Written by Marian Nel
Professional photography by both Fourpawz Photography and Cassandra Bright
BoeBoe and his human were often seen around town. The little dog was always wet or being dragged behind a rickety shopping cart.
Helping the homeless
I help homeless people who have dogs specifically, and most have my number. They know to send me a “call me” or text and I’ll phone back; it doesn’t matter what time or day. I’m a flight attendant on an international route, and if I’m not in South Africa, I ask a friend to jump in, or ask whether it can wait to be sorted out on my return.
Boeboe and his people stayed in the bushes just off the N7 highway between Cape Town and the Northern Suburbs. Whenever I returned home, I’d always check up on them. On Tuesdays, I’d find them in the line to get food at the upliftment drives where I’d go down the queue and “check” on dogs with people.
If I spotted them walking somewhere, I’d stop to give them a lift, and they’d usually leave Boeboe with me for a few hours. One day I picked him up from his “home” under a bridge, and his little face just broke my heart. He was thin, his fur matted, and he was wet throughout his little body. I asked if I could “borrow” him for a few hours, and we went for a nice grooming session at the doggy parlour to make his long coat easier to manage.
Getting BoeBoe to safety
Secretly, I wanted to get BoeBoe to safety – most of the other homeless people have big dogs that can hold their own, but BoeBoe is a small dog. Just the idea of this little mop on the street was horrible.
Then, after one such excursion, when we went to the meeting place where BoeBoe’s people were supposed to pick him up, I found a guy there with a message for me: Could I please keep BoeBoe for the night, as they had stuff to do.
So I took BoeBoe to my parents for the night to sleep in a warm bed and to be pampered a bit. He loved it, of course, and I became even more convinced that I had to get him to safety.
BoeBoe lived a very hard life, living out in the cold and sleeping on hard surfaces his whole life. What’s more, I was sure that he was being mistreated, and I always looked out for any signs of him having been beaten or kicked.
One day, a drug-addicted homeless man frantically contacted me: BoeBoe was being beaten! I rushed through to where I knew they usually slept and found BoeBoe, bleeding and crawling around in fear.
I plucked him up and raced to the after-hours veterinary hospital. The blood was only from his nose and little mouth; fortunately, there were no other injuries. I desperately wanted to keep him but was told he had to go back to his owners, as, according to South African law, I had no legal right to hold him.
With a heavy heart, I took him back the next day. I yelled at them so hard that spittle came out of my mouth, telling them of all the foul things that I’d make sure would happen to them if this occurred again. I made it clear that I was watching them…
The police had called
A while later, I went away to New York for work; I landed in Johannesburg to messages from the police in their area asking that I contact them urgently.
I phoned frantically, thinking that something awful had happened. It turned out that BoeBoe’s human, Deon, had been arrested, and I was asked to fetch BoeBoe and take care of him. They didn’t want the little dog to be at the mercy of others. I requested an affidavit, as I wanted to make sure this would be the last time that this poor dog would feel heartsore, pain and cold.
As soon as I landed in Cape Town, I headed for the local police station, only to discover that the owner had been transferred to a bigger station; I drove there as quickly as I could. I couldn’t see Deon personally but asked the policeman on duty to ask him to write me a note stating that he was signing BoeBoe over to me, which he strangely did without any argument. But where was BoeBoe now?
Searching for BoeBoe
And then I had to search for BoeBoe. But where was he and what was I supposed to do, you ask?
Firstly, I put a plea on Facebook for a foster for BoeBoe so that, as soon as I had him, I’d know where to go with him. Then, I went to one of the scariest people I’ve ever had the opportunity to know – a drug-user and “enforcer”.
I drove through Bothasig, Edgemead, and Monte Vista to look for him. After much anxious driving around, I found BoeBoe in front of a bottle store in Bothasig with this guy. He refused to give BoeBoe to me, as he was using him to beg for him!
At that stage, I was utterly exhausted after a 16-hour non-stop flight, a further two hours to Cape Town, a visit to the police station, and the hunt for little BoeBoe – without sleep, I was feeling at my wits’ end. How on earth was I going to get this poor, defenceless little soul to safety?
Then I remembered another guy: a man who’s really a different kind of scary. So scary that the other guys on the street were very afraid of him. I’d see or hear of him now and again and had a strong feeling to call on him for help.
A big guy dropped him off
I climbed back into my car and, heart in my throat, drove to where his girlfriend usually is, hoping I could track him down by asking her. But, as if sent by the doggy deity, the man himself was there. I pleaded with him for help, and he told me to “leave it with him”.
By then, I’d been 32 hours without sleep and was still in my uniform and high heels; I was so tired that I was actually nauseous. With nothing else left to do, I headed home.
I was scarcely home when the receptionist at the after-hours vet phoned me, saying “some big guy” had just dropped off a little dog. He’d given them BoeBoe’s name and supplied my name and number to call. Despite my tiredness, I leapt into my car and raced off to get BoeBoe. The problem was, I still didn’t have a foster lined up for him. We needed someone to throw him a lifeline.
A new life
But there was a message on my phone: Sanette Meiring had seen his post and remarked on how cute this doggy was; if I knew her, I’d see this as a wonderful opportunity for BoeBoe. I phoned her back while BoeBoe and I were in my car, driving around in circles. I asked her – no, begged her – to foster him right then and there. She said she’d spoken to her husband, Deon, and I could bring BoeBoe through immediately.
We’d been there for 10 minutes, I think, when BoeBoe made the scariest-looking poo you could ever imagine on the floor in the house. I was mortified, but Deon just stood up and cleaned it uncomplainingly, and I thought: “Wow! This is BoeBoe’s house!”
I didn’t want to scare them off, so I asked if they’d look after BoeBoe temporarily and that I’d be back the next Saturday when her husband was back to check and see from there (her husband was going to be out of town for meetings). BoeBoe had his lifeline.
On the Wednesday, Sanette sent me such sweet photos, and my heart skipped a beat! I asked her if this meant that BoeBoe had found his home, and she said, “Yes!” Her husband phoned to say she must book BoeBoe into the doggy parlour – and the rest, as they say, is history.
BoeBoe has come a long way this year, and he’s slowly starting to trust people again. He’s now living the life he was born to live. Thanks to the Meiring family for giving him the love and life he needed so much.
HERE TO STAY
By Sanette Meiring, BoeBoe’s new owner
I remember the day Marian Nel phoned me about BoeBoe like it was yesterday. I explained to her that I really couldn’t foster, as our family becomes too attached to animals in a very short period. But, realising she was in a desperate situation, I asked her to bring him to us anyway so that we could discuss for how long it would be.
Until the weekend
When she arrived with BoeBoe, it was a way different-looking fur kid to what he looks like now! He was in terrible condition – he had this very, very hard black-brown fur – and he was completely out of control; he wanted to jump on everything and just wanted to be patted. If you stopped, he’d scratch you.
My husband was on his way to China, and because Marian was also about to head overseas with her job, we decided that BoeBoe could stay with us up until the weekend so that we could try to find him another home.
Here to stay
When Marian left, BoeBoe immediately ran to my son, who hadn’t been there earlier and who’d just arrived home. From that moment on, there was a strong bond between the two. By supper that evening, I knew in my heart there was not a chance that BoeBoe was going anywhere, but I didn’t want to pressure my husband.
But, the next morning, my husband phoned me from work and asked me to make an appointment for BoeBoe at our doggy parlour. I knew then that this sweet dog was here to stay!
Afraid to eat
It was the most difficult first six weeks for us, as BoeBoe was afraid to eat, and I think his former humans had a lot to do with it. I’d sit with my back against our breakfast nook with his food bowl between my legs and feed him with my hand – one pellet at a time – or his chicken and rice that he still loves so much.
If anybody so much as moved while he ate, he’d run away, so everybody in the house knew that they mustn’t walk around until his bowl was empty.
He wasn’t house-trained, but within two weeks he was fully house-trained and began sleeping with my son on his bed, where he still sleeps. Probably because of all the kicking around, BoeBoe had a lot of dental problems, but we managed to get it all fixed, and after that he started eating better too.
A loving and caring dog
BoeBoe doesn’t like the smell of alcohol at all. In the beginning, if he smelled alcohol, he’d put his little nose against your eye or mouth. I think this stemmed from his time with his former humans – perhaps to see if they were still breathing or to get them to open their eyes.
BoeBoe is one of the most loving dogs ever, and as long as he can sit with his little paw against any part of your body, he’s in seventh heaven.
I can never, ever say THANK YOU enough to Marian Nel for choosing us to be his new family, because the amount of love that we get from him is PRICELESS.