Written by Hannah van Coller
I started following CLAW’s (Community Led Animal Welfare) Facebook page earlier this year. On the 16th of September, I came across the dog they’d named Belle whilst casually scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed. I froze when images of this battered, broken and severely tick-infested dog appeared. CLAW stated in the post that she was an “unwanted” and had to be collected by the team. Facebook was in uproar over the horrifying state of this poor, neglected dog and CLAW received messages about her from around the world. Additionally – and unsurprisingly – she had subsequently tested positive for biliary and anaemia.
Severe neglect and thousands of ticks
Whether it was the sad and hopeless eyes, or the thought of how long she had to suffer with all those ticks – literally thousands of them – sucking the life out of her, something made me decide: I had to go and see this dog.
CLAW couldn’t remove all the ticks by hand – most of which were on and inside her ears – there were too many of them and she would have bled from all those bites; all that could be done was to apply anti-tick products and wait for them to drop off. She was placed on a drip to rehydrate her, and given antibiotics and vitamins.
I headed to CLAW the following Monday morning. I was immediately welcomed and assisted by Taren who gave me a rundown of Belle’s current state: she was doing much better compared to day one, but had just taken a bit of a turn for the worse…
As I approached the kennel, my heart sank. The black, seemingly lifeless body was curled up in the corner, drip attached to her leg, a bowl of water nearby, ears and face scarred from all the ticks. I proceeded to stroke and cuddle her.
A momentous decision is made
The breaking point occurred when Taren told me that Belle had not yet received a single visitor or adoption offer. It was then that I asked for the adoption papers. At that point I had not consulted with my parents, brothers, or friends. We already had three female dogs at home and, to top it all off, my mother was overseas and was not going to be home for another week. It was a spontaneous (and slightly risky) decision, but this dog had stolen my heart and there was no going back.
And after a bit more recovery time and a house inspection, Belle was going to be mine.
Belle’s long, slow road to recovery
And so, a slow journey towards health and adapting to a new home began. Belle was experiencing love for the first time. She was hesitant about going outdoors, let alone walking on grass, and it took many days for her to negotiate more than steps. I carried her upstairs into my bedroom for many nights and carried her down the stairs again in the morning. We took food and water to her basket, and, every day, my brothers and I took her into the garden and attempted to get her walking. It took a few days, but eventually Belle stood up for her food and made her way outside of her own accord.
Just over a month later and Belle is practically a new dog. She is no longer anaemic, her kennel cough has gone, all the dead ticks and scabs have fallen off, and healthy jet-black hair is growing over the scars. She redistributes socks and shoes around the house but she does not chew them. She enjoys the garden. She enjoys her sisters. She runs to greet family members when they come home. She is first in line when she hears the food bowls being prepared. And she wags her tail (in a circular motion instead of side to side) whilst she eats. With a little bit of love, Belle’s happy, bouncy, and incredibly clumsy nature is now prominent. Belle has found her forever home… and what a blessing that is for us.
Although Belle’s story had over 1.5 million views and over 14 000 shares – the biggest response CLAW has ever received for a Facebook post – I was her only adoption offer. And for that we are very grateful.
I would like to express my gratitude and amazement to CLAW and all the other animal welfare organisations out there. You are the real heroes in this world. Thank you for being a voice for the voiceless.