Written by Ilze Vorster
We had no idea that the Knysna fires had gotten so bad until we received a call from one of our clients telling us we needed to get home – and fast. We’d been grocery shopping in town and were still under the impression that the fires were mainly on Brenton side. But we were terribly mistaken…
The air was thick with smoke
We cut our shopping short and raced back home to see how close it was to our house. As we drove up to the house, we were shocked to see large parts of the green belt next to our abode already on fire. We realised then that we we’d have to be quick and grab whatever we could.
When we opened the house, the air was already thick with smoke. I ordered the kids (we have three boys) to put on long pants and shoes and get ready to go again. While I dashed to the bedroom and grabbed a suitcase, my husband, Brett, headed outside to cut down some small trees on the fence line, hoping to stop the fire coming closer to the house. At this point, the smoke was so thick in the house that I abandoned the empty suitcase and got all the kids in the car.
I threw basic food (milk and bread) into a bag and loaded it into the car. When going outside to check on Brett, I saw the blaze rapidly approaching and I began to panic. I screamed, “It’s no use! We have to go!”
The cats were nowhere to be found
We’d been calling for our cats, Darcy and Maymay, but they were nowhere to be found. We hunted in and around the house – but realised that they wouldn’t stick around in this smoke and had probably escaped long before we got home.
As we drove off, we heard the terrifying sound of the fire crackling and the whole area was filled with an orange glow. We spent the night on Thesen Isle in our car with so many other people, just waiting to see what was left of our home. The next morning we drove up to see the damage and discovered that our home had completely burned down. We were devastated. Worse, there was still no sign of Darcy and Maymay. We called for them, with little hope as the ground was still smouldering.
He was almost unrecognisable
Because we had nowhere else to go, we decided to drive though to my brother in Mossel Bay, where we spent a few days to regroup.
Our neighbour, Dee, phoned us a few days later: they’d found Darcy. We couldn’t believe it! She said that they’d found him on their deck; Darcy is quite a free spirit and loved to roam free and visit the neighbours, often curling up in the sun on their deck. That day, they found him there again, this time very sad and burnt, almost unrecognisable. Dee’s neighbour, Jacques, took him to the Knysna Vet where we went to identify him.
Brett couldn’t wait, because Darcy was always his special boy – but when we saw him we were shocked. Poor Darcy’s fur was all burned and he could hardly open his eyes. He had bandages on all his paws and his whiskers were all burned off.
In his fragile condition, he still tried to brush his face up against us to show how happy he was to see us – such a special boy!
He made it through
The vets said he really was a fighter and, even though at times his condition deteriorated, he kept fighting and together they made it through and he stabilised.
We owe an immense debt of gratitude to the team at Knysna Veterinary Clinic; they saved our dearest Darcy cat. At a time when we’d lost everything material, their generosity of saving Darcy was truly amazing. They didn’t charge us a cent and it really made a huge difference in getting our lives back together again.
They are a phenomenal team of people that really care for animals and their drive is foremost for our animal’s welfare. Our boys are delighted to have their little buddy back at home and Darcy is up to his old ways of chasing their shoelaces as they walk past.
Darcy returned to the vet for a check-up the other day. He’d formed a special bond with Nurse Anna-Lize and was glad to see her – and it was nice to show her Darcy again and how well he’s doing now. They are very happy that he’s looking great and on the road to a full recovery.
Sadly, as yet, Maymay has not been found.
Anna-Lize Pohlman, Veterinary Nurse at Knysna Veterinary Clinic shares…
Darcy was found and brought in to Knysna Veterinary Clinic by a member of the public on the 9th of June 2017, two days after the devastating fires swept through Knysna. He arrived very dehydrated and suffering from severe smoke inhalation and burnt paws. His future was most uncertain.
He was immediately placed on a drip and his injuries treated. A naso-oesophageal tube was placed so that it was possible to feed him, bypassing his sore mouth and throat. He was also nebulised three times a day to help clear his nasal passages and lungs.
Darcy had a long road ahead of him, but because of his amazing lust for life and fighting spirit, he soon showed progress. Three days after being admitted, he started eating by himself and we could remove the tube for him.
He unfortunately developed bronchitis during his stay at the hospital but responded well to treatment.
Because of the severity of the burn wounds to his paws, bandages were initially changed daily. He also received laser therapy for his wounds from Equine Librium physical therapists. The burnt paws showed steady progress but took a lot of time and patience. Darcy soon became a member of the clinic and demanded attention! By the 7th of July, this incredible cat was finally able to “shake off” his bandages for good.
Even though Darcy’s lungs are still not 100%, he has showed remarkable recovery and is living happily with his family in their new home.