Written by Erica Burger
Photography by Yolandi Strauss
I heard about Jane James, who looks after the dogs of ThabaTshwane, four years ago from my friend Judy Jooste. She mentioned that Jane was in need of some wooden pallets as she was trying to better the living conditions of dogs like Tiger. His kennel (if you can call it that) was a very dilapidated structure placed on the bare soil. When it rained, Tiger was getting sopping wet and full of mud.
A sad, frightened little mess
Tiger was still a pup of about eight months when I met him. I took the pallets to Jane and we went to his house (which we call the house of horrors). My heart broke when I saw the sad, frightened little mess that was tied with wire to a tree in a corner of the yard. His then owners had tied him up as they had chickens and Tiger had obviously caught a few, as he was hungry and very neglected.
He was covered in ticks and fleas, and underneath that hair his ribs were poking out. Due to the fact that he was chained he could barely move, and his surroundings were full of poo, dirt and rubbish, and he had no food or water to speak of.
That day I cleaned his space with my bare hands, and we lifted his structure onto a pallet and covered the holes at the sides with whatever we could find.
I left that day not feeling well – at all!
Finding a home
Jane called me some time after that with news: Tiger’s owners had agreed to surrender him. She and Stephanie Sales had collected him, had him sterilised, and he was in foster care with Stephanie. They asked if I could please help find a home for Tiger. Of course, I immediately started to network him.
But, to my disappointment, no one was interested in adopting the sorry-looking dog. I just couldn’t let Tiger fall through the cracks after all he’d been through, so I decided I would take him.
It took a while to gain his trust. The first time I tried to put a collar on him for a walk he freaked out, probably thinking he was going to be chained again. I literally had to carry him out of the gate. He wet himself in fear! Since then, with a lot of patience and love, he’s blossomed into a big and strong dog.
Today, Tiger absolutely loves his walks. He does the happy dance when he sees his collar, and he just needs to hear the word WALK to come flying around the corner – ready for his harness and some action.
My big beautiful boy
We weren’t sure what breed he was, but it didn’t matter – we love him regardless. When we took him to Dr Marius from Accuvet for his annual vaccinations, we learned that, according to the vet, he’s at least 90% Anatolian Shepherd, which explains his temperament. He’s easy-going and friendly… but don’t try and enter his yard or home when we’re not there. Also, don’t stand between him and me when he doesn’t know you; he doesn’t like that at all!
His best buddy is our other male dog, Bennie (a Rottweiler wannabe cross), while our other dog, Willow (a little three-legged Jack Russell), is Tiger’s shadow. My husband jokes that she’s sleeping with the boss – where Tiger is, there you’ll find Willow. She finds her comfort with Tiger.
Tiger can be very silly, is spoilt rotten, and has his own double bed and couch. He’s my big and beautiful boy of whom I’m very proud. Oh, and did I mention that I’m extremely protective of my pets? Anyone trying to hurt Tiger will have to deal with me first!
He’s so handsome and turns heads wherever we go – I’m sure a lot of people are disappointed now that they didn’t give him a chance when he was up for adoption.
Tiger will always have trust issues when it comes to strangers, but taking into consideration how much he blossomed in the three years since we got him, it’s amazing. He gives the best kisses and he loves to lie next to me with his head on my shoulder. He’s just one stunningly beautiful creature inside and out, and not a day goes by that I regret making Tiger part of our lives. He is family.