From left, on the furniture: Vicuna, Waldo, Nox, Zanzibar, Nymph, Montenegro, Alpaca and Guanaco, and on the ground: Bellatrix and Llama
Written and photographed by Leandi Steyn Delport
First, there was one. Now, there are nine Delport doggies!
We’re a crazy nine-dog family: a family comprised of rescues and non-rescues, all with medical and other challenges! We believe in being responsible pet owners and understand that all pets are lifelong commitments requiring hard work, understanding, patience and dedication. All our dogs are sterilised and treated like family. We live on a 1.8-hectare property and our dogs live in our house. They’re all incredibly well behaved, and we take them on holidays and visits to the doggy grandparents often. Our most recent trip during December was to The Secret Valley in Cullinan – the dogs LOVED IT!
We’re regulars at the vet and make sure that we provide the best care for our dogs that we can! We celebrate birthdays and adoption days with dog-friendly cakes and toys every year! I wouldn’t change the love and companionship I have found with each of these fur babies for anything in this world! Each one has such a unique personality with unique attitudes and mannerisms that enhance our lives daily!
My husband, Waldo, and I also support, on a monthly basis, Wetnose Animal Rescue Centre – previous home to two of our rescues – and Beagle Rescue and Support SA, the previous home of our most recent rescue. Staffed by people with hearts of gold, these organisations do amazing work!
Here is a brief (but with nine, nothing is ever brief) history of our doggy family.
Our first dog was Llama (now an almost eight-year-old Beagle). We were newlyweds, young and stupid, so Llama is the only pup with official registration papers. He’s a daddy’s boy (except when he’s sick, then he wants cuddles from mom). He loves food, is ALWAYS hungry, and is crazy about strawberries, popcorn and bananas. Llama had his first knee surgery in 2019, the second in 2020 and was also diagnosed with a thyroid condition in 2020. We ordered a jolly trolley while he was recovering after surgery number two so that he didn’t miss out on our December vacation. And we have added doggy steps so that he can still climb on the couch to snuggle with dad!
Alpaca (a seven-year-old Jack Russell crossbreed) was our second dog and first rescue. She was born at the Wetnose Animal Rescue Centre on the 27th of September 2013. She was very shy, and I fell in love with her instantly and adopted her when she was just six weeks old. She represents our greatest uphill battle!
Her mother was an overly aggressive Jack Russell. Anxious and scared from a young age, Alpaca has bitten several people and literally ripped some of our dogs to shreds over the years. She disliked most of the dogs we brought home, doesn’t trust people, hates children and being touched by others. The vet at the time insisted on “putting her down” because “she was an aggressive dog”. But I refused. She’s extremely intelligent, and I have a special connection with her.
We tried every behaviourist we could find and searched for ANY option available to help her. Eventually, we found an amazing human willing to help! Alpaca is on anti-depressant medication and sees the behaviourist every six months. Over the years, we’ve taught her many tricks to build her self-confidence. Since 2019, she’s gradually started making friends and accepting some of our parents and friends who come to visit. She only allowed my parents to touch her since last year. She absolutely loves to play ball! When she feels that she can trust you, Alpaca will bring you the ball to play with her – it’s the most rewarding experience. She also made an almost instant connection with a young child on the autism spectrum last year, and the two of them played ball for hours and she did ALL of the tricks she knows with this child. We were gobsmacked!
She still climbs over the fence when we’re away from home for too long. Alpaca has taught us that adoption is noble, but rescues take work and patience. Because of her trust issues, we were incredibly careful not to adopt another dog too soon. She was better with puppies that came from a non-aggressive/non-abusive background.
Our third dog was Guanaco (a six-year-old black Labrador). He was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy and will be on medication for the rest of his life. He’s also afraid of the dark and finds places to hide where he feels safe. He loves to swim, chase geckos, being brushed, and is the most well-behaved boy! He loves it when I call him a “good boy” – his face lights up and he wags his tail with excitement!
The fourth addition to our doggy family wasn’t planned. She came from my mother-in-law following a misunderstood conversation about Basset Hounds. Vicuna, our five-year-old Basset, is exceptionally loveable, but not very smart at times. She moans when she feels that she’s being ignored for too long and loves to sleep on people’s laps. Interestingly, she was the only pup whom Alpaca accepted from the start. Vicuna survived cancer in 2019, has suffered chronic ear infections since birth, and had a TECABO surgery done last year, following which she’s now deaf.
Our second rescue, and doggy number five, is Montenegro. He’s about five years old – a Fox Terrier X with only three legs. When my husband saw the post about Montenegro on Facebook, we knew that this baby needed a special and loving home! Wetnose Animal Rescue rescued him from Shoshanguve, where he’d been tied to a pole, was starved and very sick, and had only three legs. They weren’t sure if the little guy would make it, but after amputating what was left of his leg, and following extensive treatment, he pulled through.
Montenegro used to injure himself weekly after the adoption and the vet said it was because he was so used to being constantly in pain. We had weekly trips to the vet for stitches because of his self-inflicted injuries. It took him about three years to settle down and to build trust in people. Like Alpaca, he’s very selective as to which humans he chooses to trust. Now, he loves attention, and his best friends are our youngest Basset Hound and our Great Dane! He runs amazingly fast, loves chasing geckos with Guanaco, has a strong hip, and is a happy boy now!
The sixth member of the family is Zanzibar, another Beagle, who’s now four years old. He’s allergic to almost everything! He used to scratch himself until the skin was raw and bleeding. His constant cortisone treatment has affected his growth, and he’s now a forever-little Beagle. Zanzibar also has constant ear infections, but we’re working closely with the vet to manage all his allergies. He loves to bark and pretends to be brave, but he’s actually a little scaredy pants!
We got Nymphadora, now a four-year-old Basset Hound, after we lost a Basset puppy to a chronic intestine problem. Nymphadora is a loudmouth who loves to bark and play all day! She’s full of energy and very loveable. She likes to share food with Bellatrix (our Great Dane) and loves belly rubs from her humans. She adores our gardener and follows him around every day. He’s her friend and she likes to steal his gardening equipment when he’s not looking! Although the dog with the fewest medical issues, she picks horrible battles, once fighting with a tarantula spider, and last year she was bitten by a cobra! She thinks she’s really brave! Nymphadora also loves frogs, and my mom says that she’s the princess looking for a frog prince. She wants to play with every creepy-crawly she can find!
The next addition was Bellatrix, our now three-year-old Great Dane. And a truly gentle giant! Her tail was amputated in 2019 after struggling with “happy tail” for several months. Alpaca doesn’t like Bellatrix very much most of the time, but Bellatrix LOVES Alpaca. Bellatrix thinks she’s a lap dog and loves to herd humans and cars in the driveway.
Our third adoption, and the ninth dog to join the Delport family, is Nox. We adopted him in December 2019 from Beagle Rescue and Support SA. I named him after the magic spell in Harry Potter that turns off lights. Nox lost his eye as a puppy during a fight with his dog dad. The humans he lived with were not very nice people, and Nox lived at the rescue centre for most of his life. He was adopted before, but sadly was returned to the rescue centre. After we adopted Nox, he was diagnosed with a heart condition and idiopathic epilepsy. Alpaca loved Nox from the moment we brought him home! He adapted so quickly and it felt like he was always meant to be a part of this family!
A different lifestyle
Living with nine dogs has changed our lives forever, and I can’t imagine life without them. The house will never be clean again: muddy paws on tiles give rise to SUCH a fun game as dogs slide across the floor! “Fur”niture, accompanied trips to the loo, wiggle butts, tail wags, belly rubs, and wet doggy kisses are part of our normal life. We even built a customised couch that’s big enough for everyone, and there are more dog beds than human seating in this house. The vet staff greet us like family every time we’re there, and we receive handwritten thank you cards from the suppliers where we buy our food and medication.
You may sacrifice your home, time and money for these fur babies, but you gain so much more. And honestly, they fill a void that you never realised existed!