Written by Nicola Kruger, co-founder of Bella’s Guardian Angels Animal Rescue
Professional photography by Fourpawz Photography
Liela was surrendered to the Philippi office of the Animal Welfare Society of South Africa as a puppy, because she was born completely deaf. She’d been found dumped and abandoned in a cardboard box on the side of the road in Ottery, and rescued and admitted into AWS care as a stray. At that point, no one realised she was deaf, but when it became apparent later, and knowing that she’d need some extra care, she was transferred to us at Bella’s Guardian Angels Animal Rescue.
Bella’s is a non-profit organisation in Durbanville that focuses solely on the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of puppies and kittens.
Liela was very scared when she first came to us – she couldn’t be alone for even a few minutes, and we knew she needed some extra special care.
One of our volunteers, Myra Blom, is our go-to foster mom for special needs kittens and puppies. Of course, she was the obvious choice to be little Liela’s foster mom.
Myra Blom, Liela’s new owner, shares…
I saw this little snow-white baby for the first time on the 16th of March when I got to Bella’s Guardian Angels, where I volunteer. She was so happy to see everyone but hated to be alone. When I heard she was deaf, it just melted my heart. They asked if I’d foster her for a while, knowing that I was able to take her to work with me and she wouldn’t have to be alone. I took her home, and although she was a bit scared at first due to my lot coming down on her like a flock of inquisitive seagulls, she quickly figured out who she could play with and to leave the old ladies alone.
For the first few days, she never left my side. She went to work with me and slept on my desk or chewed on her toys the whole day, never letting me out of her sight. One day, she was sleeping and I stood up to quickly go downstairs; she woke up and went into panic mode, crying and jumping. My colleagues tried to calm her down, but she broke free and began running. Hearing her, I ran back up the stairs. We met each other halfway, and it looked like a scene out of a movie. She looked as though she hadn’t seen me in years. I realised then that we’d have to work hard on her anxiety at being left alone – and not just being alone but being away from me. My colleagues took offence, as she refused to sit with them while I left the office for even just a minute or two. They couldn’t even bribe her with droëwors!
I then started reading about deaf dogs and the changes I’d have to make in my approach with her. I never realised all the little obstacles that we’d have to overcome and the ways that we’d have to change to a small degree.
As the days went by, I could see that she was gaining confidence, and I could see that I was going to have a hard time letting her go up for adoption. At home, she’d play with the other dogs and bully the cats. She had a very good appetite, but I picked up that she’s quite food aggressive. The other animals weren’t even allowed to look at her while she was eating, and she’d attack them. Luckily, my baby cat, Loki, couldn’t care less about her outbursts and just kept on eating with her, while I sat with her, correcting that behaviour with every meal. Slowly, she’s calming down and realising that she’ll always have food.
We’re also working on her to stay at home without me. I started by showing her that I’m leaving and then sitting on the porch for a few minutes. I then extended my absence by quickly going to the shop or visiting my neighbour.
Together, we’re also learning some sign language, and I’ve already taught her to sit and to come. She’s very eager to learn, and YouTube helps a lot. We’re also going to attend some puppy classes to make sure we’re on the right track with our training.
She’s a very sweet girl and I love her to bits. And although I tried to stand strong, I couldn’t help being a foster fail. It’s a family joke already that she’s my little shadow, as I can’t leave a room with her not being right next to me.
Allan Perrins, Head of Communications and Resource Development AWS SA, adds…
Liela is an extraordinary little dog with the capacity to overcome almost anything. She’ll always be a special needs dog, with the emphasis on “special”.
Liela doesn’t need to hear her owner’s voice to understand that the special bond that they share is the universal language of love, which doesn’t have to be spoken but rather practised through kind thoughts and deeds. These are qualities that they both have in abundance.