Written by Zandra van Dyk - Founder, English and French Bulldog Rescue South Africa
Professional photography by @Strike a Pose Photo / Video
Boellie was surrendered to English and French Bulldog Rescue SA on the 27th of January 2020. His owners contacted us about their Bulldog whom they were trying to home. He was living with their family members who they said had two Boerboels who were attacking Boellie and it wasn’t working anymore.
We asked them to please drop Boellie at one of our vets for assessment. Sadly, Boellie hated it at the vet and behaved badly. The vet was most unhappy with this situation and requested that Boellie be removed immediately, so we put out an urgent appeal on Facebook.
Brad and Toni responded almost immediately, letting us know that they were available to collect him. Although we’d been able to see on the photos that Boellie had some issues with his skin, we were completely in the dark as to the extent of his infection. As we also needed a foster for Boellie and he was in such a bad way, Brad and Toni requested to keep him, saying they’d like to try to and help him where they could.
Boellie was taken to Bruma Lake vet where he was treated for mange. Later, an underlying condition of ringworm became evident. For us at EFBRSA it was very clear from day one that Boellie was home to stay, although Brad and Toni hadn’t realised this yet.
Brad and Toni Forrest, Boellie’s new owners, share…
Our introduction to Boellie was through a plea, made by Jean Marie of Bulldog Rescue South Africa on the English and French Bulldog Rescue SA Facebook page, for someone to collect this desperately sad and frustrated dog at a vet in Brits. He’d been howling so much for two days that the vet refused to do the usual assessments needed by rescue agencies because Boellie was too great a disturbance to the other staff and animals. Boellie had the most loving face and reminded us of our first rescue Bulldog who passed away last year. So we dropped everything and jumped in the car to get Boellie out of there.
When we got to the vet, we realised the real state Boellie was in. He barely had any hair on his back legs, tail and body, he was about 5kg underweight, had the most crusted nose we’ve ever seen and mucky eyes, and he smelt as though he hadn’t been bathed in months. He was in a tiny cage in a small room on his own; no wonder he wasn’t happy at the vet. We brought him home and crossed our fingers that he’d get along with our other Bulldog rescue, Mister Higgins. We were told that Boellie was aggressive with other male dogs because he was kept with two Boerboels who used to pick on him – he had the bite marks to show.
At this stage, Boellie wasn’t even a foster, let alone an adoption. Bulldog Rescue South Africa only asked us to collect him and take him to another vet for his assessments and sterilisation. We were happy to act as an Uber but were adamant that as soon as he came back from the vet he’d need to go to a foster home. The reason being that we’d adopted Mister Higgins (a nine-year-old retiree) just three months before and we didn’t want to have any unnecessary stress with potential fights between the dogs.
Once the vet confirmed Boellie’s hair loss was a result of demodectic mange, the rescue agency asked us to foster him until the mange was under control as it would be difficult to rehome a dog in Boellie’s condition. The severity of Boellie’s mange meant that his coat was so sparse or non-existent over 70% of his body. When we took him to the vet and they asked his colouring for their records, we couldn’t tell them. His skin was visible, black-like, and scabbed almost over all of his body, and the mange looked like he’d been burnt. We can’t imagine how uncomfortable Boellie must’ve been with those mites constantly burrowing under so much of his skin – it was heartbreaking. We agreed to keep him in our home until we got control of the mange, and for as long as he and Mister Higgins got along.
Most fortunately, he and Mister Higgins have to date never fought and are now completely dependent on each other, the best of brothers. We’ve learnt to always take the initial assessment of a rescue from the previous owners with a pinch of salt and never underestimate what plenty of love and attention can do to bring out the true heart of a dog.
We treated the mange with daily medication, rubs, scrubs and hugs – we also asked for lots of kisses and Boellie happily obliged. Stress is a big driver for the mange mites and Boellie had probably been in the most stressful time of his life, so we tried our best to keep him calm and loved. It was hard work; countless hours were spent attacking those parasites and Boellie was very patient, but even after a month, there was still not much visible progress. We eventually found out that he had ringworm as well, which is why, despite all our efforts, Boellie kept showing new sores. He also developed cysts in the crevices of his paws, and after a thorough check-up with Dr Gary Eckersley, we learnt that Boellie had an autoimmune disease. We learnt how to treat that too.
At this stage, the COVID-19 pandemic was on our doorstep and the country was being locked down. Mister Higgins had also caught ringworm, so it felt as though we were fighting a losing battle against a highly contagious virus both inside and outside our home. The lockdown also meant that our new houseguest wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. So we kept on fighting those skin conditions for another month, again with not much to show. It was only in the third month of daily interventions that we finally began to see progress. At the end of month three, it felt like we were turning a corner and were starting to recognise that we had gone through too much with Boellie to ever let him go to another family. He’d found us and we were so happy to realise we were the best parents for him.
It’s been a year since Boellie first entered our home, and the butterfly that’s emerged from the dog he was is incomparable. He was scared of people, scared of sounds, timid and with no personality at all. Now he’s the most loving, affectionate, patient, quirky dog we’ve ever had. It breaks our hearts to think that a dog like this should ever have his spirit broken. He has so much to give but was not allowed the opportunity until now.
Here are some of Boellie’s more amusing quirks. He’s not a morning dog – he rises when he decides it’s time. He needs hourly breakfast invitations before choosing to take his meal wherever he deems fit – anywhere from inside to the grass outside to poolside to in his bed. Sometimes he even asks you to feed him one pellet at a time. However, come suppertime, he starts making demands, vocally, in almost human form, from 4pm already. He’s not a fan of walking back the same way he just came from – it’s just not acceptable! He needs to see different sights on his way back. If he sees other dogs, he’ll shout and talk loudly until he gets the attention of everyone on the street; it becomes embarrassing. He loves to bite the vacuum cleaner and broom. And once the floors have been mopped, he must fill his jowls with as much slobber and water as “dogly” possible to return the clean floors to their “original dried spit state”. He loves the car and will sprawl out taking up the whole back seat, while poor Higgy gets squashed to one side. Boellie loves burrowing under cushions, flicking his beds into the air and rolling around like a circus act – much to the amusement of Higgins. He loves to lie on top of the firewood in the most awkward of positions, but he’s truly comfortable. He enjoys supervising garden improvements, where he’ll sprawl out in the newly made beds and on top of newly planted flowers, showing his approval. He has the funniest-looking tail we’ve ever seen in a Bulldog – half corkscrew, half straight, and flat like a cake knife. Boellie is mostly self-conscious about it and won’t let anyone near his tail, but when he sees a biscuit treat, that tail wags wildly in excitement. And finally, much to our hearts’ joy, he loves hugs and loves love. He still seems unsure about physical contact but will always beg for more when we stop.
Boellie Baby, you’re the sweetest pooch, and we needed you as much as you needed us. We love you so much.