Written by Charné Harris, Trustee, Daisy Animal Rescue Trust (DART)
Professional photography by Keith Lotz Photography
The two Maltese Poodles had been abandoned and left to die in a tiny, filthy kennel on a dump site in Montague Gardens near Cape Town. Thanks to an alert security guard, the traumatised dogs were found and taken to safety in September 2018. Then it was up to a small but dedicated team to try their best to give them the happy life they deserved.
A yelp in the dark
If it had not been for Michael Scholtz of Star Alarms CC, we shudder to think of what might have happened to them. It would seem that it was a twist of fate that brought Michael across their path – and just in the nick of time.
Michael was doing his regular patrols when he heard yelping. He stopped to investigate and came across a tiny kennel bolted shut, with rope tied around it. With a sinking feeling at what was inside, he immediately broke the roof half-way open.
He was confronted by the most shocking, gut-wrenching sight he’d ever seen: two small, emaciated, matted dogs squashed into the small space, standing in their own faeces. Horrified, he called the Daisy Animal Trust for help.
Left to die
When we received the call from Star Alarms CC, Daisy Animal Trust founder Cheryl Lyn Potgieter rushed to the scene. The sight that greeted her was one of the worst she’d ever seen: the light-coloured Maltese Poodle-type dogs were skin and bone with matted hair stuck to their bodies – hair that had obviously accumulated for some time.
It was evident that these defenceless animals had been left to die a terrible death, although we’ll never know for how long they’d been in there before Michael found them.
Cheryl-Lynn rushed the shell-shocked little dogs to the vet. In the days that followed, we were to discover that the dogs – which we named Tom and Jerry – were in a very bad way.
Their legs were completely deformed, probably due to malnutrition and from being cooped up in such a small space for so long. Jerry, the older one, was extremely weak and falling over; he also appeared to be blind. Tom was better off, but still in appalling condition. Once the matted fur was removed, we could see their red, irritated skin.
Both were very much untrusting of humans and would, understandably, bite defensively. We couldn’t blame them, as they were fearful and only acted in order to protect themselves. This was heartbreaking and we tried to give them as much love and reassurance as possible.
Their skin was still very red and sensitive, we think from the caked and matted hair that was removed. We were also concerned about Jerry’s constant shivering and drinking of excessive amounts of water and continued to monitor them both very closely. Thankfully, tests for mange and diabetes came back negative.
Jerry was eventually diagnosed with an advanced luxating patella (the kneecap moves out of position) of his right hind leg, which would require surgery. His legs were deformed and he was still extremely weak and kept falling over. He also suffered from dry eyes, blindness in one eye and a heart murmur, all of which he’d need long-term treatment for.
Tom had a more severe skin irritation, as well as a heart murmur, for which he too would need long-term treatment. His legs were also deformed and we were told that he’d eventually suffer from arthritis. We still felt they deserved a chance at a good life and wouldn’t give up on these two dogs who’d been so badly let down by humans.
Cheryl Lyn continued with their rehabilitation, giving them a safe space to rest their tired, frail bodies, feeding them softened veterinary-quality dog pellets, and showing them love and respect from day one. At first, the dogs ate very little.
Over the coming days, their rehabilitation continued, with Cheryl Lyn slowly earning their trust.
Eventually, Jerry allowed her to clean his eyes and apply eye drops. Tom was doing extremely well too and, as such, was neutered, vaccinated and dewormed; Jerry was still too weak and underweight, so we had to wait before the necessary surgery could be performed on his legs. We weren’t sure how much the surgery would cost, but we were heartened to see a vast improvement when he walked. Day by day, he was regaining his strength and not falling over as often. We hoped that, with good nutritional food, things would continue to improve.
Despite all the physical progress, though, their behaviour was still very much unpredictable, requiring much more work to gain their trust. Cheryl Lyn had been bitten twice, but she has all the patience in the world. These dogs had known only cruelty, nothing else, so their behaviour was understandable. With time, love, good food and patience, we would change their lives.
Freedom and thanks
In order to give them the space and time to heal we’d initially kept them in isolation, but by the 30th of September, it was time for Tom and Jerry’s first day of freedom. By then, Jerry had been picking up weight beautifully, was visibly stronger in the legs and went for a lovely stroll in the garden, eventually becoming well socialised. We could see that they were extremely attached to one another and loved giving licks and cuddles – just to say thank you.
By the 3rd of October 2018, it had been over a week since their rescue by Michael of Star Alarms CC. We remembered the day we’d gotten the call as if it was yesterday – and recalled that all Michael had had on him at the time was his lunch (four burgers), which he graciously sacrificed for Tom and Jerry as they were so hungry.
We thought it only fitting to meet up with Michael and bring him a nice lunch to thank him for what he’d done. Of course, Tom and Jerry went along so that he could see their huge transformation – and the part he’d played in it. It was such a pleasure to show our appreciation to Michael and we’re all so grateful to him for rescuing Tom and Jerry from their fate. Michael, you are our Hero. Thank you for saving them from a terrible fate.
A turn for the worse
Three days later, things took a turn for the worse: Jerry had become very lethargic over the two days prior and we battled to get him to eat; he weakened and slept all day. At first, he’d eaten like a horse and had gained so much weight and strength, but now his condition had deteriorated. This boy had endured so much cruelty; we couldn’t bear to think what had been done to both of them, and we so wanted to show them a better life.
By the following day, Jerry had stopped eating completely and had lost excessive amounts of weight, seemingly overnight. Despite all of this, you could see that he didn’t want to give up. He kept fighting for survival.
We took him to the vet where he was admitted and placed on a drip overnight. All blood tests came back fine. He was our little fighter and we knew that he was in good hands with our amazing veterinarian, Christa Joubert of Table View Animal Hospital. He improved and, on the 8th of October, we fetched him from the vet and were greeted by an incredibly excited little dog and we got lots of kisses. We were overjoyed and very grateful to Dr Joubert for doing so much for him.
Unfortunately, 10 days later, we were confronted with a gut-wrenching decision. He’d had several weeks of love, care and happiness, but, ultimately, the complications of the terrible cruelty this older dog had endured proved too much. We couldn’t allow little Jerry to suffer, and the devastating decision was made to humanely put him to sleep, knowing that at least he’d known love in his last weeks.
Cheryl Lyn held him tight in her arms and kissed him until he fell asleep. Jerry, our boy, you were so very loved and you’ll be sorely missed. Until we meet again! Play in peace, Jerry.
Consolation came in the form of little Tom, who was still improving and would continue to bring many doggy kisses into our lives.
We deal with bad situations on an almost daily basis, but this call-out had an immense effect on everyone. We’ll never know who the perpetrator of this appalling crime was. All we can do is be thankful to Michael and Star Alarms CC for happening across a tiny kennel and for doing the right thing and making the call to us. Thanks to them, we’re able to continue with Tom on his rehabilitation journey and were able to show Jerry what real love was.
Lastly, a very big THANK YOU to an absolutely wonderful community of animal lovers who rallied behind us and supported us every step of the way. Thank you for all the donations – cash and other – all of which meant so very much and made it possible for us to rescue and rehabilitate Tom and Jerry. We could simply not do this without your help!
As Cheryl Lyn says, “It is so rewarding to see progress and give them a second chance in life.”
About Daisy Animal Rescue Trust
DART was founded in 2015 to help the animals in and around the Melkbos Area, including Du Noon and Joe Slovo informal settlements. This volunteer-run organisation is committed to the care, love and protection of all homeless, abused, and abandoned animals.
Find out more at www.dart.org.za and follow them on Facebook @DaisyAnimal Rescue Trust (https://www.facebook.com/pg/DaisyAnimalRescueTrust/)