Lost and Found

Written by Mel Southgate and professional photography by Claire Atkinson

My name is Mel and I reside in Lotus River in Cape Town. I am an animal lover and always go out of my way to pick up stray animals on the road and take them to the SPCA, which is close to us.

Hakuna matata

I have five Labradors and one Maltese Poodle-mix that I found as a stray. Two of my Labradors were adopted in 2015 from a friend who just couldn’t handle having two busy “escape artist” dogs. They lived opposite Wynberg Park and the two dogs simply could not resist running in the park and then getting lost.

On numerous occasions he’d receive phone calls informing him that his dogs had been found and had been taken to the SPCA; eventually he decided that he would have to rehome them. I then adopted them as Pumba and Timone. When I fetched them from the SPCA, I took into consideration their “free will” and love for running around, and decided to have them chipped. This would turn out to be a decision of great benefit to us all.

Pumba vanished into the rain

On a wet and rainy Tuesday morning nine months ago, I opened the gate to put out the dirt bin. Pumba and Timone then decided to charge after the dirt truck. I wasn’t sure if it was the dirt truck or a female dog on heat that they chased, but Timone soon returned… without Pumba.

I knew immediately that something was wrong. My girlfriend, Claudia, and I leapt into my car and rushed off in the direction in which he’d gone, but he was nowhere to be seen. I could not believe that he could disappear in a matter of minutes like greased lightning. While I drove, Claudia alerted the Neighbourhood Watch to keep a lookout for Pumba the Golden Labrador.

I’m an active member of the NHW and the patrollers quickly came to my aid. Friends of mine who know the importance of my dogs to me stayed out of work to assist me. We created a search party and combed the surrounding areas. My girlfriend then sat down and started making posters; these we distributed to our surrounding areas, including the nearby suburb of Parkwood.

“Have you found Pumba?”

Every evening after work, we drove around asking, looking, and handing out posters. I vowed never to give up on him. I knew that one day I would find him. Often I received calls about Labradors running around; we would go and pick them up, take them to the SPCA to have them scanned, and they would be reunited with their family. But Pumba would not return.

My only hope was that, wherever he was, he was being taken care of. Many nights Claudia would cry herself to sleep, wondering if he was warm and safe and if he’d been fed.

It was a Wednesday afternoon, nine months after Pumba had vanished, that I received a surprise call. A lady was asking me questions about a dog – a Labrador. Heart pounding, I asked her: “Have you found Pumba?” They had found us from his microchip. I was overcome with emotion and I called Claudia, who broke down and cried. We rushed to Grassy Park to the SPCA.

I must admit that we were not prepared for the state that he was in. He was malnourished, filthy dirty, and infested with fleas. He had a mark around his neck – a clear indication that he had been chained up. I will never forget the look in his eyes when they brought him out to us. He came to me and I just took him in my arms and embraced him, trying to assure him that everything would be fine. His tail wouldn’t stop wagging.

It’s now almost a week since Pumba’s been home. He is eating and has already managed to pick up a few kilograms; he’s adapting nicely to his home and his brothers and sisters.

I am eternally grateful to all my family and friends who have assisted us in our quest to find him and to the staff of the SPCA who dedicate their lives to saving animals and making miracles happen. 

Tara McGovern, Communications and Resource Development Assistant of Cape of Good Hope SPCA, shares…

Our kennel staff team were incredibly moved to witness the beautiful reunion with Mr Southgate and his Labrador, Pumba, who had been missing for nine months after an exhaustive search. Thankfully, a passer-by saw Pumba walking the streets of Parkwood and, on noticing his emaciated state, called an SPCA inspector to come to his rescue.

It was thanks to Pumba’s microchip and the kindness of an animal lover who acted when they saw him that we were able to locate his owner and reunite the family with their missing pet immediately. Please microchip your pets to ensure their safety! Contact 021 700 4152 to arrange a microchip!

Check out the video of the happy reunion between Mel and Claudia, and their boy Pumba on the SPCA’s page: https://www.facebook.com/CapeofGoodHopeSPCA/videos/10154010260565807/