Written by Hanlie Louw
Photography by Esna Louw
Neescha the Rottweiler disappeared without a trace one night, leaving her family devastated. But they never gave up hope.
Neescha became my puppy in 2014. I gave her all the love and attention that one could possibly do; she slept in front of my bed every night and was my regular shadow every minute I was at home.
Then, one night in 2016, the most horrible thing happened: Neescha was stolen out of our yard. Instead of being asleep by my bed as usual, she’d gone outside and, somehow, thieves had seen her and taken her without a sound. The next morning when I woke up and noticed that my shadow wasn’t following me, I was almost crazy with fear. This was the most awful feeling ever.
I immediately called my office and told my supervisor that my baby had gone missing. Her words to me were: “Hanlie, I know that dog is a child in your house – go and search for her.”
I spent the whole day and much of the night driving through the neighbourhood. The next day we made flyers, which we distributed to each and every corner of town. But Neescha was nowhere to be seen.
I couldn’t give up
We went to the SPCA on a regular basis to look for her; a friend that volunteered there on weekends also kept me updated about stray dogs. Weeks turned into months, and we kept looking and hoping. We went on like this for a very long time until eventually my friends encouraged me to make peace and accept that Neescha was gone.
But I couldn’t. I cried every time someone talked about Neescha. I couldn’t give up.
From time to time, I still posted on Facebook, reminding people of the reward for her safe return. I just believed deep in my heart that my baby was not lost forever and that she was still alive.
One evening in September, I was lying in bed gazing at a special picture of Neescha. I started begging the Lord to please let her came home; to please let the person who’d taken her from us decide to give her to the SPCA. That night, I fell asleep crying and begging, dreaming of her return.
Come and see
Two weeks after that evening, on the 30th of September 2017, my daughter, Esna, received a phone call from our friend’s son, Jason, who also volunteers at the Kimberley SPCA. Jason asked for pictures of Neescha – he’d seen a black-and-tan dog at the SPCA, and since he was a house friend of ours, he also knew Neescha very well. It wasn’t long after Esna sent the photos that he called back to say: “You must come and see this dog.”
I couldn’t face it in case it wasn’t her, so Esna and my son, JJ, went. Jason took them directly to the cage; amazingly, Esna and JJ recognised Neescha – and she them! Esna immediately called me. I still didn’t want to go – I just couldn’t believe this could be Neescha. But with Esna now sobbing into the phone, I dropped everything and rushed to the SPCA.
Jason and Esna met me at the gate. I’d already cried my eyes out, hoping against hope that it really was my missing baby Neescha and terrified that it wasn’t.
Heart in my throat, I went up to the gate. The moment my eyes met hers, there was no doubt: this is my Neescha. I went into the cage where she leapt up at me with joy. Overwhelmed, I sank to the ground and she licked away my tears, pressing herself against me, then running to the kids and back to me, just as if she were trying to tell them that “mommy is here – can you see it’s really mommy!”.
I called my dad to tell him we’d found Neescha – I was crying so much that at first he couldn’t hear me. I had to repeat it three times before he understood, and then he was just as glad as we were.
It took some time to convince the managers to let her go there are then, but I couldn’t leave without her. Eventually, they gave in and let us take her home.
On the drive home, Neescha sat on my lap, still kissing me all over. Once we arrived home, she sprang out of the car and zoomed around sniffing all over the place. Our little Dachshund, Sascha, recognised her straight away and was barking and making sounds for almost half an hour. My dog groomer had also been at the SPCA at the time and she followed us home and even kindly went to buy new dog food for Neescha so that I didn’t have to leave her side for a moment. Needless to say, she was soon sleeping back on her place in front of my bed.
The condition of her fur was in a very bad state, and her hair was falling out. We treated her with vitamins and good food. It took almost four months before I could see that the hair on the floors was getting less and her coat was looking better.
My precious gift
With Neescha back at home, we’re spending as much time as possible together. Now that summer isn’t quite at full steam yet, we take her for long walks, which she loves so much. When you take the leash off the hook she immediately comes and sits for us to put it on her collar. Okay, let’s face it, it’s less than a walk and much more of a marathon, but what Neescha wants, we do!
Neescha is still the most loving dog ever, but she’s changed somewhat in that she’s more protective. No one may approach me from behind or she’ll immediately bark; something which the whole household must adjust to and remember.
She’s also over-protective of the children in the pool, and I can’t even think about getting into it as she’s so afraid of something happening to me that she runs around and around in an attempt to be as close as possible to me. To calm her nerves, we put her in the house if we want to swim.
Whenever Neescha gets the chance she’s on my lap; spoilt rotten she is! We as a family really love having her back, and she’s part of everything in our home. We don’t let her sleep outside anymore as she’s way too precious to us and we can’t lose her again.
On the 30th of September, 2018, it was a year since we had her back home, and still I keep on praying, thanking the Lord for my precious gift.