Rafiki’s Return


Written by Heather Cowie, Public Relations Officer, Animal Anti-Cruelty League Johannesburg, and Sara Price

Professional photography by Estelle Potgieter

When a sturdy little Jack Russell male of around seven years old came in as a stray on the 28th of August 2017 he was, of course, scanned for a microchip. When it was ascertained that the little dog was indeed microchipped, kennel assistant Lilanie Hart immediately logged on to Identipet’s website and punched in the microchip number; details of a Mrs Price from Greenside, Johannesburg, popped up on the screen.

Missing for two years

This was puzzling because this Jack Russell had been found in Reading, Alberton – over 30km away. Unable to get hold of Ms Price, Lilani called the alternative number listed and spoke to a gentleman by the name of Josh.

At first, Josh seemed surprised when asked if he owned a male Jack Russell but, after hearing the details, he thought that this sounded like his girlfriend’s dog, Rafiki, which had been missing for two years.

Ten minutes later, a very emotional Sara Price contacted Lilanie. She was amazed that he’d been found and wanted to know how he was – and when she could fetch him.

A happy reunion

That very same afternoon, they arrived to fetch their beloved pooch. At first, the little white-and-tan dog didn’t seem to know what was happening – it had, after all, been two long years. But as soon as Sara went down on her knees and spoke to him, realisation seemed to set in and little Rafiki immediately lay on his back waiting for a tummy rub.

Miriam Bezuidenhout, Kennel Supervisor at Animal Anti-Cruelty League Johannesburg, said she’ll never forget the look on Rafiki’s face upon recognising his owners. We all had tears running down our cheeks and are so happy that he’ll be able to spend the rest of his life with his beloved family.

It was a joyful reunion for Rafiki the Jack Russell and his family. Had the Price family not been responsible pet owners by having their pet microchipped as a pup, this happy tale could have turned out very differently.

Why microchipping is important – and why you shouldn’t just keep a stray

Scanning all animals that are admitted to our intake or hospital as strays/unwanted pets forms part of our routine check before moving them to kennels. (It’s also at this time that we check their health status and approximate their age.)

Our Chairman, Mr A. Guia, posted this on Facebook after people wanted to know why it had taken so long for Rafiki to be reunited with his owners: “Many people, and maybe in this instance, find an animal who has strayed, and just keep it. They do not take the animal to be scanned by a vet or at a shelter. The animal then makes a break and, again, becomes a stray and this time a kind good pet owner brings him to us and we do the rest.

“It’s very sad that people do not realise that strays in most cases belong to someone and that by keeping the animal they are in fact committing a crime. The man in the street does not know that in South Africa pets are considered property, so if you find and keep them you could be charged with theft, by the rightful owners.” 

Aside from that, of course, is the fact that you could be depriving an animal of life with his family – imagine how much they must miss their people and how much their people may be missing them.

Sara Price, Rafiki’s owner, shares…

The 23rd of August 2015 was a very sad day for us all: our precious dog, Rafiki, vanished from our home without a trace. We desperately searched for him, including Facebook posts, phone calls and posters everywhere. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.  

Months went by and still there was no sign of him. No sign of where he could have gone to or why he would have left. We were utterly broken-hearted yet still desperate to find him. We longed for closure: was he alive and could we remain hopeful for his safe return? We never gave up hoping…

Almost exactly two years later, on the 28th of August 2017, we received a surprising call: Animal Anti-Cruelty League had received a stray Jack Russell that had been roaming the streets of Alberton; the microchip was registered to us and they were certain it was Rafiki.

Could it really be? We immediately rushed there with eager hearts and were absolutely elated to find it was our precious Rafiki, safe and healthy.

We were warned that he might not remember us, or the life he’d left behind. But, amazingly, our boy remembered us and was enthusiastic to see us! And he did remember our home too. We are so grateful to have our dog back alive and safe.

Without the Animal Anti Cruelty League this wouldn’t have been possible. But, most of all, we are eternally grateful for Identipet. Without him being chipped, we would never have been able to receive the wonderful phone call we did on that day.