Written by Engela Ellis
Professional photography by Strike a Pose Photogrraphy
Brakkie is a beautiful, black Labrador-mix doggie who was very much in need in December 2014 when animal angels came to her rescue in the form of Dee Ivings and Cemair. But her story doesn’t start there…
A litter left behind
Brakkie was found as a pup in an awful condition on a farm near Magaliesburg by the landlord, who went past to check if tenants had vacated a house on his vast property. They had vacated – but sadly had abandoned a litter of puppies, all of which were dead. All except for one: a little black scrap of a pup left amidst her dead siblings.
The puppy was in a terrible, neglected condition; nobody thought she’d make it but she did. And she turned out to be (and still is) the very sweetest-natured furry friend ever!
Brakkie’s two homes
In the beginning, I was Brakkie’s mom – and how I loved her! But unfortunate circumstances separated us and she moved to Johannesburg with a very caring and loving human dad, and was part of a pack of five happy dogs.
Then disaster struck: her dad tragically became critically ill. He was fighting for his life in ICU – and his five dogs were about to start the fight for their lives too. It became apparent that, if he pulled through, there’d be a very long rehabilitation period – he wouldn’t be able to fend for himself, never mind his beloved pack of dogs.
I was so heartbroken about this state of affairs, but knew we had to get into action. One by one we got his pack sorted with forever- and foster homes. I knew I would love to adopt Brakkie as we’d shared an exceptionally special bond previously. She was not “cute” like the other four, and needed special care due to a bladder problem and an extremely sensitive skin.
I panicked and ran around in endless circles to find a solution to get an overweight Brakkie (due to a self-feeder and no exercise) to Cape Town from Johannesburg on a budget AND in a desperate hurry AND at New Year when no one is interested!
A pure miracle
Then: Bam! I remembered that my dearest and oldest buddy in Johannesburg, Kerstin Fuchsloch, is very involved with animal rescue and home checks, etc. and I turned to her for advice and help on getting a transport crate and flight arranged with speed. She put a post on Facebook, tagging some exceptionally amazing ladies.
What transpired was just simply a pure miracle.
Within one day, everything was organised: Cemair would generously transport her to Cape Town and kindly provide the crate for her to travel in. I was completely gob-smacked! Speechless! Do people really care enough to arrange this sort of thing just for a nine-year-old brak (mongrel)? Wow! Yes, they do! How utterly amazing and inspiring; my faith in humanity was restored. We are so exceptionally grateful to all concerned.
Brakkie comes home
Brakkie arrived in Cape Town on the 31st of December 2014 and started her new year in Cape Town, baby! I was like an expectant mother waiting for her to arrive and so were all the special ladies on the Facebook group – all rooting for a little Brakkie to be rescued. I bawled my eyes out when I opened that cage at Cape Town Airport and she stumbled out groggily, as happy to see me as I was her. She fitted in just perfectly and we couldn’t imagine what it was like not to have her.
Within a day, Brakkie had made a new friend: a cat belonging to one of the neighbours that seems to prefer our house. I thought she would eat the poor cat, but she proved me wrong and showed me love and gratitude – and she licked the poor cat until it was dripping and purring like a motor!
For the next two years we stayed in Hout Bay, where Brakkie joined us on beach walks and mountain hikes. She went everywhere with me; even my restaurant choices were for those where she could come with me. She loved every minute of it.
She went completely blind
In 2016, I relocated back to Johannesburg with Brakkie and all was going well – she enjoyed her garden and life was good. Then, in June 2017, I was walking in the garden in the evening and Brakkie just walked straight into the pool! I was shocked. It was freezing and I had to quickly bath and blow-dry her.
It puzzled me – Brakkie had walked past that pool so many times at night before, so what had happened? The next day I paid extra attention and noticed that she was bumping into things. Clearly my girl was having trouble seeing, so I took her to the Johannesburg Animal Eye Hospital where she was diagnosed with Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS).
I was absolutely devastated. There’s no cure and they do not know what causes it. Within a week my Brakkie was completely blind. I cannot tell you how sad I am as she had the most expressive, loving eyes and literally used to “make eyes” at me if I told her I loved her. Now she could no longer see me.
But no way was I giving up on Brakkie.
Enjoy every moment
Fortunately, our furry children adapt really quickly. Although it’s been incredibly challenging for me, it didn’t seem too bad for Brakkie. It wasn’t long and I was able to get her trusting a walk. I had to learn how to guide her and be her guide dog or rather, guide person.
She had to learn new words like: step up, down, turn, etc. I now choose pavements and quiet roads to walk her so she won’t stumble on uneven surfaces. Funnily enough, she was always good at the “stop” command, but not when she went blind – it was like she went deaf too!
I did lots of research and the articles all said: just be patient, she will relax and adjust after the shock of going blind and it will get better. I’m happy to report it has. Brakkie has learned to navigate the house and only rarely gets lost or stuck in a corner. She follows her commands, and is doing really well.
Brakkie is now eleven-and-a-half years old and blind, but boy, when I get home, she still acts like a puppy when she hears me. I’m enjoying every moment of the time we still have together.