Written by Anél Wesson, Co-Founder of AfriPaw
When we first met Stanley Jacobs and his beautiful cream-and-white dog, Meira, on Doring Road in Vrygrond, it was simply to treat her skin allergy but, upon closer inspection, we noticed that her left eye was closed and watering quite severely.
Selling Meira’s puppies
Stanley was very happy for us to take Meira to be seen by a vet… but under no circumstances was he going to agree that we spay her. During a rather intense discussion, he eventually admitted to us that no one in his family had work and that they needed the money they would get from selling Meira’s puppies.
Meira had already had one litter and they were hoping she would have a second. In fact, she was due to come on heat.
We understood his desperate situation and approached the subject without judgement. We spoke at length about the moral issue of allowing your pet to suffer for the sake of your own needs, the fact that the fate of the puppies would be out of one’s control once they were sold, and the responsibility that rested upon every pet owner’s shoulders to protect their animals.
He wanted time to think
It was remarkable to see the change in Stanley’s attitude. At first, he was angry, almost aggressive, but the more we spoke, the more thoughtful he seemed to become. Finally, he asked whether he could get into the car with us to drive around the corner to a quieter place, as he needed to think. There were several children and adults listening in on the conversation and he must have felt overwhelmed.
Once we were able to speak more freely, Stanley agreed that it’s not right to make money from selling puppies, especially when one did not have the funds for essential treatments like vaccinations, deworming and the provision of nutritious food. He wanted more time to think, though.
We decided to take him to the vet with us to have Meira’s eye inspected, so that he could see for himself where she was being taken and hear with his own ears what was wrong with her.
The tears rolled down his cheeks
On the way to the vet, Stanley started sharing his life story with us. He’d had to leave school early and never reached high school. Due to his father’s illness, he had no choice but to accompany him to work in order to make sure that his dad did not “fall over”.
Stanley’s dad had a heart condition, so in his desperation to keep this fact from his employers (and risk losing his job), he asked his son to leave school so that he could help him with his work.
Stanley assisted his dad with his cleaning job at a nearby block of flats, hiding from view when necessary, so as to not raise any suspicions. This went on for some time. Eventually Stanley’s dad passed away. The tears rolled down his cheeks as he shared his heartache with us. It was a sombre drive.
Meira’s eyelid had folded into the eye
When we arrived at Fourways Vet, both Dr Azorin and Dr Botha spoke to Stanley and explained that Meira’s lower eyelid had folded into the eye, causing all the eye lashes to rub and scratch against the eyeball. It caused great irritation for Meira and the only way to fix this was to operate.
Since it was now confirmed that Meira needed to go under anaesthetic for the eye surgery, it made so much sense to spay her at the same time. By now, Stanley had softened to the idea and, in the hope to give him that final nudge in the right direction, we offered to give him and his family a food parcel. It was not to bribe him. We’d heard all about his difficulties and we wanted to help him make the best decision for his dog. The focus of our work may be the animals, but the more we are exposed to the heartache and challenges of the residents of Vrygrond, the more we want to help the people too.
Stanley signed the Sterilisation Consent form that afternoon; it was a moment to celebrate!
Fast forward two weeks. We were driving down Doring Road once more. Some of the residents noticed Meira in the back seat of the car. She’d been recovering from both her eye surgery and sterilisation at Fourways Vet. “Here’s Meira!” someone shouted. A few children started running alongside the car.
By the time we reached Stanley’s house, there was a child-choir chanting “Meira’s home, Meira’s home”. Meira must have felt like a queen! She certainly received a royal welcome and was overjoyed to see Stanley.
Meira and Stanley’s ripple effect
There are so many wonderful outcomes of this one encounter:
1. The residents noticed how good Meira was looking and we kept stressing that her sterilisation played a significant role in her improved appearance.
2. We had won the trust of the people in the street. Several people from Doring Road came running up to us asking to sign sterilisation consent forms.
3. Stanley and his brother now both volunteer at our Spay Days.
4. Stanley has now also signed up his male dog, Browny, for sterilisation.
5. Both Meira and Browny are going to be given kennels.
6. Our local Vrygrond representative, Felicity, found a job for Stanley’s brother’s girlfriend so that at least one member of the family now has an income.
This is why working with the community and keeping an open mind is so important – we can create lasting change with a ripple effect.
A quick visit to Meira on our regular “Paw Patrols” has become somewhat of a habit. When we delivered a kennel to her, she immediately inspected her new “safe place” and seemed right at home. We also couldn’t keep her away from our Spay Day on the 2nd of September; Stanley and his brother, Mark, came to volunteer, and she simply would not take no for an answer, following us all the way. This gentle girl stayed the whole afternoon and I have a sneaky suspicion that she may become a regular feature at our Spay Days, especially since Stanley is keen to continue volunteering.
Stanley adds, “Meira is looking so much better and is putting on weight. She also roams around far less and prefers to stay at home with us.”