Written by Jenni Davies and professional photography by Michelle Blackie
How two severely neglected dogs found their happily ever after.
Every now and then, when things look at their bleakest, wonderful things can – and do – happen. Aiko and Rusty’s story is one such event. Rescued at different times, rehabilitated by the Lucky Lucy Foundation (LLF), and adopted by one loving family, these two have overcome the odds.
He barely resembled a dog
In October 2010, a mange-ridden, emaciated Labrador-mix, broken in mind and body, was rescued from a rubbish dump and brought to LLF. Board member Salomie du Plessis recalls, “He was one of the worst cases we’ve ever seen; many hearts were broken and tears flowed uncontrollably when he joined the LLF family. He had open wounds where his bones were visible, and was severely underweight. He had inflamed skin and barely any hair, and was just a sack of bones vaguely resembling a dog.”
The volunteers named him Aiko, a Japanese word meaning “love/affection” (ai) and “child” (ko). They were determined that this would be his future.
Salomie explains that his outer appearance was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only had the terrified dog clearly suffered abuse, his fight for survival at the dump had caused him to become dog- and human-aggressive. This meant that while healing Aiko’s physical issues was relatively easy, healing his broken soul would take much longer.
Lovely conquers all
As his white-and-cream fur grew and his soulful eyes regained their sparkle, it became obvious that Aiko was a beautiful dog. Slowly, but surely, he also learnt to trust. Initially unwilling to connect with people at all, his trust eventually turned to a love of people which grew day by day. Incredibly, Aiko began seeking out hugs and cuddles from people and even the company of other dogs.
He discovered swimming, which he loved, and he always enjoyed his food. With continued work and oceans of love, just over one month later, Aiko qualified for the KUSA “Canine Good Citizen Award” Bronze level on 21 November 2015. But he had yet to find a forever home…
“Today, although he still has the scars on his body to remind us of his terrible past, he has put that behind him and moved on,” says Salome. “In March 2017, six years and five months after he came to us, aged around nine years old, Aiko’s biggest dream came true: he found his forever home.”
Found in the pouring rain
This is only half the story. In June 2009, a tan Africanis-mix was found tied to a pole in the pouring rain at a medical centre. He was brought to LLF, head hanging, depressed and bewildered. He blossomed into a quiet but loving boy. He was a bit shy and scared but wanted to be part of a family. Unfortunately, probably due to early neglect, he developed skin problems which flared up occasionally. This meant that he would need a very special forever family.
And he did – the very same one that had adopted Aiko. Today, these once-neglected dogs, one of which was so afraid that he’d become dog-aggressive, live in a wonderful home, surrounded by love.
As Salome says, “Aiko and Rusty are a reminder to us all that anything is possible if you have hope, love and faith. Just look into their eyes and YOU will be a believer too!”
Ivanna Chetty, Aiko and Rusty’s new owner, shares…
I grew up with three rescue dogs, Mia, Shianne and Lucy. I used to think about what would’ve happened if they hadn’t been adopted as puppies – would they have ended up spending their golden years at a shelter? It pains me to know that people usually overlook adult dogs in favour of puppies. I vowed that my next dog would be one that has spent the most time at a shelter – age, health, looks, etc. didn’t matter; I wanted a dog that needed a home the most.
He had been at the shelter for over six years
So this year, my partner, Marcelle, and I contacted as many animal shelters as we could find. We asked for information about the dogs that had been there the longest. Alex from Lucky Lucy Foundation replied without any delay and she sent us information about Rusty. We were surprised to hear that he had been at a shelter for so many years (six-and-a-half). We decided to look at LLF’s website to see the time difference between the dog that had been there the longest and the second longest. It turned out that Aiko was the dog that had been there the second longest.
Out of all of the shelters, Rusty and Aiko had been in a shelter far longer than any other dogs. It was a happy coincidence that the two dogs we wanted came from the same establishment. We met Rusty first; he was very shy and scared. Next we met Aiko, who was friendlier and wanted some attention from us.
After visiting a few times, we brought them home in March.
Two beautiful souls
From a scared, quiet dog at the shelter, we now have the pleasure of seeing Rusty’s energetic, playful, kind-natured personality shine; he is absolutely obsessed with his food, toys – and his bed. At first, Aiko was very scared and worried. Although he still bolts if he hears a noise, he’s gradually growing to trust us. He thoroughly enjoys being bathed and being petted, and demands belly rubs multiple times a day. The two of them get along well too.
We try our best to show them that they can trust us and that they’re now in their forever home. Even though we adopted them because of the amount of time they’d spent at the shelter, we feel as though they are the perfect fit for us. They make us smile every day and it warms my heart to see them smiling back at us, happily wagging their tails. They are beautiful souls and we are lucky to have them.