Caring for the Dogs and Cats of Port Nolloth

Heartbreaking and soul-wrenching, I feel the pain of their anguish; these innocent and helpless four-footed and furred sentient beings. Suffering, with no mercy in sight. Quite a common occurrence the world over, sadly.

One of the most remote corners of South Africa, Port Nolloth, presents a dire face with starving and diseased canines and felines trawling the streets for anything big enough to eat. Tiny rib cages wrapped in ulcerated hairless skin. Puppies and kittens thrown on the rubbish dump. Huge pools of pain for eyes, wretched little lives thrown away. Born into suffering and doomed to die in agony. Brandsiek is the local lingo name for demodectic mange, almost more common than the foul-mouthed profanities uttered by their absent or uncaring owners. The grim reaper is in the form of parvovirus and rampant distemper, and all succumb in torture to the reaper’s call. Still, they reproduce, puppies and kittens, an ever-ongoing cycle of horror and suffering.

I came home to roost after 26 years abroad, to this tiny village with adjoining satellite townships and ex-mining villages. Indigence and poverty are the order of the day in the townships and even in town.

Miracles do happen

Miracles do happen. The hotline to God’s ear is always open. I can vouch for that.

My penchant for all things curious, aged and peculiar, begging for upcycling and recycling, led me into being part of a project that resulted in 1 195 animals sterilized and countless treated in four campaigns in this far- flung corner of the Earth. Sterilizing pets is the ultimate step in animal welfare, thereby preventing the ongoing cycle of unwanted little ones, that suffer a fate of starvation and disease, in underprivileged, indigent communities, barely able to feed themselves.

The veterinary surgeon heading the project is Dr Annelise Roos, backed by her team Envirovet. Dr Roos is truly not only heaven sent, but skilled in sterilizations, beyond normal human capability. Dr Roos’s unseen to the untrained eye winged human form’s capability easily outstretches more than 100 sterilisation procedures in a day, if required. The orchestrator of this magnanimous project is the National Sterilisation Project (NSP), which is run by Debra Buys. The project sponsor sterilisation for animals of underprivileged owners. The NSP coordinates both the incoming donations as well as the ongoing sterilization campaigns with the wonderful contribution of Dancers for Dogs as their partner. They relentlessly seek funding to enable Dr Roos and her wonderful team to head into outlying and obscure areas, where lost and forgotten animals suffer a fate, few of them can escape from, until death lifts them out of their cycle of pain.

The need for funding befell us

The need for funding befell us too and we were given a figure which dashed all my hopes of helping these Earth angel animals. Raising funds by doing the rare market days in Port Nolloth and the proverbial beg, borrowing and stealing took on nightmare proportions. Sanity prevailed and some funding was raised. Dr Roos donated some medications. No words can describe her.

Delighted at the prospect of being able to alleviate the suffering of these poor animals here, my illogical manner of doing things enabled erratic preparations to begin. Not strong on delegating, my first lesson notched up a few pointers on that score. Sleepless nights of pure panic about the enormity of the first project prevailed. Firstly, finding a venue close to the two satellite townships appeared almost impossible. The municipality and or the organisations with halls, either did not reply to formal requests or waved me away like a fly that deserved to be swatted. Eventually they suggested we work outside. Yes, in the sand, dust and hot sun and if a roof was really essential, to find a tent. How trite.

The Catholic Church loaned us a hall

Manna from Heaven came in the form of the Catholic Church in its benevolence, who loaned us a hall. The team of Envirovet and Dr Roos needed accommodation, which I took on and only saw it through for the sake of the animals, although a nicer more considerate group of people would be hard to find. The pile of linen and towels at the end of the 10 day stay almost rendered me and my washing machine into a catatonic trance, but we rallied, I can report.

Organisation took on a whole new meaning and volunteers were sought. Meals delegated to willing or mostly unwilling cooks to be delivered every evening, with a something or other for lunch the next day. Suffice it to say, somehow the operation unfolded as we found our way and dealt with all the details. Most importantly, the goal of stopping the endless cycle of puppies and kittens was achieved and many treated for a myriad of ailments. Hats off to all.

Supplies procured, the sterilization was offered

Endless supplies of dog and cat food procured, essential as pets of indigent owners need sustenance, especially after surgery. Blankets, towels and any form of covering that anaesthetized patients could recover upon were needed in industrial quantities. Extra hands and help for the aftercare. Funds for medications, like deworming, tick and flea treatments, mange and of course, the dreaded jabs too. The surgery is offered to the indigent, those who cannot afford to have their pets sterilized, let alone feed and care for them.

The task of distributing indemnity forms, which in turn also publicized the event, along with posters on appropriate poles and social media on the local groups, also took on daunting proportions, not to mention the collection and delivery of pets by those unwilling or unable to attend to it. Procuring scouts in the targeted areas was another assignment. Persons who knew where to look and how to convince naysayers that sterilizing their almost abandoned, street walking puppy-making machine was in its best interests. Pitbull dogs are highly prized in these areas and are usually left to roam the streets. Attacks on other dogs or cats usually see the victims torn to shreds or moribund. Not an easy task convincing those responsible for breeding more, to nip it in the bud.

A great Dane and no shoes

A procession of humanity and usually corresponding hounds and kitties slowly filtered in. Bakkies and helpful persons took to the dusty roads to either collect appointed animals or seek out abandoned street dogs and puppies. To my complete disgust, well-heeled, well-fed animals started turning up with downtrodden and poverty-struck owners, prepared to sign a form that they owned the pet. How does a man clothed in castoffs and who has barely soles on the underside of his shoes, feed a Great Dane in perfect condition? You tell me. And so, the ugly side crept in with affluent individuals sending their pets in with indigent people to get a free sterilisation. Avarice is not a virtue to say the least and sadly bestowed on many who have already lined their pockets in the exploitation business.
Just another challenge on the home front, as only so many sponsored sterilisations are available, ensuring that those masquerading as deserving are in fact stealing the chance of a pet who desperately needs help. Humanity in all its forms leaves a lot to be desired.

Dr Roos takes on whatever comes her way on the conveyor belt of fur babies

A formidable couple commandeered a colony of feral cats and their needs, which saw cages of kitties coming in for snipping. These kind souls offered their help to individuals who were aware of breeding feral cats, some of whom were also rendered and happily now there will be a few less unwanted kittens on the horizon. All done with love and care and the best intentions for their future.

Dr Roos takes on whatever comes her way on the conveyor belt of fur babies, duly anaesthetized and set before by her most able team. The numbers ramp up as the day passes and we have seen times where darkness falls and still she soldiers on. Every accolade to these angels of the highest order. We have done four sterilisation campaigns; two long ones and latterly two shorter mop up operations, over two years and changed the face of this place. No longer do we see the tragic little figures shivering in the cold, starved and hopeless. We still have some street dogs and of course the kitties, but there is hope now.

I reiterate. The hot line to God’s ears is always open and he is listening intently. Thanks be to our Almighty. One is deeply moved by the blessing bestowed on the suffering and hopelessness of these animals and the assuaging of feeling their pain too. Be blessed all who listened, heard the call and acted.

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