBCPA decided that a security dog (and handler) was needed to fight crime in Plettenberg Bay more efficiently. But training a security service dog doesn’t come cheap – and the only place providing such training is all the way in Johannesburg. Plus, the perfect dog had yet to be found…

A team effort

PBCPA member Otto Olivier of Plett Security researched the legal requirements, training needs and costs while Marius Venter, PBCPA’s executive team project manager, began searching for sponsors for the Plett K9 unit. Appeals went out and the Plettenberg Bay community responded in force, with offers of help from many people.

On Wednesday the 27th September 2017, Marius announced the wonderful news: a sponsor had been found. They decided to adopt a homeless dog.

Otto saw Blackie and went to meet him at the PAWS kennels – he was the perfect fit. PAWS approved the adoption and, on the 28th of September, a vaccinated, microchipped, enthusiastic Blackie was officially adopted by Otto. Now the real work could begin.

Blackie and Otto needed to go to “school” to learn how to be the perfect crime-fighting team. The Plett Ratepayers Association stepped in and sponsored their K9 training. Next, a kennel approved by PAWS and the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA) was sponsored by Plett Security, who also purchased a special vehicle with a protective canopy to transport Blackie, as required by PSIRA. The public sponsored a bullet-proof vest for Blackie.

Cemair, “angel wings” of so many adopted animals, flew Blackie free of charge to Johannesburg, while the public sponsored flights not covered by Cemair. Soon, it was time for Otto and Blackie to head for Johannesburg.

Job training

Clinton and Ansunet of Tactical K9 Africa CC, who train dogs for anti-poaching and security work, were at the airport to meet them and whisked them off to Swartruggens for the next two months.

Otto’s K9 academic training began immediately, and once he’d passed the written exams, he and Blackie’s training could begin together. Blackie and Otto were to be trained to level DH5 – a lofty goal indeed.

Each level builds on the previous one, including basic to advanced obedience, care of service dogs, handling of service dogs to deter crime, off- and on-leash training, and apprehension of suspects. Only once all these levels have been passed can level DH5 be tackled: substance detection and tracking.

Blackie and Otto had a lot of work ahead of them over the next two months but nothing held them back and the dynamic duo passed the full course. Intelligent Blackie thrived, clearly loving his work – and his time with Otto. All legal requirements were put in place and Blackie was accredited with a PSIRA number.

PBCPA K9 unit will work closely with the SAPS K9 unit, PAWS and Plett Walkabout WhatsApp group.

A purpose in life

Otto explains: “Blackie is not only a working dog or an ambassador for the PBCPA and PAWS. He is also a symbol for unity in Plettenberg Bay, showing how different people and different organisations can come together to make a dream come true and make Plettenberg Bay a safer and better place.”

Blackie’s rescuer, Crystie, is overjoyed at his new start in life: “It makes my heart so happy to see him have a purpose and to have found his person who is so clearly taken with him! I love how proudly Otto shows off his partner to the community of Plett.”

Blackie has also been an example – following his success, the PBCPA has adopted another unwanted dog, named Max, who’ll be trained in drug detection. All excess and ongoing donations to PAWS for Blackie are handled by PAWS to be used for Blackie as needed, when requested by Otto.

More about PAWS

Plett Animal Welfare Services (PAWS) is a non-profit organisation (NPO 020-732) established in 2002, which provides care for animals in impoverished communities in the Greater Plettenberg Bay Area (Bitou). Their core function is to prevent cruelty to animals, both proactively and reactively, and they aim to work within the communities they serve to educate and better lives. To find out more about PAWS, follow them on Facebook @PlettAnimalWelfare or call 083 287 9917.

Plettenberg Bay Crime Prevention Association would like to thank

The PBCPA emphasises that there are many people and groups which deserve praise for making a new life for a homeless dog and improving safety for residents of Plettenberg Bay – all by working together.

  • Plett Animal Welfare Services PAWS for their trust and support.
  • Plett Ratepayers Association for their sponsorship, trust and support.
  • Cemair for the free flight to Johannesburg for Blackie and Otto.
  • A huge thanks to Marius Venter (PBCPA Exco member), who got the necessary sponsorships for Blackie and Otto’s training in Swartruggens and for standing in for Otto whilst he was on the course and exceeding all expectations.
  • Thank you very much to Clinton, Ansunet and Roelie of Tactical K9 Training Africa – your dedication, knowlege, love of dogs and precise training brought the best forward in Otto and Blackie, which led to their good qualification results. A special word of thanks for your hospitality during Otto's stay at your tactical training camp.
  • All the PBCPA members in good standing for their vote of confidence, dedication and continued support.
  • Last but not least, Elaine for taking on the task of overseeing the building of Blackie’s PSIRA/PAWS-approved kennel.

Check out Blackie in action on YouTube:

Tactical K9 Africa

Plett Crime Prevention