Written by Karien Van Wyk
Professional photography by Kritzography https://www.facebook.com/Kritzography/
“There’s a man living in his car – and he has a doggie living with him.” That was the message I received in July 2017 from a distressed feral cat feeder in Benoni. She’d noticed them parked at the municipal buildings day after day and needed help urgently.
Locked in a car 24/7
Marisa Meano, Zalita Laas and I headed out to investigate; our biggest concern was for the dog being locked in a car 24/7. We weren’t happy when we came across them and, at first, wanted to remove the dog.
That’s when his owner, Dougie, became extremely defensive. We struggled for about an hour to get answers out of him but didn’t reach a conclusion on what to do next. We gave Dougie food for Jack and left with heavy hearts. The three of us had a long talk and decided that we wouldn’t give up on them and went back the next day with food for both of them, blankets and clothes.
Man’s best friend
Dougie started to warm up to Marisa but still didn’t trust Zalita and me. We kept on going back, taking them food and chatting to them, Dougie telling us his life story and how he’d fallen on hard times and ended up in this situation.
He explained that Jack was his best friend who kept him going and that if it hadn’t been for Jack, he would never have met us. We knew we couldn’t separate them – they needed each other and we were determined to help them stay together in a safe place.
Zalita and I eventually won his trust, and we tried to persuade him to go to a shelter, which he refused to do, even after we got a pastor to speak to him. Again, the three of us discussed the situation, feeling a bit unsure of the next step – Dougie and Jack couldn’t keep living in a parking lot, but if he didn’t want to go to a shelter, what could we do?
We decided to try and persuade him to go to a caravan park. Early the next day, we went back with our suggestion – and he agreed.
Building a home
We began searching for places, and Zalita came across the perfect one. Next we needed to find a caravan or something similar for him and Jack. With the help of amazing community members and sponsors, we managed to find an old Wendy house (prefabricated wooden cabin).
It was Dougie’s birthday when we told him the news: there’d be no more sleeping in a car in a municipal parking lot; he and Jack would be moving that weekend. Our hearts broke when this proud man broke down and cried, hugged us each, and admitted that nobody had ever done so much for him.
Then the big work started: we had to build someone a home. Daunted but determined, we worked an entire weekend to set up the cabin and put up a fence so that Jack would have an area to stretch his legs in.
Finally, our work was complete. Dougie and Jack had a home, and we breathed a sigh of relief. But, unfortunately, it was not going to last.
A month later, Dougie decided that he didn’t want to live there anymore and disappeared – along with Jack. We were extremely upset and very worried.
We searched everywhere and, a month later, were told that he was back at his old sleeping spot at the municipality. I drove past that evening but he wasn’t there, and subsequent visits yielded no results.
Later that month, we received news that Dougie was living next to the dam by the Lakeside Mall and collecting food for himself and Jack, and that Jack looked in good condition. Because we didn’t want to risk losing them again by pressuring Dougie, we decided to stay away while keeping an eye out to make sure they were well.
The months went by and things seemed to be going okay... until Dougie was arrested. Marisa collected Jack from the police station to look after him until Dougie could be released. That same afternoon, she had to take Jack back and he and Dougie returned to their spot at the dam.
Marisa kept in touch with Dougie’s family, and on the 18th of October 2018, Dougie’s ex-wife contacted her to let her know that he’d passed away. Jack was on his own and had been taken to an animal welfare.
We immediately knew what had to be done: Jack doesn’t trust people and would only ever be happy with Marisa. We simply had to get Jack back, but we had no idea where he was. We began phoning around and eventually found him at the Benoni SPCA.
Marisa went to see him the very next day and completed the adoption papers there and then. A week later, Jack became her legally adopted furchild. He’s such a happy little boy and very spoilt in his new home.
THE BEST DOG HE COULD BE
By Marisa Meano, Jack’s new owner
The day we met Dougie and Jack and I laid my eyes on this beautiful feisty, energetic, eager-but-so-gentle, kind, loving, little soul of a dog, I knew that he needed more. He needed love, understanding and better circumstances to grow into the best dog he could ever be.
Jack and I had an instant connection; he trusted me and we formed a bond that no one can explain. We always played and could just sit and relax together. He could be who he was when I was around. He accepted me and I him.
Dougie, too, trusted me with Jack. He always said that if anything ever happened to him, I had to take care of Jack.
So, when Dougie passed away, I decided to adopt Jack and give him the life he needed; a life filled with love and understanding.
New and exciting
Jack would never have been able to adapt in a normal home environment. He’d lived a hard and rough life, with no other dogs, and didn’t trust easily. Because I understand his needs, I took it upon myself to be his best option in life.
Playing is new to Jack because he was always handled roughly, so he’s learning every day what a gentle hand and fun playtime means. We have our moments and accidents, and it takes a lot of patience, dedication and hard work. I learn with him every day just as much as he learns to adapt to a new life. We still have a lot of work to do, but we’re prepared to go the extra mile.
Jack has endless opportunities waiting for him. He’s always been an only dog and now has over 20 different friends with different personalities to explore and test. Jack’s life is worth so much to me, and I just want to see him being himself and being content.
So this is a new and exciting life for Jack, with only great and amazing beginnings that have only just begun.