Written by Juanita Henning and photographs by Juanita Henning and Gerda Lombard
My aunt, Sue Faust, has the most beautiful little black-and-gold Dachshund named Gabby who is the love of her life. Gabby is two years old and lives with Sue in an old age home in Brakpan. She was given away as a little pup and rescued by Sue and her husband, Martin.
Helping hands needed
In January this year, Gabby’s back gave in – a common problem in Dachshunds – and she lost the ability to use her hind legs. As Sue and Martin stay in an old age home and don’t have transport, they needed some helping hands. These came in the form of animal rescuer Ann Martin, who put us in touch with Judy Jooste, founder of The Vesper On Wheels Project. Judy’s own dog, Vesper, is paralysed too, which is what led to her starting the project.
The project helps people get wheelchairs for their disabled pets at the cheapest rate or via donations. Once the wheelchair is no longer in use, she asks that people give her the opportunity to pay it forward by donating it back to her – that way she’s able to help another animal in need.
Gabby gets her wheels
When Judy heard Gabby’s story, she immediately set to work to get donations and, within days, she had wheels made for Gabby. We made an appointment to go and see Judy and were fortunate enough to also meet Vesper, who’d already been living with wheels for three years! It was such an inspiration to see that, even though she could no longer walk, Gabby would still be able to live a full and happy life – just like Vesper.
Estelle Meldau of Woodrock Animal Rescue took Gabby in to assist with her treatment and veterinary care. After a myelogram and x-rays were done, it became clear that Gabby’s injury was permanent – she would never be able to use her hind legs again. Fortunately, veterinary specialist Dr Fanie Naude advised that Gabby was not in any pain. Gabby, Sue and Martin were reunited; she will now live happily ever after on her wheels with the people who love her more than anything.
I believe that every dog deserves a chance. And every dog matters – including disabled ones! We can learn so much from them – they just simply refuse to give up.
Thank you Nicholas and Estelle Meldau and the Woodrock team, and Judy Jooste for the incredible work you do and for making a difference in the lives of so many people and animals every single day.
WHEELS FOR GABBY – By Judy Jooste
What an amazing experience to help this little dog and her people. All dogs are special, the disabled ones just more so.
Getting the ball rolling
Ann Martin, our sterilisation guru, referred Sue Faust to me and she contacted me in early February 2017. As I’d just had a knee operation, I could only advise over the phone regarding crate rest and other suggestions to keep her as quiet as possible while she was receiving veterinary treatment. It was then that I discovered that there was no money for a specialist consult and that they didn’t have transport. I advised six weeks’ crate rest until I was on my feet, while we tried to see if we could get help to go to a specialist. Since the specialist was in Pretoria and the Fausts were in Brakpan – without transport – it took some organising.
So, we organised to get Gabby to Pretoria to get her wheels. At that stage I was still on crutches after my knee op so making anything was difficult. I decided to rope in some help, see what we could use in my wheels cupboard and get donations for the rest – and get Gabby mobile. At the same time I met with my friend Estelle Meldau from Woodrock and asked what we could do to determine exactly what was wrong with Gabby’s back. I explained that her owners were pensioners and didn’t have much money but that they absolutely loved their dog. Estelle, as always, agreed to help.
I asked Sue to measure her dog so that we could get started and we built Gabby’s wheels on a new concept we’d tried and tested with Vesper (she’s broken every supplier’s wheels as my dear dog is an amazing rally driver). Sue’s niece and the rest of the family organised the road trip to Pretoria with Gabby.
Gabby started to run
We’d encountered some problems due to the measurements and the dog’s weight not computing and decided to make the wheels a little bigger. Good decision: Gabby arrived 20cm longer than measured! But we got those wheels to fit, thanks to the harness and some adjustments. The fun part was Sue playing piano and singing while we were doing the adjustments. What an incredible woman; what an amazing family.
They’d brought along Gabby’s favourite yellow ball, and when we put her in the wheels, she looked at the ball and began running. I brought Vesper out, as she loves to show the other dogs how to run. Before long Gabby was following her around the house. Seeing that happy little dog running after her yellow ball, and the delighted smile on Sue’s face made everything worthwhile. It always does. It makes me so grateful and joyful that Vesper came into my life and has showed me how I can be of service to animals.
Who is Vesper on Wheels?
When I adopted little Vesper from Woodrock, there was only one lady (Jetty Botes) who helped me obtain information on how to live with a disabled dog. The more I spoke to people, the more I realised it was an area that was totally lacking. People needed information; they needed to talk to someone who’d been through it; they needed to learn how to breathe and not panic.
And that was how Vesper on Wheels started: to be that midway point, an information hub, the helping hand. Vesper on Wheels has amazing supporters who believe in what we try to do. We endeavour to source wheels, get donations for wheels, and provide information regarding suppliers, hydrotherapists and resources from all over the world. There’s nothing better than hearing a dog bark and run, just because you made them mobile again. There is no “dis” in their abilities if you give them the chance. They live life to the full.