Doting on Danté


Written by Alexandra Williamson and St Francis Animal Rescue’s Susan Rae Fox

Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photography

When I saw J. Bay Animal Rescue Sanctuary’s post about a Sharpei that had been rescued from the Thornhill forest during the Knysna/Plett/St Francis fire, I had no intention of adopting another dog. But life had other ideas…

Rescued from the inferno

They’d found the thin, sand-coloured boy tied to a stake behind a shack in the path of an oncoming fire. I’ve always loved Sharpeis and, after my first two, I loved them even more. So, he really caught my attention.

I already had a well-established pack at home consisting of 13-year-old Husky Oscar, 2- to 3-year-old Pit Bull Cassius, and one-year-old Sharpei brothers Harlow and Tyga – all males.

Danté looked so sad and thin but still quite cheeky and I couldn’t help myself; I said I would take him if they could get him to Johannesburg.

Susan Rae Fox from St Francis Animal Rescue promptly organised everything, from his sterilisation, deworming and vaccinations to organising him a lift to Johannesburg with Kirsten Doyle.

Heading for a new life

I picked him up on the Monday after I’d adopted him. He was already so full of energy and so strong, despite being just bones. He was and still is incredibly friendly towards humans, which is quite unusual for the breed.

He was so excited to see my other dogs and it was a bit overwhelming for them. Initially we had a few hiccups with Danté trying to dominate my Pit Bull (the pack leader) and bullying Oscar, my senior dog. I’d anticipated and was prepared for possible issues as the pack was so tight knit and Danté wasn’t very dog-social. I suspect that his bravado was a cover for being quite nervous in his new situation. But he learnt quickly and by the first night he was on the couch and sleeping in my bed.

Danté rode to work with me every day for the first few weeks so I could keep an eye on him. He has since integrated and now stays at home with his brothers, although it is a bit of a nightmare for me to leave my house because he jumps the garden fence into the driveway and tries to follow me.

Rising from the ashes

Danté chooses to stay with me rather than the other dogs when I’m at home. He loves to play with ropes and his ball. Although at times he still flinches when being touched, it gets less all the time. He must have once been someone’s pet as he was house- and car-trained when I got him, and had lovely manners when at work with me.

He sleeps on my shoulder every night and is getting less nervous of falling asleep. He is very cheeky and outsmarts me all the time – and is visibly impressed with himself when he does. Danté is very gentle and loves cuddles, nose kisses, belly rubs and food of any sort. Being very agile and athletic, he has happily joined forces with the other two Sharpeis, causing chaos!

I named him Danté after the poem Danté’s Inferno, as he has been through hell and come out the other side better for it.

Susan Rae Fox, Founder Member of St Francis Animal Rescue, shares…

St Francis Animal Rescue first heard about the rescued Sharpei from Jessica Naude of Baby Animal Rescue who, together with volunteer Irma, went into Thornhill to pick up dogs abandoned during the fires.

This Sharpei was found behind a shack, tied to a stake, left without food or water – and in the path of the oncoming flames. Jessica untied the soot-covered dog and brought him back to Humansdorp where he spent his first night in a kennel; the next day I took him to the Humansdorp Vet where Dr Annelise Barker checked him over and neutered him.  

He had bleeding wounds on both ears and his body was pockmarked with small injuries. He was desperately thin, hungry and thirsty. After neutering, he was dewormed, and given a long-acting treatment for fleas and ticks, as well as antibiotics and cream for his wounds.

Christen Doyle, one of our foster mothers, took him in for three days until she was due to return to Johannesburg, where she was packing up her home in preparation to move to St Francis permanently.

As luck would have it, Alexandra got in touch after seeing one of my Facebook posts. I contacted her and decided immediately that she was the perfect parent for this dear, anxious, insecure boy. She had two Sharpeis and knew and understood the breed – and from our phone conversations, I knew she would love and care for a “special needs” child like Danté.

And, so, when Christen drove back to Johannesburg, Danté went along for the ride to his forever home... and the rest is history.

One of the things I’ve learned during years in animal rescue is how well teamwork works… how people come together in an emergency and how love conquers all. It’s wonderful when a plan comes together.