A young man from Tafara, one of the Townships that borders on Caledonia, had spotted a commotion on an unused building site adjacent to the flats he lived in and, checking it out, found that a litter of 7 tiny pups had been discovered in a hole by some workmen who were trying to level the ground and fill in some old foundation trenches. Being a kind hearted youngster, he immediately went to the rescue and, although he’d never owned a dog before, wrapped them in a small piece of white duvet, popped them in a huge plastic bathtub and took them home with him, where he proceeded to try and feed them on egg and milk.
Fortunately, someone must have given him our phone number and suggested that he call us, which is why, at 5.30 in the evening, just as it was getting dark, Tawanda set out from the farm in the Red Racing Snail, loaded to the hilt with a large wooden kennel, bale of straw, several squares of green fleecy material, 2 towels and a goodly supply of milk and food for the mother dog – should she materialize out of nowhere – together with a little container of baby dog feeding bottles full of Royal Canin Babydog Milk, warm and ready mixed.
The babies, eyes just beginning to open, (somewhere between 10 and 14 days old?) were given a quick feed by torchlight, before being left in the kennel, which had been put as close to where they had been found as possible, in the hope that their mother – some poor unfortunate stray who must have been beside herself – would come back and find them there. We had absolutely no idea what we were going to do next but it was late and we knew we had to jump around and make some kind of a plan.
Friday 18th August
We couldn’t wait to find out what had happened, but once again, couldn’t make comms. So, at 9.30am I sent a text message. ‘Hi Tinashe, it’s Mrs Thompson here. Did the mother dog come back? Has anyone seen her? How strong are the puppies? Thanks for your kindness to them.’ The feedback came – ‘Owk i luv dogz they are doing great’
That was a good start… ‘Has anyone seen the mother dog?’ Answer, to the point, ‘Yes’
Earlier that morning, Tinashe, who is 18 – now joined by his older brother and a little boy from down the road – had been devastated to find the kennel empty when they arrived to check ‘their’ babies. No surprise there, because when we saw the photos in the clear light of day, I realized that the kennel was now the only prominent feature in the middle of a miniature lunar landscape that was humming with workmen as they prepared to set about their new building project!! Still, undaunted, the 3 brave rescuers set off to look for them and, about a 100m away, found them – no longer 7, but 8 – curled up in a huddle on a little bit of flattened grass next to a rock, where mum had obviously tried to make a bed for them. Determined to follow instructions and do the right thing, they swept them all up and carried them proudly back to the kennel, putting out new bowls of food for the mother before they stepped back to keep an eye on their new responsibilities from a distance…
Gosh!! What can I say!! Time for step 2… The kennel was moved to mama dog’s rock of choice, together with the food and, that afternoon, when Tawanda went to check on them, there was Mummy Dog, curled up in the kennel, with all 8 babies squirming and nuzzling contentedly in their new shelter. She’s now called Spider, and although she growls slightly when people try and peer in at her, she had already eaten 3/4 of the food that had been put out for her and almost the same amount of water.
The temperature had plummeted on Thursday night, so tonight should be a better one for them all, but tomorrow is another day and it will be time to start thinking of the next step. We can’t rush things – the rescuers need time to win her trust – but we also have to be careful that her babies are not stolen by some passerby to be sold on for a few dollars… Tawanda tells me the look on the faces of the 3 caretakers was something special to see and, after leaving them with 3 of our animal care leaflets to read, he came home really happy, with a wonderful spring in his step. So far, so good –
Sunday 20th August
No news is generally good news, but it was good to get a message from Tinashe on
‘I also thnk u mrs Tompson for helping m al is gud the mother is living with her children
they are all fine i thnk u cos i was losing hope thinking tt they wont survive but i thnk u
fo great job’
I replied, ‘Gosh Tinashe. Thank you for your text. We’re very glad to be able to help
but the journey has just begun!! Spider will be a loving grateful friend to you and we will
do everything we can to help. Good night for now.
‘Owk Sam to u’
Tuesday 22nd August
Tawanda takes a bottle of sterilized milk and an egg to add into Spider Mama’s food
and, too afraid to come out, but determined to get it, she pulled the 2 litre ice-cream
container right into her kennel, where she flattened it, with a little help from her pups,
who were trying to lick up the last of the milk. She’s very nervy and growls at everyone
but is spending most of her time with her pups so, for the time being, all is still well…
We are so grateful to FORPETS for donating dog food to RAC which goes a long way in helping us feed this desperate mama dog.
Cheetah Kutemura (22nd Nov 2016 to 31st Dec 2016)
We put this in to show you some of the new peri-urban development taking place in our area. Altho’ they might not be as poor as many traditional rural people, these people can’t afford veterinary treatment for their animals, who probably have a harder time than those in the bush, because there are very seldom any grassy areas or trees around to provide shelter and shade.
Snoopy, Spider & Pookie Ramusi (8th Dec 2016 to 11th Jan 2017)
Taken to Kamfinsa Vet on 8/12/16, all the dogs were treated for biliary & came back
to us for rehab the next day. Snoopy couldn’t breathe & was readmitted on the 12th
to have a tumour removed from inside his nose but was put to sleep 4 days later.
Spider had a bladder infection & she & Pookie were re-admitted – Pookie with chronic
biliary. They both spent several weeks in rehab and finally, on 11/01/17, went home
with blankets & food, very different to the miserable, emaciated dogs that came in.
On Thursday evening 16 March 2017, April was delighted to present at the 7th PechaKucha Harare Chapter Night. For those of you not familiar with the PechaKucha concept – people from various backgrounds are invited to present a slide show of only 20 slides, which are shown for only 20 seconds each, thus making the speech for the same time frame – 6 minutes 40 seconds – MAX! This international presentation format, originated in Japan (PechaKucha means Chit-chat in Japanese) and allows a myriad of subjects to be shown in a concise and fast paced way. There were 9 other speakers on Thursday evening, April being the 9th to present… What a wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the work we do amongst the rural community around us. Have a read…
Gone to the Dogs!!
Good evening everyone. I’m April Thompson and I’m here to tell you why my family and I are, quite literally, going to the dogs. There are millions of dogs in Zimbabwe and, in an economy where many live from hand to mouth, they’re in trouble. The animal organizations are doing an amazing job, but they too need help.
Difficult as it may be in town, things are much worse in the rural areas where dogs are traditionally seen as working animals rather than pets. Used for hunting or security, they’re a far cry from our ‘pampered pooches’ and, unable to ignore the emaciated dogs on the road, Rural Animal Care came into being 3 years ago.
Living 25 kms from Harare on the Arcturus Road, we’re trying to provide veterinary care to animals in the rural community around us and, without assistance, most of the dogs we see would die – many enduring a painfully protracted end – only to be replaced by another in a vicious circle of suffering.
Responding to calls for help, we provide a free ambulance service and, collecting sick and injured animals from homes and roadsides, take them into Harare, where their treatment – or euthanasia, when necessary- is done by Kamfinsa Vet. Fortunately, VAWZ (Vets for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe) allow us to operate under their umbrella, making our cases eligible for the reduced rates available to them, because we regularly see dogs debilitated by malnutrition and disease, along with those that have been run over, ripped open in fights or gored by wild pigs – many with broken bones.
Taking our furry patients home after treatment, we monitor their progress and aftercare and these ‘house calls’ are crucial, because checking on their health and living conditions is the single most important thing we can do to bring about a lasting change in their wellbeing, along with that of many animals around them.
Many homesteads are only accessible in a 4 wheel-drive and, luckily, we have the use of the Red Racing Snail, a sturdy old Toyota pick-up. Visits may involve cleaning wounds or changing bandages but they also allow us to offer support to owners and tactfully suggest where improvements can be made.
Some dogs come back to us for confinement or rehab after treatment, with surgical, weak and traumatized cases benefitting hugely from the extra food, love and attention this gives them. We accommodate our convalescents in converted stables and, furnished with wooden kennels, straw and bedding, these are adequate for the time being.
Operating a mobile dip from 2 local centres, there are now up to 350 dogs coming in for dipping every fortnight. This has greatly reduced the incidence of biliary (the tick-borne disease that kills so many dogs out here) and given that very few owners had ever known its cause before, it’s making a huge difference.
Many rural dogs live hard, short lives in an endless cycle of permanently pregnant bitches producing endless supplies of puppies. However, after taking hundreds into the vet for sterilizing, the benefits of ‘Animal Family Planning’ are starting to impact and there’s now a steady stream of people asking for help.
VAWZ sometimes bring their mobile clinic to Caledonia on dip day, where
we organize 20 dogs for sterilization and collaborate with them. Rabies vaccinations and consultations are available and the clinic is much appreciated by all, including the dogs, because we sweeten their experience with 40kg of food!
We occasionally come across rabies cases and regularly organize rabies campaigns, with VAWZ coming out to vaccinate thousands of dogs in the last few years. Distemper outbreaks can also be devastating but sadly we can only provide these vaccines when there’s a crisis, because their routine use is cost prohibitive.
Regularly confronted by severely malnourished animals with patchy fur and swollen stomachs, batches of desperate pups come in all the time – some of them orphans in need of fostering – and supplementary feeding is a huge challenge.
Of course, simply providing food isn’t the answer – education and sterilization are equally important- but worm treatment and good nutrition are the first line of defence and we do what we can.
We also supply an affordable dog food through two local tuckshops, subsidizing it slightly to bring its price in line with mealie-meal and, although we don’t sell a lot of it, it’s the beginning of a change in mind set.
Lined with straw and blankets, old tyres make comfy beds and we distribute as many as we can, along with collars and leads that often replace heavy chain, electrical cable and bits of wire. These are much appreciated and it’s very special to see dogs that have never known a bed snuggling happily into them.
We also make wooden kennels, asking owners to put $5 towards them – if they can – and this is a project we want to expand because they make such a difference to the dogs, providing them with much-needed shelter from the elements and a safe retreat of their very own.
We’ve written our own animal care leaflets in English and Shona specifically for people from a rural background and, giving these to owners when we return their dogs, we explain things that need clarification and physically demonstrate the magical effect of affection on their animals.
This can be very rewarding – especially when you realize that the suffering endured by most animals is the result of ignorance and poverty rather than cruelty. What’s more, every person who learns to care for their animal becomes a teacher in turn – generating ripples that spread through the community like rings in a pool…
Setting out to ease the suffering of individual animals, it soon became apparent that this is not an individual, but a societal problem we’re facing, where education, sterilization and support at grassroot level are equally important if
we’re to make a lasting difference to the wellbeing of the animals.
The work we’re doing – good, necessary work – is increasing daily and we often feel overwhelmed because funding it on our own isn’t easy. Having said that, once you’ve gone to the dogs and looked into their eyes, there’s no going back and we’re determined to continue improving their lot – one dog and one day at a time…
We seem to have bombarded you with sad stories, albeit with happy endings, so I thought I’d just post a picture of how our mobile rehab dogs spend part of their day – going for lovely walks to the dam with April and Tawanda!
Pic – Coco allows her ‘mother’ April and Tawanda, to socialize rehab dogs at the dam. Fun for all!
Just before Christmas, our attention was brought to 3 dogs that had been abandoned and neglected since their owner had died…the new custodians kindly surrendered them into the care of RAC, as they were not able to provide for them. These 3 dogs, 2 GSDs, a male and a female and a male X Breed were severely malnourished and thin and were kept secured in a small fenced area. Tawanda, (2 IC at RAC!) and various family members went daily to supplement their feeding and most importantly, tried to socialize them as they were very nervous and the female particularly, couldn’t be touched. In no time at all, these sweet dogs responded to TLC, so we set about trying to rehome them – as luck would have it, Trigger and Lucy (Debbie), the 2 GSDs found the VERY best of homes with Gail and her family, furry and otherwise. We couldn’t have wished for a better forever home for these two lovely dogs and are so grateful to Irene for finding Gail as their saviour! How lucky these dogs are… having been penned up before, they now have the freedom and joy to run and swim with their pack and then to relax indoors by the fire, when they’re tired!! Lucky, lucky dogs!!
It’s also a happy ending for Tiger, the male X breed, as he has a new forever home…with us!! He is very different to the skinny, scared dog who came to us, as he too, has responded SO well to love and attention.
Pic – Trigger & Lucy loaded into the cab (of course!!) on their way to their wonderful new home!
This little dog came back to us for rehab after being treated at Kamfinsa Vets for severe Biliary. He was totally emaciated, and although recovered from Biliary, he needed some fattening up! He soon changed from being a scared little dog to becoming a lively, happy little member of our rehab gang – what a positive change it makes to have regular, nutritious food and good, loving socialization! Little Rex has now gone home and we continue to monitor this sweet natured boy, who totally crept into our hearts.
Bruno came back for rehabilitation after his treatment at Kamfinsa Vet. This boy had been chasing monkeys and obviously came off second best, which resulted in a very nasty bite to his neck. He received wonderful treatment during his time at the vets, but needed to come back to us for rehab as he was on strong antibiotics and still had a drain inserted into the wound. Once the wound had drained completely, it soon healed and he has been returned to his owners. A very happy, confident and healthy dog now!
Our ‘Red Racing Snail’, the ambulance, has had a very busy time ferrying loads of sick and injured animals into Kamfinsa Vets during the first two months of 2017. Unfortunately, the emergency calls come through, almost daily, so Tawanda spends his time driving to far flung homesteads to collect these poor animals and take them for treatment and then collecting those post-treatment dogs to either return them home or bring them back to the farm for a time of rehabilitation.
Picture – Tawanda and patients with Dr Ant Donohoe and Dr Marc (Fish) Donohoe
On Thursday 08 December we held a much needed, long awaited Rabies vaccination day at Caledonia. The people in the area have been very anxious about their dogs needing this protection from this deadly AND rife, disease, so we were so pleased to be able buy in some vaccine to help the community. We vaccinated 295 dogs!! 295 more dogs, protected from Rabies…we were delighted with this huge turnout, however, this is just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, so we hope to be able to offer these vaccination days, on a more regular basis, next year.
As always, our thanks to VAWZ for their assistance too.
A special thank you to Anna & Martha from The Netherlands, for their hard work, dedication & care for all the dogs on Thursday.