A change of life for T-Bone and Princess

8th Nov, 2019

Written by Tanya Pearce, Irwin Animal Rescue Centre

Professional photography by Strike A Pose Photography

Princess was brought to the centre around 2012 – we weren’t in the position to take in any more dogs as we had approximately 800 there at the time. The person who brought her in said that if we didn’t take her he’d simply tie her to a tree somewhere in the veld.

She was skinny, super scared, and shy, but she soon settled in and flourished, thanks to the simple things like food, water and love. She’s always been a real character and loves playing with her ball and water. We used to have automatic water feeders, and sometimes the pipe would come loose in her enclosure and the water would squirt out. She’d run around like crazy, playing with the water, which we’d leave until she was finished playing with it. I feel she’s found the perfect home that suits her personality. 

T-Bone had been at the centre with his brother since they were puppies and was already there when I took over in 2012. His brother was adopted in 2013 through the vet we used, and he’s still there and happy as ever.

T-Bone was always overlooked. In the beginning, he was very unsure of people and would rather bark at you or try and escape your attention than seek it. He wasn’t always friendly through the fence, either. He was a bit difficult to catch but used to be walked by one of the kennel hands, whom he learned to love and trust. The volunteers who visited every Sunday also worked with him by offering treats, and soon he learnt to sit and take treats nicely. He really has come a long way, and I believe he’s waited for many years for the perfect home. 

Chanell Matthews, T-Bone and Princess’s new owner, shares…

I saw the Irwin Animal Rescue Centre post for T-Bone on Facebook during the last weekend of July. I instantly knew that I wanted to share my home with him. I contacted Tanya on Monday and we had a very positive chat that resulted in completion of the application form. Tanya informed me that the Irwin’s dogs were being moved to Woodrock Animal Rescue that week.

While waiting for the home check, I kept in contact with Fiona from Woodrock Animal Rescue about T-Bone, concerned how he was managing the change.

Bernadette from Happy Yappers came to do the home check, and we agreed that fencing was necessary in addition to what had previously retained two “worsies”. She also kindly took me through to Woodrock to meet T-Bone. I liked him even more and knew we would get on well once he was home. 

I erected the additional fencing and Bernadette came around again to check on it – we passed our home check! Then Woodrock wanted a second home check; I was stunned and didn’t know why. I’d heard of Elke du Bruyn, the lady appointed for the second home check, and knew of her work with Nordic Rescue SA. I knew for certain my fencing wouldn’t pass a “Husky” home check. It saddened me to think that T-Bone wouldn’t be coming home and I mourned his loss.

On the day of the second home check I met Elke and we chatted. I could see her earnest consideration in wanting the best for T-Bone, and my hope was reborn. 

In the end, we passed this home check, and later that Saturday, Woodrock gave me the go ahead.

A very kind neighbour, Jacomin, drove me through to Woodrock on the Sunday to collect T-Bone. It was a very emotion-filled day. I met volunteers from Irwin who’d known T-Bone since he was a puppy, and we had photos taken.

T-Bone is an absolute gentleman. His first night was quite stressful to him but comical to look back on. I’d invited him onto the bed several times during the afternoon, but once it got dark the lamplight inside made everything look different and, I think, a bit scary for him. He has this way of showing me with his eyes what’s worrying him. He looks at me and then draws his eyes to what it is. First it was the charging cable, so I tucked that away, and so we continued until I saw him begin to relax. And then it happened…

I have a teddy bear about as old as I am, and in preparation for a new dog I’d moved him from the bed to a high shelf. T-Bone got such a fright when he noticed the bear; I think it was the eyes, just like his. I tried introducing him, but he was still anxious, so I’ve stored my bear in a cupboard.

T-Bone is quite a heavy dog, and for the first two weeks he’d lie across my body and stress-pant for a few minutes before going to sleep. Nowadays, he just jumps on the bed, goes to his place and is asleep in less than a minute. I’ll tell you his secret: he snores really loudly, but Princess and I don’t mind – it’s like music to our ears.

To backtrack a bit, I was told that I needed to go into work on the Tuesday following T-Bone’s first Monday with us. I was a bit stressed about leaving him but had been testing him, nonetheless, by taking short walks or popping out for a little bit. He’d been extremely stressed when I’d done this, and by sundown I had to choose: turn down the work or make a plan.

I contacted my boss and he agreed I could take T-Bone to doggy daycare. I then contacted Fiona from Woodrock and she immediately agreed I could leave him there for the day. 

When dropping him off, I mentioned to Fiona that I’d love a companion for T-Bone. Even though I was earlier than expected, Woodrock was on the ball, and Fiona suggested I adopt Princess too. We chatted during the day and I agreed to meet Princess when I collected T-Bone later in the day – I thought it would be a good thing for T-Bone anyway. Needless to say, I came home with T-Bone and Princess – it was love at first sight. A big thank you to Woodrock for sponsoring Princess’s food and care.

T-Bone and Princess complement each other beautifully, and I can’t imagine my life without them. Every day they show me just what awesome dogs they are.

I must say that the most unexpected has been to see what excellent alert dogs they are. Nobody moves past this yard without being barked at, and at night, no one moves within 100m without me knowing about it.

It’s just awesome to sit with them at sundown and listen to the birds. They enjoy walks at least twice a day – before breakfast and before dinner. Bedtime is between 21h00 and 22h00, when they lie down and sleep until morning. 

My proudest moments have been when they’ve met other dogs who were off-lead and they’ve behaved perfectly. They’ve made friends with other dogs here, and we sometimes go for walks together.

They listen well and are easy to live with. 

They’ve also gone through their challenges: T-Bone began walking away when I called him, so one morning he stayed at home and Princess went for a walk. When we got back, I called T-Bone for breakfast and he walked away. This, together with other clear dog language like looking away/ignoring, told me it was time to gently assert my authority, and he went without breakfast. By lunchtime, he’d shown some good behaviour, so I gave them treats. At walk time that evening I called him and he came running to have his harness put on, and at dinner time he came running when I called him – and so it’s been ever since. 

Princess was on antibiotics when she first arrived, so I added fried lamb fat to her food with the crushed tablet. Once the meds were finished, I offered her plain food and she didn’t eat it; I offered her plain food the next meal and she still wouldn’t eat. She polished off the third meal and every meal since. She’s also learning to sit – it’s a tough ask, but before every meal I help her to sit and tell her how clever she is to sit before she eats. A happier dog will be hard to find; for her, everything is good.

Last, but not least, a big thank you to Mari of Magalies Sleepy River, who sponsored T-Bone’s first bag of dog food, for her support and encouragement and much more. Sleepy River is a pet-friendly facility for day visitors or campers.

Thank you again to all the people who’ve gone out of their way to make this happen.

T-Bone, Princess and I are so very grateful to each one of you.