Written by Richelle Graham, Founder and Manager of Dead Animals Walking (D.A.W.)
Photography by Helen Cassarchis
During our ice-cold rainy season we rescued Lily – formerly known as Vlermuis because of her ears – along with a puppy named Sheba. Sheba is now named Bella and has been adopted (you may read about her here: http://www.happytailsmagazine.co.za/happy-tales/bella-my-princess/). Both of them had terrible mange, dermatitis, ticks, and were skeletal.
Our volunteer, Candice Burger, rescued them from an industrial area. They’d been found lying on the cement in the wet rain and ice-cold wind, and she brought them to us. It was an exceptionally difficult road to recovery for both Lily and Bella. Bella had a deformity (she had both male and female genitalia), but that didn’t stop us from rehabilitating her and finding her fur’ever home.
We struggled with Lily: being 12 years old, she was blind in one eye due to an old injury we know nothing about, and her mange and dermatitis took so long to heal. On the day she was strong enough to be sterilised, a heaven-sent foster mom, Karin du Toit, was there and saw Lily; not swayed by her condition, she said she’d foster her, and this was like gold for us!
As soon as we placed her into foster care, she began thriving, healing more quickly, and becoming a dog, not just an old dog with a past. After posting Lily’s story, our amazing adoptive mom who successfully adopted one of our other Dead Animals Walking, Kiki, offered to give Lily the best last years of her life. Plans were then initiated to get Lily all the way to PE, without putting her health at risk if she had to fly.
But then she developed an abscess in her mouth, and when we took her to the vet all the teeth on the right side of her mouth were severely rotten. The decision was made to take the risk of putting her under anaesthesia to remove all the rotten teeth, because she truly deserved to find this home. She went in for surgery, and everyone on social media prayed for her; she made it, only with teeth on the left side of her mouth, but she felt like a million bucks.
Then the day finally arrived when Helen Cassarchis, a friend of Dianne’s (Lily’s new adoptive mom), came forward to drive up and drive her back down to avoid any stressors. Lily arrived at her new home with her new mom and family and hit the jackpot.
Seeing a 12-year-old, broken soul find a home makes saving the lives that we save so worth it, because rescue is a lifestyle. It’s not a passing fad, you live it… breathe it… love it – 24/7.
Our purpose for living here at DAW is to change the lives of animals like Lily. And, like her and so many others deemed Dead Animals Walking, we wish everyone out there to know that we find beauty in the most incomprehensible places and the otherwise homely faces. It’s our gift to see beyond the dirt, terror, pain, sadness and defeat and find the true soul that lies within. We are the hope for the hopeless… we are true animal rescuers! And we couldn’t have wished for a better home for Lily.
Dianne Boy, Lily’s new owner, shares…
I first spotted Lily and Bella (Sheba) in May the day they were picked up by Dead Animals Walking when their pictures appeared on their Facebook page. Tragically, I see MANY animal posts on Facebook, having mostly rescue animals from different organisations, and they all tear your heart out, but sometimes there’s THAT ONE picture that just gets in even more. My Kiki was one of those, and she came to me last year when I lived in Johannesburg.
When I saw the pictures of Lily and Sheba I thought to myself, “Oh my! Their spirits look absolutely broken.”
I was keen to keep track of their story and progress, but I didn’t see any more about them, and, already having seven dogs, I almost put them out of my mind. This was until the 20th of September when Happy Tails Magazine ran the story on Bella (Sheba) and her finding her forever home. In the article was a reference to Lily and that, at 12 years old, she was still looking for someone to adopt her.
As fate would have it, I’d recently gone through a break-up with my long-term partner, and she’d relocated back to Johannesburg after we’d made the move in March to St Francis Bay. She’d taken three of our dogs with her. I then started thinking perhaps I could give Lily a “retirement” home and wondered if she could fit in a backpack so that she could enjoy the long walks along the coast with my remaining dogs. I then set the wheels in motion with Richelle and asked the question… and the rest is history.
Once we’d agreed Lily could come to me, the dilemma was now how to get her to me in St Francis Bay, as I commute to Johannesburg every second week. We decided flying her to Port Elizabeth was an option, but with very few flights, the timing had to be just right. Then Richelle advised that she had an abscess in her mouth and couldn’t travel until that was sorted; furthermore, it was subsequently discovered that she had quite a few rotten teeth in one side of her mouth that now had to be surgically removed. A tense time it was, but she came through the operation like a boss.
During this time I’d met someone who resides in Cape Town, Helen Cassarchis, and she graciously offered to assist in driving Lily to meet me in Wilderness. And so, on Thursday the 14th of November, Helen collected Lily from her foster mom, Karin, and Richelle, and set off for Wilderness very early on Friday morning.
I was only able to get to Wilderness on the Friday afternoon, but once I arrived and met Lily, I was so happy. What a beautiful soul. She was a little subdued and slept a lot – probably after-effects of the operation – but she has such a will to live and a survival instinct that you cannot help but have huge respect for her.
Lily does what Lily wants, and yet from years of abuse she immediately submits when you want to give her affection. It’s gut-wrenching! Carrying on from the love and care that her foster mom gave her, I realised that Lily will continue to need lots of TLC and nurturing and much love and understanding.
Upon our arrival home, I decided to just bring Lily into the house to meet her new siblings. The response was amazing – all being rescues themselves, it was like they just knew, and it was like she’d been here forever. No drama, growling or fuss – just lots of sniffing. I was truly amazed.
Immediately my one black kitten, Sky, made herself at home on Lily’s new red blanket (thank you Helen) right beside her – as if to say, “Welcome and I’m here for you” – wow! She didn’t move from Lily’s side for the entire afternoon. It was so special to see.
I then engaged the services of Hayley Rautenbach – an animal communicator and healer in Johannesburg – firstly for her to connect to Lily and let her know what was happening and also to allay any fears she had about me commuting – namely leaving and coming back all the time. Hayley did an incredible job, I must say.
After my first trip to Johannesburg I was so worried, but when I came in that front door and Lily was there to greet me – all happy and skipping – my heart just melted.
She spends her retirement days sleeping on the many beds and a big FatSak and nights of late snuggling with mum on my bed. She has an old injury in her front shoulder, which Hayley picked up that she was kicked or beaten there, and has a limp that might limit her walking days, but my aim is just to give her as much love and comfort she needs to live out her “golden years” and for her to know true love can and does actually exist between people and animals.