Harry and Aisha

4th Nov, 2021

Harry (left) and Aisha

Written by Katherine Bell

Professional photography by Phillip V. Photography

The Covid-19 lockdowns caused a temporary halt to the Hoedspruit Animal Outreach (HALO) rural clinics. At long last, on the 3rd of October 2020, they were finally able to hold an outreach clinic in one of the four rural communities that HALO supports. Two CCS veterinarians and a veterinary nurse were in attendance.

Severely neglected pups

Harry and Aisha were brought by their owner to “The Puppy Table”, which was staffed by volunteers and one of the vets. The owner looked well fed… unfortunately, Harry and Aisha were less fortunate. The tan-coloured pups were on the point of death by starvation. Harry was described as one of the “flattest” puppies ever seen at an outreach clinic. He was breathing and had a heartbeat but was otherwise unresponsive; he was clinically extremely underweight with his ribs and hips protruding and very visible. Aisha was in a similar condition, but she was at least responsive. Their coats were in a very poor condition, and they had ticks everywhere and dirt ingrained into their skin.

The owner provided very little information regarding their history and simply left the pair and walked away.

Because of their size and on observation of their puppy teeth, they were estimated to be aged around three months. They were both clearly sick, infested with worms, dangerously dehydrated, and severely emaciated. Both vets and the nurse became involved at this point because a decision needed to be made as to how to proceed. A discussion was held as to whether it would be the kindest action to put them to sleep, Harry in particular. One of the vets assertively made a decision that they should be given a chance. The vets were renting a property together on a local wildlife estate and they took Harry and Aisha with them.

Over the next few days, the puppies were taken to Maroela Animal Hospital where the two vets there also became involved in their care. To cut a long story short, a lot of medical treatment and care was given to them both to get them back on their paws.

Meeting Harry and Aisha

Some days later, I met Harry and Aisha at a sterilisation day in a rural community. The vets who were still caring for them had brought them along in a cardboard box in order to keep an eye on them.

I was busy assisting with the surgeries, but I was aware that Aisha was active and very vocal. Some volunteers were trying to encourage her to eat, but she wasn’t interested. I remember walking over to the box and looking at Harry. He was just lying there and wasn’t interested in his surroundings at all. The thought did pass through my mind that he might not make it. Little did I know then that I’d become very involved with them both!

I was asked if I could take them on for nursing care and, of course, I enthusiastically said yes. I couldn’t resist the challenge to help these pups! I too lived on the same wildlife estate as the vets, so it was reassuring to know that backup was minutes away.

They began to grow

Within a week, I had them both with me and began a delicate feeding regime to help their tummies to accept normal food. Harry was a particular challenge as he struggled to tolerate normal food, resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. For a few weeks, I fed him 2-hourly, graduating to 3- and then 4-hourly. Their coats and skin needed intensive grooming and care, and, because there was so much dirt to be removed, I bathed them every few days in order to lessen the stress while gradually removing the dirt.

It quickly became obvious that they were used to hunting for beetles/lizards at night as a normal part of their diet.

Harry remained quiet and shy, whilst Aisha was loud and not shy at all. Aisha was very clearly Harry’s protector – she adored him, and he adored her.

Obviously, as they were now eating, they began to grow. Everyone thought that they’d be medium-size dogs. My friend Teresa Christopher and her daughter Karis fell in love with Aisha and decided to adopt her rather than foster. HALO posted Harry on their Facebook page for foster/adoption, but no one was interested. I, however, had completely fallen for him! Watching his growing confidence was irresistible and I knew I wanted to continue to have him in my life. I realised how attached Aisha and Harry were and didn’t want them to be permanently separated.

Over the following months, Teresa and I watched Harry and Aisha grow… and grow and grow. Rather than medium-sized dogs, these two were becoming rather large – and it was also apparent that they were older than first thought by at least three months.

Letting the past go

Today, we regularly take them to a dog park which has only been in Hoedspruit for about 18 months. This has proven to be so important for their exercise as they love to run, particularly Harry. We’ve found that walking is simply not enough exercise for these two – they now need at least 30 minutes of very strenuous exercise, so we take them there for about two to three hours every day.

They both have wonderful characters. There are no mental health issues, which many rescue dogs can suffer from. Harry is quietly confident but also very laid back. Aisha, interestingly enough, from being the noisy one is actually a little timid around dogs of which she’s unsure. Both are extremely affectionate, have no aggression, and get on with all dogs and all humans. They’ve let the past go.

It became apparent that these two needed training, so they’re on their second course at Scallywags Puppy School and Dog Training and doing well.

At the dog park, as they grew, they began to attract a lot of attention. Everyone asked what they were and everyone had their own opinion. German Shepherd, Greyhound, Malinois, and Africanis were the most regular suggestions. It became important to me as Harry’s mum to know. I’d never had a big dog before and felt I needed to understand his breed.

I sent off a sample to MuttMix to find out his DNA. Dr Angela Harrison (MuttMix) didn’t ask for any information, nor did I supply what I suspected might be his breed. Six long weeks later the email with his results came through. Harry is officially a German Shephound; he’s predominately German Shepherd with Greyhound – no other breed in the DNA. The results also apply to Aisha.

Harry and Aisha’s MuttMix Results:

        Level 2    German Shepherd Dog

        Level 3    Greyhound

Harry is dog number six in my life. He’s also the biggest dog and the easiest. I wouldn’t be without him. I try to take him everywhere with me, and he’s fully a big part of my life. He’s my best buddy.

CHARITIES/VETS INVOLVED:

HALO

HALO stands for Hoedspruit Animal Outreach (www.halooutreach.co.za). Formed in 2016, they established an outreach programme for four impoverished local communities where owners struggle to provide adequate care for their animals.

Everyone associated with HALO is an unpaid volunteer. The programme is community based and provides on-site medical treatment for worms, ticks, and fleas, and vaccinations. Sick or injured animals are identified and transported to local veterinarians for further treatment. For dogs that require ongoing treatment with the plan being that they return back to the community, HALO has a 40-dog holding facility.

Animal sterilisation (spay/neuter) is offered and strongly encouraged. The HALO Outreach Programmes also offer education relating to pet care. It’s incredible how many dogs turn up for treatment, from litters of new puppies to older puppies and adult dogs, indicating the great need for HALO’s work.

CCS VETS

CCS vets are newly qualified veterinarians undertaking Compulsory Community Service for one year post qualification.

MAROELA ANIMAL HOSPITAL HOEDSPRUIT

Maroela Animal Hospital (MAH) was established by Dr Liesel Steinmann and Christo Schreiber. This fantastic veterinary hospital kindly provides invaluable veterinary support to HALO.

UNLEASHED DOG PARK

Unleashed Dog Park was established in early 2020 and provides a large fenced-in area that enables dogs to have a wonderful run and great exercise.

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