Written by Elizna Fourie and professional photography by Emma O’Brien
Zoë is one of over 100 Miniature Schnauzers rescued by Schnauzer Friends of SA from an infamous puppy mill in Ermelo, and we are the lucky people to give her a first and forever home.
A category three dog
On adoption day, it was not really love at first sight, more like, “OK, what about this little one?” No one seemed interested in her amongst the 24 other Miniature Schnauzers, and she kept hiding behind the doggie houses. The dogs were all assessed by a dog behaviourist beforehand and given a rating according to the state they were in. Category 3 is reserved for the very traumatised, scared, and battered dogs needing special care, and which might take very long to rehabilitate, if ever. Zoë is a category 3 doggie.
She was literally a wreck, sitting in a sorry state with her head drawn into her stomach, trying to be as small as possible so that no human would notice her. These doggies were mentally abused and are utterly fearful of any human interaction. They were kept in cages all their lives, their only purpose to have babies over and over again, and were denied human contact for as long as they have been on this earth. Zoë was five years old.
To be honest, I had lots of doubts in the week leading up to that day. We tried to prepare ourselves for what to expect so that our hearts would not be broken in the process. We had many fears – would our dogs get on with a new dog, would she do her ‘business’ in the house, would she be so scared that we’d never bond with her… It turned out that not one of our fears were realised.
The forever home that unlocked Zoë’s heart
Zoë is so much part of our family now that it’s almost possible to forget her traumatic past. It was very hard in the beginning to see her shivering every time someone approached her. In the beginning, she wouldn’t even take food from our hands (and I’m talking biltong here) and did not understand why you were calling her. She did not relax for longer than a few minutes and was always on high alert. We carefully followed the advice given to us by Estelle Meldau of Woodrock Animal Rescue on adopting a dog like Zoë. It was only after quite a while that she started trusting us – you could see it in the change of her body posture: sitting more upright, tail up and wagging, ears more relaxed, taking food from us, running with the other two dogs when they heard the coffee machine switched on for their lick of milk.
She is our precious princess and we love her so much. She has taught us what it means to be patient and the reward is overwhelming. When you have to do so much work just to be able to do something as simple as having her eat her food with the other dogs, you become so grateful for every small step in her recovery.
It’s not all sunshine and roses with her – we’re currently faced with the problem of constant barking at the household staff as she’s still very scared of them – but we’re getting there and have not regretted becoming her people for one minute; she’s our very special and well-loved Princess Zoë. There are two sides to her: trusting, loving and inquisitive – the true Zoë – and the traumatised, terrified Zoë; with time, only the true Zoë will be left. That, I strongly believe.
I urge everyone to consider adopting an adult rescue; to not let your fears take charge but to let your empathy and love come to the fore. My heart is filled with gratitude for this opportunity to make a difference in a dog’s life. I often came across the saying: ‘We do not rescue them, they rescue us’. Having adopted Zoë, I now understand what that means.