Joy for Juno


Written by Lauren van Vuuren of African Tails

Juno was rescued in June 2016 during an African Tails Mass Sterilisation project in Atlantis, near Cape Town. His rags-to-riches story is a true happily ever after…

We stumbled across Juno’s excuse for a home in Atlantis, where he was tied up and starved. There was NO other excuse; this dog was starved/just left. The people living on the property would walk past him daily, eating and drinking, while he had to watch, something we could clearly see because of the sweet wrappers and KFC packets lying around, not to mention the well-fed woman on the property. We also found empty chip packets and bones that Juno had hidden under the wood and wet pillow in his kennel.

To cut a long story short, we removed Juno from this horrible excuse for a life.

He had a few issues…

Juno went to a foster home where this timid, emaciated dog was nursed back to health, both physically and emotionally. Once Juno trusted someone, he turned out to be one of the most loving dogs around. He loved his foster mom so much! Juno stayed in his foster home for close to nine whole months…

As Juno grew stronger, he began showing signs of being possessive over his food as well as any toy or even an empty packet that he claimed as his. He wouldn’t attack but he would scare you away if you tried to take it away from him. Touching Juno’s lower back was also out of the question. This, we think, is because the kids at his previous home used to hit him with sticks on his back (something we witnessed).

So, Juno had some issues. But as long as you avoided things he didn’t like, he was fine. Unfortunately, as no one wanted a dog that could possibly bite, it was extremely difficult trying to find him a home. There are dogs with no issues that struggle to find homes so we knew this one wasn’t going to be easy!

Juno also didn’t love ALL dogs right away; a number of them took some getting used to. But, hey, it’s not like we like all people right away! But that’s very difficult to explain to someone who wants to adopt.

Many people these days seem to want the PERFECT dog. A dog that requires no or very little training or effort. It’s sad because isn’t rescuing about helping the dog? It involves training, whether the dog has issues or not. If only people knew how many dogs like Juno get put to sleep daily because no one is willing to try. And if only they knew how often the “issues” could get fixed within a few weeks, if only they were willing to work with them. Yes, there are dogs that are too far gone and, as a result, pose too much of a risk to people or other dogs, making homing them no longer an option. But NOT in cases like Juno. All he needed was a chance and some TLC.

We started losing hope for Juno and didn’t know what we were going to do. Humans had done this to him and now we were struggling to find humans that would give him a chance...

A journey worth making

That was until the day we received an email from Helene. After a few discussions back and forth, she was very interested in meeting Juno. In fact, she was adamant in coming to meet Juno – all the way from Port Elizabeth! Helene’s rescued dog, George, had recently passed away and his personality and story had been very similar to Juno’s. He was also rescued from being tied up and starved.

Helene knew that she had to give Juno a chance – with or without his “issues”. She had an older female dog, Bobbi, whom she would bring along to meet Juno. We couldn’t believe that this could be it for Juno; we all held thumbs and hoped for the best.

After all the formalities were taken care of, Helene arrived home from visiting the UK and, the very next day, got in her car and left PE for Cape Town to come and meet Juno. When Helene, her partner and Bobbi arrived it was as if Juno just knew. He walked right up to them, greeted Bobbi and, during the family’s visit, sat next to them all the time – something he never does with strangers at least. They all interacted better than expected and decided that they were definitely going to adopt Juno. They planned to come and collect him the next morning after catching up on some sleep before the long drive back. We were all just blown away.

Animal communication

Now, I must just mention for those who believe in Animal Communicators: before the family arrived to meet Juno, his foster mom had an Animal Communicator come and explain to Juno what would be happening and why. The foster mom wanted to make it as easy for him as possible. She took every opportunity she could at making him know why he couldn’t stay there and where he would be going.

After being with her for eight months and forming such a bond and trust, she thought it was the least she could do for him, with the chance that it might actually work. Could this have been the reason he was so comfortable with Helene and her family? In the way in which he’d NEVER acted before when meeting multiple strangers? We’ll never know, but it’s what we would like to believe. Then it gets better…

Juno knew…

The next morning, Juno’s foster mom spotted him sitting outside on the bench facing the gate towards the bottom of the farm. It was like he knew they were coming to fetch him. This gentle dog stayed sitting right there, watching, for a while. When they eventually drove in, Juno ran all the way down to the gate to meet them. It was so weird because he’d never done anything like that when people drove in.

Helene got out, Juno greeted, they all spoke… and he leapt into the car. I must add that Juno was utterly terrified of getting into cars. To get him in, his foster mom usually had to chase after him, pick him up and put him in the car. Ever since going to another foster home for a week, he’d never wanted to get back into a car – we assume that he thought he’d be dropped off somewhere again. But not this time. This time, he just jumped right in and lay down next to Bobbi. It was incredible!

Whether or not Juno knew exactly what was going on because of the animal communicator, we don’t know, but it certainly seemed that way! And it made us all feel SO much better. They all said their goodbyes and off Juno went. It was like a dream. As heartsore as his foster family and all involved felt at letting him go, we were so happy he’d been given this chance at a happily ever after.

The home of our dreams

A month later and it’s as if Juno had lived there forever. He gets on well with Bobbi and goes on hikes, swims in the dam and has everything we ever dreamed of for him. He is happy.

Thank you to Janine for fostering Juno for all that time, getting him back to health, teaching him about love and never giving up on him. We cannot thank the Gabriel family (including Bobbi) for taking Juno under their wing and seeing his “issues” as something to understand, to respect and to work with. These are the type of adopters all animal welfare workers dream of because it definitely doesn’t happen often. We hope Juno’s story will encourage more people to open their minds and hearts when adopting.

So long Juno boy, may you have the best life ahead!

Helene Gabriel, Juno’s new owner, shares…

I was devastated when my dog George died in January 2017 whilst I was away in the UK. I was going for a three-month working stint and had left my pets with my mom, not realising that that would be the last time I would see him.

George was a very special dog to me as I’d rescued him from Motherwell (an impoverished Eastern Cape township), tied up and in a terrible condition. Without further thought, I’d released him from the chain and, together with two starved tortoises, took him home. I hadn’t planned on getting a dog as I have quite an itinerant life, but George crept under my skin and into my heart. Somehow he stayed on and became permanent… and flourished! I then acquired a second dog, found on the streets, and adopted her as well. And so, George and Bobbi gave me many happy years of companionship, walks and fun.

Until the day that George unexpectedly died whilst under observation for a brief illness at the vet. I was heartbroken; I felt that one of the ways to ease the pain of losing George was to adopt another dog as soon as soon as I returned from the UK.

My sights were set on Juno

And thus began the search, visiting websites of animal rescue centres. Somehow I happened to come across African Tails’ website and Juno caught my eye. I was looking for another Canis Africanis similar to George, and Juno seemed to be exactly what I was looking for. Irregular ears, just like George, and with a naughty-looking face!

I eagerly contacted African Tails and then waited a few days for a reply as Lauren was on leave. I was so relieved when she replied to my email as I’d somehow set my sights on Juno. After some communication between Lauren, Janine (Juno’s foster) and me, I couldn’t believe it when they wrote to me to say that they felt that I would make a suitable owner for Juno, but the final decision would be made after they’d done a check and met me in person.

I returned to South Africa on the evening of 11 March 2017; early the next morning, my partner, Serge, Bobbi and I drove to Cape Town to meet Juno.

Meeting Juno

We arrived in the late afternoon, and as we drove in to the smallholding, I saw Janine and her family waiting to introduce Juno to us. He ran up to us when we called him and my first impression was of a smaller dog than what I had pictured in my mind, with a third of his right ear missing! He looked very cute.

Serge had some dry wors in his hand (clever man) and Juno immediately came up to him to take it. Serge soon won him over with the dry wors! I could see that Juno had issues, as he was very quick to snap if he felt threatened, but I was determined to make him my dog, and felt that together with Serge’s patience, Juno would soon be a calmer and more confident dog. I could also see that he was very attached to Janine as he kept returning to her. I take my hat off to her for caring for Juno while being willing to find a good home for him. It’s not easy to hand over a dog to a stranger when one has cared for it for eight months.

The following morning we returned to the smallholding expecting a reluctant dog to get into the vehicle. But Juno simply jumped in. Of course, the dry wors may have helped too! 

A shaky start

It was a very difficult journey back to Port Elizabeth. Juno insisted on half-standing on my lap. He was sick within the first hour and we had to stop to clean up. He was obviously very stressed but, with some water and toilet stops, we slowly made our way back. To make matters worse, our car broke down an hour outside P.E. and we had to wait to be towed in.

It was a very late arrival home and we were all exhausted. So, when Juno entered our home for the very first time, he was extremely stressed – so stressed that he turned and attacked me, biting me on the knee. Not a happy start to his future with us.

From surviving to thriving

Nevertheless, over the next week, with patience and firmness, we managed to settle Juno into a routine. I was able to walk him without a leash on our second walk – what a feeling of exhilaration it must have felt for him to run off with Bobbi in the Baakens Valley and experience all those new smells and sights. He’s a very responsive dog, and as soon as I call him, he dashes back to me. He doesn’t like to let me out of his sight.

Juno is now settled into a routine. He expects walks every day with Bobbi and can’t wait to jump into the back of the bakkie. He loves the beach and chasing balls, and has even lost his fear of water. When we watch DVDs in the evening, he jumps onto the sofa and sits with us. He loves to play with Bobbi and, most of the time, she’s happy to comply. Although Juno still has some issues with strangers near me, with patience he is improving.

He is truly a wonderful dog, and seeing him happy and thriving is reward enough for me.

In view of his history, I feel that he’s an even more loving dog. 

I feel very rewarded that I could adopt a dog that has experienced so much suffering. And I hope that this story will encourage other animal lovers to take the plunge to adopt a dog that may have some initial issues. It’s easier than you think! If a previously abused dog has a warm bed, long walks, good food and lots of companionship, he will thrive. Just like Juno.