Living life sheepishly (Yanka)


Written by Carol-Ann Kelleher and photography by Luc Hosten

Life’s lessons can come in the most surprising and unusual of guises.

In a beautiful and tranquil conservancy nestled in Nelson Mandela Bay, three rescue dogs – Harley, PenniLane and HeyJude – are lovingly cared for by Marizanne Ferreira. Whoops! Let’s not forget the rescue cat, Dalmacijia, whose stern demeanour is somewhat amusingly accentuated by a ‘Hitler-like’ smudge of black fur across her top lip. The rescue dogs stay out of her way, she stays out of theirs!

Life is good; their only competition for Marizanne’s attention is a handful of rather overly indulged rescue sheep and the odd spoilt rescue goat or two who while away their days doing, well, absolutely nothing at all. Such is the joy of being rescued by Marizanne Ferreira. Everyone has their place and there is peace and harmony.

The lamb and the Pittie

Queue dramatic music. The equilibrium of their peaceful existence is soon somewhat upended. Enter one Racheltjie, a tiny white lamb, sadly rejected by her mom at birth. It takes just one phone call to Marizanne from a farmer in Pearston for her to say, “yes, I will raise her.” Racheltjie is just 5 days old, being bottle-fed by Marizanne, when, enter the fray: a chocolate-brown rescued Pit Bull Terrier. And so the word spreads that, if you have an orphaned animal – psst! – this is the number to call!

Now, while other women might hide that outrageously expensive pair of shoes they bought from their husbands, Marizanne hides rescued animals from her hubby until she breaks the news – ever so gently – that, yes, there is another rescue in the house. The Pit Bull is grandly, and somewhat secretively, christened Yanka-Kwanita – a name as unique as she is – and she shares a crate with Racheltjie until Marizanne builds up the courage to tell her man.

This, I suppose, is where it all begins, some life lessons from a four-legged perspective. Let’s call it a four-legged approach to getting along.

Life lessons from a four-legged perspective

Would this little Pit Bull adapt to the wild monkeys swinging from the trees – and sometimes the chandeliers? How would she cope with Madison, the bush buck who is a regular visitor to the house? How will she get along with the woolly twosome, Old Lady and Angela (a blind sheep), and new recruits Tookie the Boerbok, and lambs Spirit and Justine, who arrive not long after her? And let’s not forget the tiny Grysbok, Hercules, found injured and starving in the bushes and, yes, taken in by Marizanne? The answer: of course.

It takes a ‘two-legged animal’ with a tremendous sense of responsibility, patience and passion to introduce Yanka-Kwanita to all these diverse animals, where love across the species is the order of the day.

And so it was that some of life’s most important lessons began to unfold in the form of a Pit Bull named Yanka-Kwanita. First life-lesson: when it comes to living a life without prejudice, four legs are often better than two. Yanka-Kwanita has proven that love can overcome any differences. There’s no doubt that there is something very special about this dog...

Under Marizanne’s watchful eye, Yanka-Kwanita has developed a healthy respect for the sheep and goats, who really just want to be left alone to do what they do best, which is, of course, nothing at all. And, when Madison appears, her instinct to chase him is tempered by a greater desire to obey and please her mom, Marizanne.

Sometimes human words can get in the way when a simple act of kindness could speak more than a thousand words ever would. Yanka-Kwanita often stops and lovingly licks Angela’s (the blind sheep) eyes, ever so gently; how does she know? This simple act is the most compassionate of gestures to behold. Four-legged life lesson number two: caring for those weaker than you.

The orphans keep arriving; Yanka-Kwanita keeps growing and continuing to fit in. Not a growl, not a bark is heard, only a desire to play, a desire to care and share. Four-legged life lesson number three: jealousy is a wasted emotion.

Yanka-Kwanita has embraced every animal that has crossed her path. When a one-kilogram, four-day-old lamb called Justine arrives, she stands completely still when the little one nuzzles her in the search for milk. Thus begins a delightful friendship, with Yanka often checking up on Justine in her crate. Likewise, when Hercules the Grysbok arrives, Yanka’s worried, watchful eye is never far away. It begs the question: why can’t we ‘two-legged Homo sapiens’ just get along? Kindness and caring for one another: life’s four-legged lesson number four.

A special approach to life

There is no doubt, too, that there is something special about Yanka-Kwanita; her approach to life is beautiful to behold: “I will love you, no matter how different we are; I will forgive you if you are mean to me; I will live in the moment for that is all we really have: the now; we can forget the past for it is gone; I will love you unconditionally; I will always have your back and I will always give you the biggest and sloppiest of Pit Bull kisses.” Yanka-Kwanita: a brand ambassador for Pit Bulls if ever there was one!

This incredible, magical mix of the animal kingdom simply works. There is no doubt that Marizanne has been instrumental in nurturing this harmony. In this peaceful little spot they all call home, these animals are demonstrating an important lesson or two which can be learnt by us humans.