Written by Samantha Mann, Chairperson and Co-Founder of TOP (The Outreach Program)
Photography by Jo Pretorius
Livi’s journey starts when we began working in the township of Chris Nissen Park, Somerset West, in 2016. Livi was a young lady then and had just had a litter of puppies. She was immediately added onto our steri list and was sterried at our very first spay day with Dr Roos and Envirovet CVC.
Livi was “just another dog” in the township. She wasn’t one that demanded attention from us – she just existed. We’d see her with outreaches just running around, but she mainly kept to herself.
She heard screaming
At the beginning of 2019, one of our team members was dropping off Livi’s neighbour, a dog named Bruno, that had just been at the vet. As she was driving off, she heard this squealing – it sounded like a pig screaming. She stopped her car, and just then Livi ran out in front of her, screaming and biting her back. She leapt out of the car and ran to Livi, who was sopping wet and hot, and she immediately knew that the dog had had boiling water thrown on her – tragically, an all-too-common practice in the township areas.
Poor Livi was screaming and biting out in pain, but our TOP team member managed to catch her and dry as much of the water off her as she could. She loaded Livi into her car and rushed her to the vet who was waiting for her.
They immediately put Livi into a cool bath and gave her pain meds. Although Livi has a thick, curly coat, you could see how red her skin was under it all. Upon examination, they discovered that she also had TVT*.
The real Livi
Livi spent a few days at the vet where she started her treatment for TVT, and they monitored her burns. Once she was strong enough, she went into an amazing foster home. And this is when we got to know the real Livi. With just some love and attention, this dog from the township that just existed blossomed into the most loving and playful yet gentle girl. We knew we had to find her an extra special home.
And then it happened: after months of trying, we “found” Livi an amazing forever home… or so we thought. She was adopted by a young couple who lived on a small farm and had two other dogs. They immediately fell in love with Livi, and she with them. Not long after they learnt that the wife was pregnant. Livi spent the next few months following her new mama everywhere and sleeping with her head on her stomach, protecting her new unborn sister.
Livi had to go
Then things changed; after taking on one too many animals and with a baby due soon, the “amazing home” decided that there was no place for both Livi and baby. Livi had to go.
Livi was given back to us – along with her adopted sister, Buttercup. Now we sat with two dogs and nowhere to go with them; there was no foster home that could take them in, no home on the horizon. We had no choice but to ask for assistance from Helderberg Animal Welfare. Fortunately, they were happy to assist, and Livi and Buttercup went to stay at a shelter.
But we weren’t going to give up on them. We continued advertising and sharing, and sharing, and sharing…
Love at first sight
AND IT FINALLY HAPPENED! After thousands of shares, Amauré de Villiers – all the way in Sedgefield – saw her post, and it was love at first sight. She simply knew Livi was hers and immediately phoned us, and it was tears on both sides. Yes, Amauré loved Livi already.
Adoption forms were completed and a “virtual” (video) home check done. We knew that this is where Livi belonged. But how to get her from Somerset West to Sedgefield – a distance of some 420km? Simple: two of our team members booked their accommodation, put Livi in their car, and drove five hours to Sedgefield that very weekend.
And the rest is history… love at first sight. After all that this special girl has been through, she finally found her human soulmate, and we know she’ll never be cast aside again.
MY LIVI LOVE
By Amauré de Villiers, Livi’s owner
I returned to South Africa in January after living in Costa Rica for 20 years. I was heartbroken, because despite trying everything, I couldn’t bring my dog, Zolita, and Izee, my cat, with me. This was due to both the fact that Zolita was found to have heartworm and because the distance and flying time were too long for them to travel. Fortunately, my friend Pamela offered to take them (and Zolita is undergoing the six-month heartworm treatment – so far, so good).
I missed having an animal and had been looking for my new special friend since the moment I’d arrived in SA.
The day I “found” Livi was quite amazing. I was feeling sad and lonely and went for a walk down to the water. I met a woman with a Golden Retriever (I’d had my heart set on rescuing a Retriever-mix dog) and asked her if she knew of any rescue dogs in the area. No such luck, but it inspired me to go to the vet and put my name down in case any dogs came in.
With dog adoption on my mind, on arriving home I went onto Facebook… and there was my Livi Love looking at me, needing a home. I immediately phoned Sam, and before I knew it, beautiful Livi, with her soft Retriever-like coat, was coming to live with me. I was over the moon with excitement.
My life with Livi is complete; she’s a constant joy to me. It amazes me how giving and loving she is after everything she’s had to endure. She’s also very clever and quick to learn new games and tricks.
I got her five days before the Covid-19 lockdown, so this has been an incredible bonding time for both of us, and I can confidently say we are both madly in love with each other, and she’s my forever girl!
The Outreach Program (TOP) was founded in 2016 by a group of animal lovers from Somerset West after becoming aware of the desperate need for help for the animals of the impoverished area of Chris Nissen Park. The organisation has four pillars that underline their work: Educate, Sterilise, Rescue, and Repeat. They have monthly clinics for dipping, deworming and assisting with illness/injury and aim to host at least four spay days yearly. Advising and educating pet owners on animal care is an important part of their work.
For more information on TOP and to find out how you can help, email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow them on Facebook @TheOutreachProgramTOP.
*What is a TVT
A Transmissible Venereal Tumour (TVT) is basically an STD in dogs. It’s a malignant tumour mainly spread through mating. The tumours are usually found on the genital area and the mouth, and they’re uncomfortable or even painful, can become inflamed or bleed, and may develop secondary infections which can be very painful. Although they tend to remain local, they can grow, sometimes to huge sizes which cannot be treated and which are so uncomfortable for the dog that euthanasia may be the only option. The only way to treat them is removal (rarely possible due to their location) or chemo- and radiotherapy. The best way to prevent TVTs is through spay and neuter.