Written by Mikki Hardy
Late one afternoon I decided to pop in at the Spar in Westpark. As I turned into the car park, there stood a skinny little tricolour pup – nervously scavenging for a few morsels to eat. I called to her but she just stared at me suspiciously; when I tried to reach out to her she bolted.
I had not seen her again
I spoke to the car guards, gave them my cell number, and told them I would give R500-00 to anyone who managed to catch her for me. A month passed with no word, and I had not seen her again. But I couldn’t forget about that sad little pup scavenging for food, all alone in a parking lot…
Then, one afternoon, she reappeared. The next morning, I phoned Cilla at Wollies Animal Project in Pretoria North to ask for help in catching this pup. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to at the time but gave me the phone number of a professional dog catcher named Daniel. I phoned him but he would charge me R700-00 which, sadly, I simply did not have.
So, I hatched a plan of my own: that weekend I’d go to the car park early on Saturday morning and stay there the whole day in the hope that she would appear – and see how it went from there.
There she was
I arrived at the car park on Saturday morning at about 05h30 and stayed until about 17h45. All day I walked around the area, checking in yards, under bushes, down alleys – anywhere I thought a pup like her might hide – but nothing.
The next day I got there at 06h00 and stayed until 16h00, hunting all day… but still nothing.
I decided to take a break and fetched my dogs to go to a park just past the Westpark Spar for a run. On the way there I decided to try one last time. I stopped the car in the car park where I’d spent the last two days and walked around to the front of the Spar – AND THERE SHE WAS!
The pup had her back to me and was busy trying to scavenge some bits of old pap. Without thinking twice, I just grabbed! I managed to get her around the middle and then held on to her for dear life.
Up close, she was in a bad state
She was utterly terrified and every inch of her tiny emaciated body was shaking. I put her into the car, praying she would not attack my other two, but all she did was crawl into a corner and hide – shaking like a leaf in a thunderstorm.
She was emaciated, so thin that her head was too big for her body. She had no muscle on her chest or rump area, and had a big bloated belly. The pad on one of her paws was badly burnt and she had sores in her arm pits and all over her belly.
And she did not trust people at all.
A long journey
It was a long journey with Cindy. She was terrified of humans – actually of everything and everyone. She wouldn’t eat if I was around; if she was busy eating and I walked into the room, she’d run and find somewhere to hide.
I made sure that all my movements at home were slow and calm, and I never tried to force her to be touched – I left the decision to her. I just ensured there was always food, water and a warm place to sleep, 24/7.
Eventually, after what must have been about three or four weeks, I was sitting outside one night and she came up to me – extremely cautiously – to smell me. I sat dead still, not moving a muscle. The first time she didn’t bolt when I tried to touch her I cried like a baby. It still wasn’t easy going, but she slowly allowed me in the room while she was eating, and she began allowing me to stroke her (but would not be cuddled). She flinched badly if I touched her unexpectedly; in fact, it’s only for about the last three months – two years later – that this flinching has begun to stop.
She chewed eight scatter cushions, all the rugs on the floor, and four TV remotes – not to mention shoes, slippers, etc. – and a brand-new couch. It had been delivered at 12h00 and when I got home at 17h00, Cindy had chomped both the arm rests. (The couch is still like that today.) But I persevered. I would not give up on her, no matter what.
The future for Cindy and me
I began taking her everywhere with me so that she could get used to people, sounds and smells to grow her confidence. In the beginning it was heartbreaking to watch, yet slowly – so slowly – she came around and her confidence grew. She still goes everywhere with me. We began obedience training and she’s a very intelligent dog.
Everything fell into place. Today, she absolutely craves and loves contact, and adores being cuddled and will press tightly up against you.
She is still suspicious of strangers and takes a while to get used to someone but, to be honest, I would not want it any other way – this will help to keep her safe. Fortunately, Cindy has no animal aggression whatsoever; I’ve introduced her to big dogs, small dogs, kittens – even a rescued pigeon. Even when the other dog shows aggression, Cindy will just submit.
In December, hopefully, Cindy, my other little girl, Lola, and I will be joining an NPO called Spirit and Soul Stables, and she’ll be starting the next adventure in her life.
A plea for patience
I would like to ask everyone who rescues a dog with special needs (like Cindy), whether it be like this off the street or from a shelter: please don’t expect that animal to be perfectly behaved or to immediately fit into your life. Remember that they might have baggage – just as humans do who have been through rejection, neglect, abuse, hunger, fear and loneliness.
Be patient, give all the love and compassion you have… and then dig deeper and find more. Never have a time limit; it might take a day, a week, a month, a year, or even longer – but I promise you one thing: in the end it is ALWAYS worth every little bit of effort.
Cindy has taught me so much about love, trust and compassion. She has taught me how to be humble.
Cindy’s MuttMix results:
Level 2 Rottweiler
Level 3 German Shepherd
Level 4 Mastiff
Level 4 Bull Terrier
I was not too surprised about the Rottweiler result as Cindy shows a lot of Rottie traits. The German Shepherd explains her long nose and “mottled” colouring down her sides; she also has a second coat. I’ve often looked at her body shape and wondered where that came from as she has a very big body and neck, but I’ve never thought of a Mastiff – now that I know, it is exactly right. The Bull Terrier totally threw me, though I feel that it could explain her eyes as they tend to be on the slanting side. Her nature is definitely more Rottweiler and German Shepherd, and she’s also as gentle as a Mastiff.
Everyone who sees her for the first time always tells me she has Fox Terrier in her because of her colouring, but I’ve always known there was nothing “Foxie” about her, although I did think Pit Bull Terrier. So, when sitting at the vets with a friend one day, I found a copy of the old Happy Tails hard copy magazine where I saw the MuttMix page and decided to resolve the problem once and for all. I didn’t care what she was made up of; I’ll always love her for her amazing soul.
I would most certainly recommend MuttMix, they were very efficient. Thank you, MuttMix, for allowing me to be able to say to all the doggy snobs when they ask “what is she?”: “She’s a Rottweiler-German Shepherd with Mastiff and Bull Terrier.” The reaction I’ve had most often so far is, “Wow. she is a serious dog.” And, indeed, she is.
Dominique from MuttMix says…
With mixed breeds, you will not always be able to see ALL of the breeds found in the DNA as a physical contributor – some breeds merely contribute to personality as well as health risks. Using the breeds as a health management tool is very effective and will help you to provide your dog with a happy, healthy life.