Lappies takes the long road home

20th Dec, 2019

Written by Jess O’Kelly, Aid 4 Animals in Distress Adoptions Manager

Professional photography by Nat Gold ZA

Lappies’ story is one of a dog’s resilience and her eventual triumph over circumstances that few would’ve thought possible.

Lappies, a cross-breed dog, was born in the Overberg town of Villiersdorp about eight years ago. She was found wandering the streets with a severely broken leg and in need of assistance. Vanessa Cunningham, a rescuer in Somerset West, heard about Lappies and immediately agreed to take her in and provide the medical care necessary.

But she wasn’t there long before she figured out that – even with her disability – the full-sized walls of her temporary home for the night (she was being transferred to the vet the following day) were no barrier to freedom. This is a common problem when rescuing animals that have always lived their lives on the street.

She escaped and was spotted at various points making her way down the N2 highway towards Cape Town. It’s presumed that she then jumped the M5-M3 highway onto the adjacent railway line and followed that all the way down into the southern Cape Town suburb of Bergvliet. From there, sightings were reported from the suburbs of Claremont and Constantia, with Lappies eventually popping up in the upper-class suburb of Tokai.

By now, Lappies had her own Facebook group, where sightings of her were reported. Neighbourhood WhatsApp groups lit up whenever she was spotted. Lappies gained quite a following of concerned animal lovers from across the Western Cape, with each one praying that she’d be found and again safely rescued. The teams of animal rescuers that sprang into action every time she was reported as being in a new location would always stand down disappointed. She seemed to vaporise into the Cape Town spring air at each new attempt to find her.

The general consensus after three weeks of fruitless searching was that Lappies had either kept on moving south, or that she’d met her demise, being in a severely weakened and crippled state.

At the point when nearly all hope was abandoned, Lappies was found lying down against a wall outside a home in Tokai. She was simply too sore, too exhausted, and too terrified to continue. The homeowner posted a photo of the dog outside her gate on a community page asking if perhaps anyone knew who this dog belonged to. Word of this latest sighting spread across the animal rescue community, and it was quickly confirmed that this was indeed Lappies.

Southern suburbs animal rescue group Aid 4 Animals in Distress, assisted by rescuers from other groups, sprang into action. After some very careful and calm coaxing, Lappies allowed a rescuer close enough to her to be able to gently contain her, and the chase was finally over.

She was rushed to Ou Kaapse Vet in Tokai to receive emergency medical treatment. Blood tests revealed that she had tick bite fever, while x-rays of her broken back left leg revealed old fractures in several places that had actually fused together over time into a mangled mess. Her back leg would, unfortunately, never be straightened.

On the 15th of November, Lappies had her leg amputated at Ou Kaapse Vet. The fact that she covered over 50kms in three weeks on three legs means that she likely won’t struggle being an amputee. Even more disturbingly, the vets discovered a bullet lodged in her right back leg! They concluded that the bullet won’t need removing as it isn’t causing any damage where it is, but that the long road to her eventual physical and emotional healing has at least begun.

She was placed in loving, secure foster care with a well-known animal behaviourist, Helen Bastin, who’s working with her to help her regain her trust in humans. A kind member of the public has offered to cover all of Lappies’ immediate medical bills. Hill’s Pet Nutrition heard of Lappies’ story and have offered to sponsor her with Hill’s J/D food to aid her leg recovery, whilst Raw Love Pets are donating her a supply of their raw food.

Lappies made some incredible strides towards healing. Initially terrified of both people and other animals, she’s “adopted” a family of tiny bottle-fed kittens in foster care and is regaining the ability to wag her tail with each new day!

This story has an even happier ending for Lappies. Helen and her family decided that she’s just too special to ever risk losing again and have adopted her permanently. Her name is now Ella, named after Ella Fitzgerald.

Aid 4 Animals in Distress wish to convey their sincere gratitude for the overwhelming love and support that this incredible dog has received over the past few weeks and thank everyone who searched, shared, and prayed for her well-being, each having played a part in Lappies’ amazing story.

Helen Bastin, Ella Fitzgerald’s new owner, shares…

Ella was so scared when I picked her up from the vets, she was lashing out and her tail couldn’t have been further under her. I would go as far to say she was terrified.

I put my big dog crate in the lounge and she went straight in. She hid there for so long, and I was so worried that she wasn’t going to go to the toilet. I managed to pick her up and take her out; she urinated, and then rushed back to her crate.

Our garden is very secure, so I left the lounge door open for her, but she’d only come out for toilet breaks.

After two days, I went out for a while, and upon my return, she came rushing towards me wagging her tail. I bent down to greet her, and she hid her head into my torso. I cuddled her, and I was so happy I just cried. Then she started going outside for a little while.

A few days later, when I returned from the shops, she got so excited she had the zoomies around the lounge and kitchen, and she was squealing with excitement! I cried again!

Ella has recovered nicely after her operation. And while the op went very well, she was obviously going to be in a lot of pain, so we just let her be quiet; she was, of course, still carried upstairs in the evening to sleep in her big plush bed in our room! Our other dogs were so gentle with her and gently sniffed around her before leaving her be. We carried her outside for the first few days to go to the toilet, which she struggled with at first due to bruising. She also hated the cone but had to keep it on, as every time it was off she’d go straight to her stitches. After a week, she was starting to move around and taking herself outside, and that beautiful, gentle nature was shining through again. Another week later, the stitches came out and the cone came off – what a relief for her! She can now use the stairs, go up and down our huge step in the garden, and best of all is getting the zoomies and playing with our other dogs.

Welcome home, Ella.