Written and photographed by Donna Collins
A dramatic search and rescue for miniature Dachshund Jazi, who disappeared in the vast and inhospitable Namib Desert, ended with tears of joy when she was found and brought to safety.
She wandered off
A family outing and the last day of holidays in the desert area of Langstrand was the beginning of a five-day nightmare for Jazi and her family. While her owners picnicked, Jazi, who usually stayed close by, wandered off and vanished.
By the time they were ready to pack up and leave, the family realised, to their horror, that there was no sight of little Jazi anywhere. They called and searched the immediate area, but with the sun sinking there was no alternative but to leave, hearts heavy.
An impossible situation
The Namib Desert stretches over 2000km along the coastline of Namibia, contains some of the driest places in the world and has sand dunes of up to 300m high; it’s almost completely uninhabited. There is very little water or shelter from the sun. The chances of a small black-and-tan dog surviving in such vastness all alone are slim and it would take the combined efforts of many caring people to find Jazi.
Animal lovers banded together to find the little dog. The show of force from a group of caring animal lovers turned an almost impossible situation into a miracle.
After frantic phone calls, messages and tracking sightings of Jazi, who’d been spotted in the dunes close to Swakopmund, a team of rescuers were out in full force, day and night, determined to find her alive.
Animal lovers on a rescue mission
The rescue was a remarkable feat of the community coming together.
When Sylvia Luis, manager of Desert Explorers Quad Bikes, heard about the rescue mission, she deployed her guides – Timo Sakaria, Carlo Booysen and Ricky van Niekerk – and four quad bikes. They searched the desert area far and wide, going where no one could reach by foot. Tatjana Rapp, despite being in Windhoek, urged everyone to “not give up looking”, while Ulla Burd-Mater headed out to look for Jazi when she got word from someone that a little dog had been spotted in the dunes not far from the Swakopmund main road. Sky-diving boffin Bernt Bruns spent hours in the desert with his torch, calling Jazi’s name on the last night leading up to her being found.
After the dune sighting, an intense two-day search on quad bikes and on foot followed. Sonya Bohmucker-Campbell spent hours on top of a dune as the look-out as the search closed in on little Jazi.
When they spotted her, the quad bike guides rounded her up and she collapsed, exhausted, in the shade under one of the quad bikes. Bernt swooped her up, tucked her into his jacket, and the team rode her back to camp.
At last, Jazi had been found and could be returned into the loving arms of her owner, Susan Fick. After what was an emotional reunion for everyone involved, her overjoyed owner wasted no time in driving her little girl back home to Windhoek that day.
She’d crossed kilometres of desert
Incredibly, Jazi had walked with her short little legs and tiny body across over 26 kilometres of desert from Langstrand to Swakopmund; she’d crossed some of the highest sand dunes along the coastline and had little or no food, shelter or water for five days.
Traumatised, covered in sand and limping slightly, this resilient little black-and-tan dog was otherwise given the thumbs-up by the vet who checked her out as soon as she was found.
On her return home, Susan sent word: “Jazi is doing really well. After two days of rest and sleep she was up and about, wagging her tail, playing with our other dogs, running, jumping, chasing birds and once again ruling the roost – just one incredibly special pup!”.