Rescuing Shimbungu

12th Apr, 2019

Professional photography by Corrie Barnard Photography

Alexandre and Yoshua Otto, Shimbungu’s teenage rescuers, share their story…

During the December school holidays, my father, Jannie Otto, woke us one morning and showed us a video of this dog that had been hit by a car and left for dead. It was clear that this accident had left the dog paralysed, and it was very upsetting.

My father told us that we should get ready, as we were going to go and help look for this dog. Because we were all very busy, especially my father, we only had that day to do it.

We departed from Ondangwa at 9 o’clock that morning with a fleet of three cars and a motorcycle. We had 60 kilometres to travel before we began the search for the little unknown dog.

Upon arrival, we agreed on a meeting point so that we could find each other easily. We started at the Post Office, a relatively central landmark in town. Although we’d been designated different directions, none of us had barely any idea of how to tackle this enormous challenge – but that didn’t stop us!

Starting out, we began asking people if they’d seen the dog, but there wasn’t much interest. Once people were made aware of a reward being offered, everyone’s interest was sparked and the search began in earnest.

Although we’d started with a small search radius, we quickly expanded and had soon covered the whole town more than once.

At 13h00, we gathered at the nearest service station to regroup but found that nobody had had any luck in finding the poor dog. Dejected, we decided to head home.

When two of the other cars and I reached Oshakati my father called me and told me that they’d turned back. My father and brother just couldn’t abandon the search; we weren’t certain whether he was dead or alive.

I turned back so that I could go and help them. We continued searching, later becoming more and more despondent all the time, BUT… we kept on searching. All the while we were constantly praying and asking for help to find him.

After following up on yet another unsuccessful lead, we eventually headed to the place where the dog was last spotted, where a man pulled up next to us, informing us that he knew where the dog was.

Despite our scepticism, we followed him to a car wreck that we’d previously ignored in our search. And, hiding inside the car wreck, was the dog we’d been searching for.

Our attempts to cajole him out of the car wreck were unsuccessful, so we called the SPCA to assist. While waiting, four local men helped us to lift the car wreck while my brother crawled underneath and reached out for the dog.

The owner of the dog surrendered him over to the SPCA, and we were ready to head back home after a very long day. We left for home at 5 o’clock that afternoon.

Since the beginning of his journey, Shimbungu (meaning Hyena/Wolf), as he was named, has found his way into our hearts. We’re so happy that we played a part in helping him get the better life that he so deserves.

He has an amazing fighting spirit and will definitely make a difference in many people’s lives.

Wilmarie Horn, Secretary of the Oshana SPCA management committee, shares…

My husband and I spent Sunday searching for Shimbungu but couldn’t find him. On Monday, when the Otto family conducted their search and eventually found him, they called us. I handled the surrender process while explaining to the owner why it was necessary. Within an hour, the poor dog had been handed over, fed, given a sleeping tablet, and then taken to Ondangwa.

Dr Lyndsay Scott of Countryside Veterinary Clinic shares…

I received a phone call from Wilmarie Horn regarding a doggy that had possibly been hit by a car and was dragging his hind limbs along the way. At first she was wondering if it would be better to euthanise the poor doggy because of the paralysis and poor prognosis. I have, however, seen some horrible cases before with animals being badly traumatised or hurt who’ve made wonderful recoveries, so I decided to have a look at the doggy first before making the final call.

I first met Shimbungu when he arrived with the Otto family; he was sitting behind the passenger seat of the vehicle, staring up at me with these big brown eyes. He wasn’t scared, he wasn’t aggressive – he was just so trusting. Even though he was paralysed in his hind limbs, he wasn’t in any pain.

He’d waddle around the practice, following me everywhere, sitting tightly against my leg if I stood still or when I’d sit down on a chair. Caressing his face or kissing his nose, he’d close his eyes as if content, and you could almost imagine his little tail wagging. All he wanted was to be loved – he hadn’t given up yet.

I took him for radiographs the following day, and these confirmed that his lumbar spine was luxated/broken between L5 and L6. The prognosis was poor, and I knew the road ahead for this little guy would be tough, but I also knew we had to try and give him a second chance – he deserved better.

The next step was to find a specific home for him – one where he’d get the love and special attention he needed. I too had adopted a paralysed kitty in the past, so I knew the specific needs these special creatures required. Consequently, I spoke to Wilmarie and mentioned the specialised home we’d need to find for him. She agreed with every thought and every decision and said that she’d start looking for a home for him.

The support she received was remarkable, and within a few hours, she’d found the perfect home for him! She was even able to finalise his travel plans and sorted out all the transportation for him from Grootfontein (Namibia) to Lexi Austen in Johannesburg.

During the whole process, Shimbungu was an absolute champion, taking everything so well and remaining his happy self. Everything worked out so perfectly, and I knew Shimbungu would be happy.

Our last day together was “blissfully horrible” – I was so thrilled and delighted for him that he’d got his second chance, but I was so sad to see him go. He just can’t help himself – he worms/waddles his way right to the soft parts of your heart.

Ultimately, I knew we’d made the right decision in giving him a second chance when Lexi sent a video of him lying on his nappy-changing bed wagging his tail! Best moment ever!

Sandra Lippert shares…

I also saw that heartbreaking video where he was creeping in the sand without being able to move his hind legs. From that moment on I was thinking about him the whole time. His face and eyes remind me a lot of our beloved dog Lola, who’s also a wonderful SPCA pavement special. When Wilmarie of the Oshana SPCA asked for help on Facebook, I offered our flight crate and a lift for Shimbungu (and the crate) from Windhoek Pride Vet Clinic to Hosea Kutako International Airport.

On Tuesday, the 15th of January, my step-daughter, Annica, and I collected him from Pride Vet Clinic and drove him to the airport. Needless to say, we immediately fell in love with him. He’s just such a charming and sweet little chap! Even though we only had a few hours with him, a strong bond has been built and we can’t wait to meet him again and his lovable parents, Lex & Ronnie Austen, at All Heart Foundation in South Africa one day.

Lexi Austen, founder of All Hearts Foundation SA, shares…

Scrolling through Facebook, I happened upon the distressing video of Shimbungu as posted by the Oshana SPCA in Namibia. I mentioned it to my husband, Ronnie, and we then started following the story closely. We knew Oshana SPCA would make the right decision for this poor hound, but we readied ourselves to assist through All Hearts Foundation. As it turned out, Dr Scott of the Oshana SPCA decided not to euthanise him and that a good, very special home would need to be found for him.

The requirements for his home were put out on Oshana SPCA’s Facebook page, and I posted a comment saying, “If he doesn’t find a home we would be happy to take him.” I then contacted Oshana directly, making them aware that we had experience with trauma cases and would love to welcome Shimbungu into our sanctuary in Hartbeespoort, North West, South Africa, making this his forever home.

He might’ve been destined for many beautiful homes, but it really is difficult to care for a dog with such high needs. He’ll need to wear nappies for possibly the rest of his life, so Oshana SPCA opted to send him to us.

Once word got out that a loving home at our sanctuary had been found for Shimbungu, miracles started to happen. Air Namibia sponsored his flights, and a series of wonderful foster homes and parents helped him make the journey eventually to us.

It took a true village to get Shimbungu to safety and to a place where he’ll be loved and cared for for the rest of his life. We’re so grateful to the Otto family, Oshana SPCA, Dr Lyndsay Scott, Wilmarie, and everyone who chipped in to help him find his way to safety and love.

Shimbungu is a living miracle and inspiration; we could all learn from this pup. Many humans failed him, and yet so many humans saved him too. Shimbungu is trusting, loving, and so full of life.

We do hope he’ll be able to walk again one day. We have an orthopaedic wheelchair that’s been made for him by Ruan and Chantal of Ortho Pets Africa, and he attends regular hydrotherapy and physiotherapy sessions. Working with his therapists and vet Dr Hennie Boonzaaier, we’re noticing some signs of reflexes in his back hips. We remain hopeful that he’ll one day walk again. Whether or not he starts to, Shimbungu remains a go-getter and a symbol of love and determination.

For more information on All Hearts Foundation, and to keep up to date with Shimbungu’s adventures, please visit:

If you’d like to help Shimbungu on his way to recovery, All Hearts Foundation has the following needs for him:

  • Size 6 disposable nappies
  • Sensitive baby wipes
  • Nappy rash cream
  • Soft toys
  • Food donations
  • Monetary donations can be made to: First National Bank,
Account name: All Hearts Foundation,
Account number: 62637209471, Account type: Cheque Account,
Branch code: 251655,
Swift code: Firnzajj (international people can donate by using the swift code or by using PayPal below). Our PayPal, you can donate by using the email address:
allheartsfoundationsa@gmail.com. Please use “SHIM” as your reference. NOTE – Donations to the All Hearts Foundation are tax deductible and section 18A certificates can be issued.