The Story of Luna Tuna

24th Apr, 2019

Written by Vicki Potts Nicholson, Founder of Furry Godmothers

Professional photography by Jacqui L. Photography

On the 29th of October 2018, Vicky Welman-Gerber received a call for help from the Animal Protection Network’s Zuerina Venter. Vicky and Karolien Theron rushed through, thinking it was related to a dog they’d been searching two months for.

Thankfully, the dear little soul in question had already been secured by Sunhet Prinsloo of Pekingese Rescue, Nico van der Merwe and Raymond Small. She was injured, and Raymond had secured a fence around the car under which she was resting. When Vicky arrived, she saw that she’d need a net and quickly called her husband, Adriaan, who rushed through with a net. Everyone got involved in catching her and took her straight to the APN vet.

Once there, they decided to see if her foot could be saved, as it was hanging off as a result of being caught in a snare. While the vet said the leg could be saved, it would be a costly and possibly futile operation. Another specialist was consulted, who advised that an amputation would be the better option.

When the day of the scheduled amputation rolled around, Dr Ajit Bholla from Brackenhurst Vet Clinic mentioned that he’d dreamt about this operation and asked if he could try one thing before going through with the amputation. On the operating table, Dr Ajit inserted a plate into the dog’s leg and created a string of screws with marrow taken from her shoulder. Once this dear little soul had recovered from her operation, she was ready to go to her forever home with Karin and Chris Swanepoel, who’d fallen in love with her at first sight.

Since then, Luna has recovered well, worked hard, but endured a lot of pain because of the snare injury. Luckily, thanks to a community of people who loved and cared for her, her life has just begun!

Vicky Welman-Gerber shares…

I’m hoping that her story shows people how bad snares are and that if you find any in the veld you must get rid of them. Luna is a fighter with a very special heart.

Her new family is perfect, and we’re all so happy that after all the sad there is a happy in this story, even though all our tries to save her foot didn’t work. Luna is a happy girl, and that’s what counts.

We are enormously grateful to:

      Karin and Chris Swanepoel;

      Zuerina Venter and Sharon Huson at Animal Protection Network;

      Dr Ajit Bholla and all the other doctors and staff at Brackenhurst Vet;

      Vicki Potts Nicholson and Furry Godmothers; and

      Karolien Theron and Adriaan Gerber

Chris Swanepoel, Luna’s new daddy, shares…

We were contacted just before leaving for vacation during October 2018 regarding Luna, having informed Vicky and Adriaan that we’d lost our Brindle Staffie due to cancer and were open to adopt a rescue, should they ever come across a Brindle dog.

Vicky and Karolien told us about Luna, her rescue, and her awful leg injury. After being caught in what we believe was a snare, she ate off the bottom part of her cushion on her paw to get loose. The bones were also severely damaged. Before going the route of an amputation, Dr Ajit Bholla consulted with Vicky and decided to insert pins in an attempt to save her paw and leg.

Whilst on vacation in KZN in November 2018, we decided that we’d adopt Luna. At this stage, Vicky had named her Mila. During our week away, Vicky updated us on a daily basis with her progress, the operation and sent us videos of her.

My wife, Karin, decided to rename Mila “Luna”, as it was the month of a full moon, and she felt that Luna showed a strong spirit and would light up our lives on a daily basis. We wanted Luna to be the star in her own story, as she’d already endured so much.

We met Luna at the Brackenhurst Veterinary Hospital on the 11th of November 2018 and fell in love with her even more.

Adriaan and Vicky agreed that we could take Luna to our home on the same day and accompanied us. Luna was introduced to Lexi, a dog we’d adopted in August 2018. On introduction, Lexi was a bit apprehensive, but Luna immediately started running around our garden, enjoying her newfound freedom.

Within an hour, Lexi settled down and both Luna and Lexi were following each other around the garden.

As animal lovers, and being aware of the plight of dogs in rescue centres and backstreet breeding, we’d rather adopt a rescue or senior dog to give them a second (at times third) chance to live a happy life: one where they’ll be loved, will become part of our family, will be cared for and will always sleep inside.

After the operation, Luna was taken back every third day to Brackenhurst Veterinary Hospital, as the vets wanted to check on her progress and to do bandage changes.

All the doctors and staff of Brackenhurst Veterinary Hospital were extremely helpful and assisted us with Luna, where needed. We have the highest regard for all the rescuers involved, as well as all the doctors and personnel at Brackenhurst Veterinary Hospital. Also Animal Protection Network, who were there from the word go to see to Luna’s operation and the expenses related to her treatment.

Luna was sterilised in January 2019. All was going according to everyone’s wishes with the progress of her leg and paw until the third week in February 2019, when they began to swell up and felt warm to the touch.

Luna returned to Brackenhurst Veterinary Hospital, where Dr Ajit Bholla took an x-ray of her leg, which showed that whilst the leg bone had started to attach, unfortunately the foot pins were being rejected by her own body.

We were advised that an amputation would be best for her, as she was still not using her injured leg much. Whilst walking or running, Luna’s injured paw and leg were held up in the air, or just flopping around.

Vicky suggested that we get a second opinion, just in case the leg could be saved with a prosthesis. The second opinion was also for an amputation of the entire leg.

Naturally, we were heartsore, but we knew deep down inside that an amputation would be the best for Luna. After doing a little research, we were of the opinion that she was already used to just using three legs and that she’d adjust well after the amputation.

Luna’s leg was amputated on the 28th of February 2019. The vets suggested that she remain calm during an overnight stay, so we didn’t see her on the eve of her amputation,

We collected Luna on the 1st of March 2019. Although still a bit groggy from the operation, the dog we fell in love with was nonetheless waving her tail, happy to see us. We were advised by the vets to keep Luna inside, and she came home with medication.

Luna was carried inside from our car, but within an hour of being home, she was ready to venture outside. I believe that, after her rescue from an awful life and three surgeries, she was just so relieved to be home.

Within a day Luna was running around on three legs, chasing after dassies in our garden. Our attempts to keep her quiet fell on deaf ears, as she wanted to be outside with Lexi in the garden. Of course, I kept a watchful eye on Luna to ensure she didn’t end up injuring herself.

I call her Luna Tuna, as a tuna is one of the fastest fishes in the ocean, and Luna matches this description – nothing holds her back and she’s extremely fast on three legs.

During the four months we’ve had Luna, we’ve learned to look at life with a new perspective. No matter your injuries (be it emotional or physical), you can live life to the full, counting each new day as a blessing!