Written by the SAM Team (Sedgefield Animal Matters)
Photographs supplied by SAM and professional photography by Michael Jackson
Every day, the woman drove past Pine Lake Marina in Sedgefield, Wilderness. By chance, she glanced out of her window and spotted a little cream-white doggy in the bushes alongside the road. In time, she realised that the dog was living there, fending for herself.
The observant woman contacted Sedgefield Animal Matters on the 12th of May 2017, and the very next day we took a drive out there and found the dog. Fortunately, she seemed to be physically OK and was certainly not starving, abused or injured.
We chatted to some people who were working nearby, cutting and selling wood. They said that they knew of the little stray and had been feeding her scraps and giving her water. They told us that she was sleeping rough in the bush and that they’d named her Oortjies (“ears” in Afrikaans).
A new arrangement
After a day or so, we realised that her sleeping arrangements were non-existent. She seemed happy enough there, with the people looking after her, so, rather than remove her, we decided to make a better plan. We organised a sturdy concrete kennel which we placed underneath some shady branches, with a canvas base and a big comfy warm blanket.
She took one look and leapt inside, making herself comfortable – she was clearly delighted with the new arrangement.
But a couple of days later, it began to rain – so hard that water had started to creep inside her kennel. We created a patio and verandah to make the kennel weatherproof.
Finding a forever home
A month went by with us visiting her every second day to ensure that all was well. It became clear that keeping her there was unsustainable. June also saw the arrival of the terrible fires across Knysna.
It was time to find her a proper home. So, we took to Facebook, telling her story and hoping for someone to step forward. And they did.
It took a few days, but a beautiful couple from Knysna offered to give Oortjies a forever home. A meeting was organised for the 21st of July to collect our forest girl and deliver her to her new home.
A FRESH START
By Tanya Jackson, Roxy’s new owner
After the devastating Knysna fires in June 2017, the need for assistance, housing and comfort was not only restricted to humans but also animals. With a daily barrage of pleas on social media, one could not escape the incredible sadness that befell our community and surrounds.
The loss of life and displacement of so many people and their beloved pets was heartbreaking.
A forlorn look grabbed my attention
One day while perusing Facebook, I saw a story that had been posted of a little dog which had taken refuge in the forest. The forlorn look of the dog with its big ears, scrawny body and sweet little face grabbed my attention.
I could not bear the thought of a little dog left alone in the forest fending for herself. She clearly was not a hunting dog so her food supply was dependent on scraps from well-meaning strangers. The story haunted me.
Joining the family
After reading another – more urgent – plea to find a forever home for little Oortjies, we reached out to Chris to see how we could assist. The situation was quite dire, so we decided on the spot that she should become a part of our family.
Although our house had been damaged in the fire, we were able to live in the part of the house that was not affected. Oortjies would be welcome to join us. So, Chris, Janine and Michael set out to collect her from the forest, which seemed a fairly easy transfer of her and her belongings. And so Oortjies arrived at our house. Although apprehensive, she appeared to know that this was all good.
At first she seemed grateful to be in a warm and safe environment, and took comfort in her blankets and kennel that were prominently placed in close proximity to our quarters.
But after a couple of days went by, she couldn’t seem to settle, appearing anxious, and she kept wanting to get out of the yard and the gate. It was almost as though she felt the need to go back to the forest.
We often wondered what had brought her to the forest in the first place – and why did she want to go back? Almost as if she was guarding something or somebody there… Alas, we’ll never know.
We took extra care to ensure that she couldn’t escape our large garden and filled her days with lots of love, kisses and hugs. It took quite a while before she came to realise that this was her home and we were not going to abandon her. As time went by, she slowly settled down and became more comfortable.
Sadly, she seems to suffer from some psychological trauma – it looks like she has bad dreams; a fear of thunder and lightning sets her off, driving her to find an enclosed hiding place in one of our closets.
The wind blowing is another thing that seems to scare her, so one can only imagine what a traumatic experience it must have been for her to be a resident in a forest. Crackers and any loud noises frightens her, resulting in her hiding in the closet and shaking from fear.
She never leaves my husband, Michael’s, side and when out for a walk she ensures that she keeps him in her sight, always running ahead with her little head cocked to the side to make sure that he’s following.
One can only speculate on what has happened to her to be carrying this kind of baggage around.
Because we wanted to give her a new name for a fresh start we named her Roxy – and the name suits her. She responds well to it and it appears to have given her some stature.
Now, almost a year later, she’s more at ease, comfortable, and accepts that we love her and will never leave her. We’re very happy to report that she’s the master/mistress of her domain and is a very confident and happy dog, fiercely protecting us and her home.
Walks have become the accepted and expected daily activity that she loves very much. She thoroughly enjoys rides in the car with the wind blowing in her face, especially if she can sit in the front seat.
Recently we added another little rescue dog, Chappay, to our family. Chappay’s family were affected by the fires and had to move, unable to take their beloved little dog along. Roxy accepted her with love and kindness (although she made it very clear who’s the boss). They are so cute together.
Roxy is an absolute joy. She has significantly enhanced our lives and we could not imagine life without her.
Thanks to people like Chris Fletcher from SAM, who work tirelessly to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. Together we can all make a difference in the lives of our four-legged friends.
“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” – Immanuel Kant
Sedgefield Animal Matters (SAM) is a volunteer-run animal welfare operating in the Sedgefield area. They focus on dog and cat sterilisation to curb overpopulation and subsequent neglect but also rescue and rehome when necessary. They aim to involve and educate the local community in order to to raise awareness of homeless, abused and abandoned animals, promoting respect and compassion for all creatures.
Find out more on their website at www.sedgefieldanimalmatters.co.za and follow them on Facebook: @SedgefieldAnimalMatters (link https://www.facebook.com/pg/SedgefieldAnimalMatters/)