28th Jun, 2024

Written by Jacqueline Gouveia

Photography by Shannon Botha

I’d just exited the Flower Market, south of Johannesburg; as I glanced into my rear-view mirror, I spotted a little white dog. I made an about-turn and parked my car. I tried to coax him to my vehicle, but he just slowly walked off and lay in a property adjacent to the market.

When I first laid eyes on Archie, I assumed he was an old dog: his gait was slow and his face had a tired appearance. It was only during my daily visits and interactions with him that I’d come to realise that he was still a very young boy who’d faced his fair share of challenges on the streets.

He was a survivor

After networking, I learnt there was a possibility that Archie was a community dog. This seemed likely as Archie wasn’t emaciated, but rather malnourished, neglected and physically abused. He avoided human contact. I reached out to the local community for them to share Archie’s story. The food vendors and patrons knew Archie very well, and they informed me that he’d been in the area since November 2023 when he was still a young pup.

They connected me with a friendly young gentleman, Brandon de Wet, who works at the flower market. Brandon provided valuable insight into Archie’s situation, informing me that he was the only survivor of three strays in the area. Archie suffered a facial injury and hind leg injury from which he recovered without assistance. Brandon further mentioned the cruelty behind Archie’s injures. Today, Archie bears a noticeable scar on his face.

A team effort

Ursula Hope from Linmeyer Community Animal Rescue Association (LCARA) was my first port of call. I explained to her that I wanted to rescue Archie. Ursula advised that their runs were overcrowded and that we should start the process of sharing Archie’s story on social media with the hope of finding him a loving home.

Ursula set up a chat group and a team consisting of her fellow rescuers Kerry-Lynn Pavkovich Scott, Heather L. Roddick and Di Hingley from Animal Protection Network (APN). Brandon and another helpful local vendor, Raphael, were dedicated members of our rescue group and kept us updated on Archie’s presence and movements.

This team of amazing people were my source of constant guidance and support to assist with Archie’s rescue.

Plans are laid

Kerry advised that I show up daily at the same time and offer high-value food to Archie. Every day on cue Archie would arrive around 11 AM as Raphael was firing up his grill; you’d see him pop out of the tall, yellow grass and make his way over to the food vendors. Ursula proposed we try and trap him, and APN’s Di Hingley offered to lend me her trap. I was feeling quite out of my depth and Archie showed no signs of an easy entrapment. He wouldn’t take the bait.

That same day I had to leave Johannesburg for an unknown number of days. I was so torn: I was making headway with Archie and felt like I was abandoning him; however, Kerry met up with Raphael and together they set up a feeding station for him.

On Saturday, the 13th of April, Ursula and a fellow rescuer decided to trap Archie by sealing off all the exit points in his favourite resting spot. Their presence, however, wasn’t well received – Archie was terribly frightened. Ursula chose to stand down that day, to avoid causing Archie any further distress or spoil any chance of a future rescue.

Getting Archie off the streets

The following week I returned to the area and was determined to continue bonding with Archie. Raphael told me that whilst I was away he’d won Archie’s trust and felt confident to place a rescue lead around him.

Ursula said, “Whatever happens, don’t let go of that lead, even if Archie chooses to bite; he’ll never trust again.” That was a tall order at the time, yet I was terrified of letting Archie down.

After three hours of lingering, Raphael slipped the lead over Archie’s neck whilst he was eating chicken. He rolled and twisted, putting up an incredible fight, and I thought he was going to strangle himself. He eventually submitted and I knelt down to loosen the lead slightly. I gently wrapped my arms around him and raised him into my car.

Archie was taken to Dr Ash at Orion Veterinary Clinic for a full check-up. She mentioned he was probably close to a year old. Thanks to Heather, Archie found temporary shelter at Dogon Kennels, Walkerville, with Diane Botha ready to receive him upon arrival.

But Archie was miserable for the first couple of days after his rescue. I knew getting him off the streets was the right decision, but his rescue didn’t bring the euphoria that I expected. Instead I felt conflicted, pondering if I should have rescued him differently, or given him more time to trust me. Ursula explained that these were typical emotions after a rescue.

Archie’s adjustment to the new environment was challenging…

I had a revelation

Gradually Archie warmed up to me and allowed me to pet him for short intervals. By Day 3 he was allowing me to cleanse him down with puppy wipes, clean his ears and brush him. With each passing day, he spent more time closer to me and was eventually resting his little head on my lap. Archie had already crept into my heart and I felt like I was his only person. Ursula was hoping that I’d offer Archie a home, but integrating him into our household with our Golden Retrievers, seven-and-a-half-year-old Gracie and eight-month-old Angus, posed a challenge. We have a 15-year-old rescue who has many health concerns.

The last Saturday of April was a public holiday and the kennels were closed – I didn’t get to see Archie that entire weekend. I was reeling, imagining him thinking I’d abandoned him again. I’d made contact with an animal behaviourist, Louise Thompson, who shared insightful knowledge about integrating Archie into our family. By the end of the weekend I had a revelation: I needed to jump in with both feet and bring Archie home.

On Monday, the 29th of April, I headed home with Archie. I decided to do everything by the book. We’d keep him in his own quiet space, our bedroom, and over the next couple of days introduce each family member and fur baby one by one.

Archie does it his way

Well, Archie had other plans for us. His garden area was separated from the rest of the garden with a fence. He slipped under the fence on two occasions. I then opted to lock him in the bedroom; he proceeded to jump out of the window. I closed the window from the outside and he forced it open and escaped again. Free-spirited Archie wasn’t going to be confined.

Heather L. Roddick, LCARA, came that same afternoon to assist with introducing eight-year-old Gracie to Archie. She seemed quite unaccepting of other dogs not on our property, so she was our main concern. Gracie took us by surprise and the introduction went well – what a relief! Heather suggested we leave the introduction of Angus to the following day.

On Tuesday morning, Archie spotted me in the garden with the Retrievers and our little skill master did it again – he forced his way under the gate and headed straight towards us. I anxiously waited for the worst outcome. However, it was an incredibly friendly encounter. Archie had mediated his own introduction and won the respect of both Gracie and Angus. Sally, our senior female, has become very fond of Archie; he’s a good companion for her and they enjoy snuggling up together. So, here we are, a family of four fur babies and Remi, the feral kitty, who’s our temporary resident. Turns out Archie is absolutely fine with cats!

Archie bears many scars and is missing two incisors and another that’s broken. Despite all his trauma, he’s a bold and resilient little soul. He has an endearing nature and it’s heart-warming knowing he finally has a family that he can call home. Building Archie’s trust with our family is our top priority, as are Archie’s table manners, as he loves to jump on them. A challenge for Archie will be to learn to potty outside, but he’s smart, so this should be an easy feat for him. We’re so looking forward to the day when Archie can enjoy our occasional afternoon walks with the Retrievers. I’m hopeful he’ll enjoy this.

This successful rescue could never have been accomplished without the dedication of our dearest rescuers who tirelessly give of their time to the voiceless. I have immense gratitude to LCARA and APN for their unwavering emotional support and guidance along the way. Thank you, dear friends, you’re amazing – each and every one of you.

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