Written by Sabina Essa
Professional photography Catherine Laurent - Soulful Portraits: 072 627 2836
I “found” Troysen in December 2017. I was spending Christmas and New Year’s alone in Johannesburg. Things were extremely quiet at that time of the year and so many animals are abandoned and alone; it felt like a ghost town.
He kept coming in with scars
While scrolling through Facebook, a post caught my eye of an extremely sad-looking tan-and-white dog, blind in one eye, looking directly into the camera.
Friends Of the Calitzdorp Animals’ post said that Troysen had kept coming in with scars and all sorts of injuries; he’d been stabbed in his eye with broken glass, which is how he lost his sight.
The lady, Karen Whitley, explained that his owners didn’t care for him and that he was left alone and obviously stolen regularly to be used as a bait dog in dog fighting syndicates; as such he was due to be put to sleep as soon as the woman in charge of the local pound returned from leave.
I had to rescue this dog
I called the number immediately and begged and pleaded for his life. I didn’t know how I was going to rescue this dog but I simply had to. I had a strong urge and connection to him from just seeing his photo.
Pit Bulls have such an enormous burden to carry of having a bad reputation because they are so mistreated. They are beaten and starved and kicked and chained up and people wonder why they are so upset and aggressive. They just go into defence mode and have no idea what they’re doing, but know that they need to get away.
The problem was that Troysen was in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, and I live in Johannesburg, Gauteng. To be honest, until then I didn’t even know where Oudtshoorn was – I had to consult a map.
Getting Troysen into my arms
Over the days leading to the New Year I constantly called Karen trying to arrange between ourselves to get him vaccinated and neutered, to Johannesburg and into my arms – a journey of well over 1500km.
The cost to fly Troysen to Johannesburg was close to R3,500 – and the transport companies were reluctant because he hadn’t been vaccinated long enough to travel by air. For me to drive from Johannesburg and back would take almost two days and cost a fortune in petrol.
It was a seemingly insurmountable challenge, but as the saying goes: where there’s a will there’s a way. We were two very determined women who wanted to save this dog’s life. I couldn’t allow Troysen, who was just three years old, to have lived such a terrible, difficult life and never know the real true love and care that he deserves.
Meeting half way
Finally, with no other options left to us, Karen suggested that we each drive the seven hours (around 800km) towards each other and meet in Colesberg, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, to do the exchange of Troysen and place him in my care.
I couldn’t believe it but, without having to think twice, I said yes. And that was exactly what we did on New Year’s Day.
What a journey! I was so nervous; it was such short notice and nothing was planned. I had no idea what kind of temperament he would have and if I’d be able to find him a home or if he was actually even a dangerous dog. I took a risk. It was worth it.
Better than expected
When we met in windy Colesburg, I couldn’t believe it: Troysen was just so incredibly gentle! All he wanted was love, food and kisses. And he was such a beautiful dog – even more beautiful in real life than in the pictures. Better yet, he absolutely loved the car and was such a pleasure to drive with. He slept all the way to Bloemfontein. Mind you, he’d just driven seven hours to Colesberg.
He has so much patience. The poor boy was exhausted – and he must have been so confused... Where was he going? Was he going to be hurt again? What did he do wrong now? Who are these people? Where do I belong? Where is my family? Why am I alone? The thought of his fear is just too much to bear.
A break in the journey
We slept at Acacia Lodge in Bloemfontein, a pet-friendly guest house with the most wonderful, spacious rooms. Troysen slept on his new bed and, for the very first time, owned something: a teddy bear I’d bought for him. He snored like a tractor all night through.
It was so wonderful to see him able to finally rest and know that he was safe. He probably couldn’t even remember when last he had a full tummy and a bed to sleep on. But, as nice as his bed was, he didn’t stay there… In the middle of the night he woke up and trotted towards my bed, like he wanted to climb in. I shifted up and in he climbed and cuddled up right into my shoulder nook. My heart – I was in love!
The next day, the two of us hopped into the car and headed to Johannesburg where I boarded him at Woodrock Animal Rescue, which has A-Class kennels and the most wonderful staff and team. They took care of my boy and we walked him and worked with him and tried to find him a home for two months.
It was challenging because Troysen couldn’t be homed with other dogs and needed to always be on a lead. His previous traumatic experiences weighed heavy on him and he didn’t like other dogs because he’d been trained to hurt others and to try to protect himself as well. People are incredibly cruel to do that to a puppy. Nonetheless, we persevered.
Unfortunately, Troysen soon became increasingly upset and depressed at the kennels. He hated being alone and his tail only wagged when he had someone loving him and taking him out for a walk or holding him. I wish I could have provided the right home for him, but I have cats and it wouldn’t have worked out.
He even chewed through an iron gate and almost escaped. He wanted out and, after saving a dog’s life, you really don’t want them to suffer or be depressed. I was devastated that it was taking this long to get him a good home.
We were on borrowed time; we were desperate to get him out of a shelter and into someone’s heart.
Wishes do come true
Then, one day, our wish came true: a rescue angel, my friend and fellow rescuer, Paul Kietzmann, who knew Troysen’s story and how desperate we were for a home for Troysen, called and informed me that he’d found him a brand-new home with his receptionist, Bonita de Wet.
And it really is a dream home: Bonita is an awesome mom who loves him dearly; he goes with her to the office and has plenty of toys, food, biltong and blankets. And, most of all, love.
I admit that I cried when I had to let him go. I’ve rescued many animals in my years but Troysen was deeply special to me and I love him dearly (I even got a tattoo of him on my arm). Even though I couldn’t adopt him myself, I know that he ended up in the most wonderful home with animal lovers where he’s so happy – and I know that he’ll never feel pain again.
COMPLETELY IN LOVE
By Bonita de Wet, Troysen’s new owner
We met Troy on Valentine’s Day – and what an amazing Valentine’s Day it was. Paul and Hennie van der Walt sent my colleague and me to meet Troy in Fourways, Johannesburg, where he was staying with Sabina.
When we arrived, we didn’t really know what to expect. We’d been told that he was really depressed, but when he got into the car, he seemed the complete opposite: he was so friendly and he lay on my lap all the way back to Pretoria. And that’s when I fell in love with Troy: all he wanted was love and nothing more.
When we arrived in Pretoria he came back with me for the night until the next morning when we would find him a home. The next morning he went with me to the office to meet Paul and Hennie. When Paul arrived, he came bearing gifts: toys, dog food, a huge bed, and biltong (his favourite thing in the whole world) and, of course, Troy won Paul’s heart immediately.
I asked Paul if Troy could come home with me again for the night. That evening, we went for a walk – and he loves his walks. He slept with me in my bed like a little puppy and, by the next morning, I knew there was no way I could give him up. I asked Paul and Hennie if I could adopt him and, of course, they said yes!
I was completely in love. Troy is not just any dog; he’s really special and, after all he’s been through, he’s still such a lovable guy who means no harm to anyone. I feel a bond with Troy which I’ve never felt with any other dog before. He means the world to me and it’s scary to think that had it not been for Sabina, Paul and Hennie with their good hearts and determination to save Troy, I would never have met him. He’s my best friend and a big part of the family; I think I needed him more than he needed me.
I take him to the office now and then for the day so he can visit Paul and he gets so excited for that, knowing full well that, aside from the fact that he LOVES Paul, he’ll get biltong too. You can say we share custody.
Troy is nothing else but a big brown-and-white bundle of love and all he brings is happiness to everyone who meets him. He is a big puppy on a mission to love!