Caring for Karoo

Written by Erma Voigt, Liaison Officer, CSI (Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative), and Leonie Smit

Professional photography by Kritzography

Matthew was not on our list of patients to collect that day in June 2017 and, when he was handed over to us, it was not as a patient who’d be returning that evening but as a dog who nobody wanted around anymore. But all of that changed for him the moment his owner signed him over into our care.

He was banned from the house and yard

We were collecting animals in the township for our “sterithon” when we were stopped and asked to take and put to sleep a little brown dog. He had mange, a disease viewed with great distrust in most townships. As result, this sweet-natured dog was banned from the house and yard, and had to fend for himself out on the street where, no doubt, he was also chased away and shunned.

Our vet examined him to establish if he was healthy enough to be neutered, which he was, and was scheduled to be neutered the very next day. We don’t have a shelter facility and one of the biggest problems we face is not enough foster homes (people offering to temporarily take in homeless dogs while we search for a forever home).

When our plea for help rendered no response, Matthew was kennelled at the local SPCA to give us some extra time. Almost daily, Matthew was lucky enough to be visited and walked by a kind volunteer named Ross, to whom we are very grateful. He even took him to vet visits if needed.

Prince Charming wins them over

An unexpected offer to foster Matthew came all the way from JHB some weeks later. Fostering over such a long distance does pose its challenges since CSI carries vet fees for dogs in foster care, so we need to liaise with another welfare organisation in the area to make use of their vet if needed.

We were blessed that NDDF (Namaqua Dog and Donkey Foundation) came to our assistance. A big “thank you” goes to chairperson Reinette for always going out of her way to assist us and the Karoo Doggies. Thank you also to CSI team member Hillary for fostering him for a while before his departure to Johannesburg.

Well, we didn’t want to be over-optimistic, but being the charmer that he is, we thought there just might be a chance of Matthew charming his way into the hearts of his foster parents… and he didn’t disappoint. Not only did they fall in love, they decided that they couldn’t bear to part with him. Well-played, boy!

A huge thank you to Johan and Leonie for, first of all, throwing this boy a lifeline, and then driving all the way from Johannesburg to Graaff-Reinet to fetch a FOSTER dog. And, of course, in the end, giving him his Happy Tale that he so deserves. You truly are special angels. Matthew now also sports a new name: Karoo. And as you can see from the photos, he’s another lucky poster boy for a “Rags to Riches” fairy tale.

Leonie Smit, Karoo’s new owner, shares…

In February of this year we adopted Lemon, a blind and deaf senior lady who came to us from CSI (Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative). Lemon fit our family like a glove and she is now a much loved and slightly grumpy senior who rules the roost! I believe it was the smooth transition of Lemon that made it so easy for us to make the decision of fostering another rescue. And this is how Matthew, now named Karoo, came into our lives.

We are on CSI’s mailing list and almost daily receive the heartrending emails eloquently written by Erma Voigt. I read with dread and sadness about Karoo’s life and, after some soul searching, I decided that I had to help him. I was slightly apprehensive to tell my husband, Johan, about the situation. Johan always supports me wholeheartedly, but I know that he’s a little more logical about the financial and emotional implications of taking in a new dog. But, again this wonderful man gave me his full support and we could now go about the arrangements of bringing Karoo home…

Neither Johan nor I have ever been to Graaff-Reinet and the drive there from our home in Kempton Park was quite a pleasant experience. Upon our arrival, we were met with such overwhelming hospitality and found it to be a beautiful and quirky dorpie with beautiful architecture, lovely coffee shops and restaurants and amazing people. And then, of course, there was little Karoo, waiting to come home with us.

He was terrified

The drive back to Kempton Park with Karoo was quite uneventful, except once, when we stopped to give him a much-needed bathroom break and realised just how terrified this poor dog was; he was shaking uncontrollably and could not move! We put him back in the car and decided to stop nowhere else until we reached our home. 

We soon discovered that Karoo did not like being close to people; he shunned human touch and, when we moved towards him, he would move away. He quivered when we tried to stroke him. He lay mainly in his basket and only went outside when nature required him to. When we put his food down, he gulped it up in almost one bite and then headed straight back to his basket. But we would not give up.

Karoo learns to trust

Slowly but surely he allowed us to stroke his head. Next, he inched closer and started lying by my feet when we watched TV. He started following us when we walked around the garden. He still refused to sleep in our bedroom upstairs – venturing only onto the landing and then going back to sleep in his basket downstairs. 

Every afternoon around 15h00 is tea time in our house; that means tea and biscuits for the two humans and dog biscuits for the four-legged troops. Karoo found this very strange and would not partake in any eating of these strange-smelling biscuits. But only for a while. It wasn’t long before he was munching his biscuits down quickly and then waiting for the spoils of the other dogs, which he also gulped down. He also knows exactly in which cupboard these little titbits are kept and trots ahead of me when I go in that direction. 

A sense of belonging

Eventually Karoo allowed us to stroke him, and even kiss and hug him. He started throwing his long legs around my waist in pure joy at seeing me. He took an interest in the other dogs and cats in the household – much to their annoyance! – and he discovered the joys of rolling around in the grass. He absolutely loves being outside and runs criss-cross around the lawn, tail wagging, acting goofy and – oh, my goodness – what a beautiful sight this is. He even now sleeps upstairs with us on his own bed. 

Although he’s still wary of strangers, and may even growl at them, we believe this will change in time.  

Karoo is a beautiful soul. When we came to the realisation that we would, one day, have to give him up to another family, we knew that it would not be possible. He belongs with us. We belong to him now and he to us.

Karoo is part of “our pack” and we cannot wait to go along this journey with him as part of our family.