Cliffie – our one of a kind

5th Mar, 2020

Written by Salomé Griebenow, with photographs supplied by the author

Cliffie is the runt of a litter of eight pups rescued from Kayamandi Township near Stellenbosch. They were lucky to be taken in by Animal Welfare Society Stellenbosch (AWSS) shortly after birth. Cliffie, however, was very sickly and had to be separated from the rest of his siblings, which were all fostered together.

Little survivor

On the 11th of May 2019, I visited the AWSS to walk some of the adult dogs and play with the puppies. I’d just fostered one of their puppies who’d been adopted a week before, and I was thinking of taking a break for a month or so before volunteering to foster again – I had a lot of sleepless nights whilst fostering the aforementioned puppy.

But out of curiosity, I asked Jeanette Lawrence, who volunteers at the AWSS, which of the puppies needed a foster home. She informed me that they had a five-week-old puppy who urgently needed to go into foster care as his immune system was compromised, and he’d just barely survived a stomach virus. He’d have a better chance of survival outside of the shelter, even if it was just for a couple of weeks.

I told her that I’d like to see the puppy but couldn’t promise that I’d be able to take him in, as I had dogs of my own and didn’t want to compromise their health. The first thing I noticed when she brought Cliffie out from his kennel was his unusual nose – it looked like it was split right through the middle. He was almost completely black with small light-brown spots above his eyes. He also had no tail. To me, he didn’t look like any type of dog I’d ever seen before; he looked more like a little gorilla.

The perfect home

I was still unsure if I should take on this big responsibility of taking care of such a fragile puppy. He’d need supervision throughout the day, which meant that I’d have to ask my father to take care of him whilst I was at work. Fortunately, being a big animal lover, my father agreed. And so Cliffie came home with us. He’d only have to stay with us for the next two weeks, because when he reached seven weeks of age, he’d be ready for adoption.

Naturally, we quickly grew to deeply care for and love Cliffie, and we decided to foster him not only for two weeks but until he’d found the perfect home… which turned out be ours. We officially adopted him in December.

Taking care of Cliffie was not a walk in the park – not at all. Within the first few days of him living with us he became so ill during the night that I thought he wouldn’t make it until the welfare’s vet could treat him the next morning. But, miraculously, he did. He was also prone to frequent ear infections that kept him and me up at night. And he struggled with his skin, as it was easily irritated and itchy, which makes sense now that we’ve received his results.

We ended up fostering Cliffie for much longer than anticipated – seven months to be exact. There was some interest, adoption applications were completed and sent through to the Welfare, but it never amounted to anything. I found this very strange, because his looks alone immediately caught everybody’s attention. I guess it reaffirms the fact that Cliffie, although not planned, was meant to stay with us from the moment I took him in.

Cliffie can also be described as a typical puppy who can be quite mischievous. Although he has a wide variety of toys to play with and has human and doggie companionship throughout the day, he still finds the time to chew furniture, plastic bins, and shoes – actually, anything he can fit his mouth around. But his favourite hobby is gardening/landscaping. He’ll rip out any plants and flowers that he feels are unnecessary or don’t fit in with the rest; sometimes he cannot wait for us to go outside to view his work, so he brings it inside. This is just one of the reasons that Cliffie is nicknamed “Hooligan”. Lucky for him, his loveable nature makes up for his naughty moments.

Furthermore, Cliffie simply loves playing and going on adventures with his siblings, Odin (Great Dane) and Heidi (Miniature Dachshund); the three of them are inseparable.

The first thing I did after signing the adoption papers was to order the MuttMix DNA Kit.

Cliffie’s MuttMix Results

        Level 2 German           Shepherd Dog

        Level 2 Chinese           Shar‐Pei

We always speculated that he might have a bit of German Shepherd in him because of his coat, but the Chinese Shar-Pei is a total surprise. It explains, however, why he’s not as big as you’d expect a German Shepherd cross to be, although he certainly has the appetite of a dog of that size.

Both breeds’ characteristics describe Cliffie perfectly. He truly keeps his circle very small, as he doesn’t easily trust people that he doesn’t see on a regular basis. He’s very loyal and protective of his family – especially when it comes to me. He’s my four-legged shadow and will follow me wherever I go.

Dominique from MuttMix explained that his nose is a result of the Shar-Pei DNA but that it’s a bit more pronounced due to the longer German Shepherd muzzle. His lack of tail is a natural bobtail that’s caused by a gene mutation known as T-Box transcription factor T Gene (C189G).

I’m very grateful for everything organisations like Animal Welfare Society Stellenbosch do on a daily basis. Without them, Cliffie would probably not have lived past a few weeks. I’m also happy to report that all seven of Cliffie’s siblings have found their furever homes too!

Dominique of MuttMix adds…

Often mixed-breed dogs don’t show obvious physical signs of all of the breeds found in their DNA, but those breeds contribute small factors like sensitive, allergy-prone skin, and most often in personality.