When one thinks back over time, there are moments in life that stand out as “starting points”. Moments where you teetered on the edge of something new, before rushing forward to meet a big and wonderful change. While in the moment, you might not recognise it as a starting point, but with retrospect comes great clarity.
For me - in retrospect - such a starting point was meeting a dog named Maddison.
My husband and I rescued the German Shepherd cross from the side of the road in May this year. She was in a terrible state: horribly emaciated, deathly listless and with multiple sores on her skeletal body. As an animal lover and overall softy, I cannot express what an effect this sorry sight had on me.
I was put in touch with the Helderberg Animal Welfare Society in Gordon’s Bay. Clare and the team took on the poorly creature without a second thought, and named her Maddison. Sadly, her days in their loving care were numbered… Very old and with multiple organ failure, the kindest thing was to put her out of her misery. At least she was warm, well fed and loved during her last few weeks.
For months, I searched for some meaning behind Maddison’s sad demise; some way of paying tribute to the amazing people that cared for her in her last days.
And then, Juanita Berry, newly appointed angel-in-charge of the Essentially Natural Outreach program, approached me to become part of their team. She had read my blog post about Maddison. And with Essentially Natural’s One Percent Initiative rushing forward towards something big and wonderful, I was afforded the opportunity to give back to a worthy cause, in memory of a dog that greatly impacted my life.
Just this week (September 2021), we visited the Helderberg AWS and met up with Clare. A force to be reckoned with, this woman’s resilience, strength and compassion is truly something to behold! She walked us through their lovely facilities, sharing some insights into their day-to-day struggles, but especially their wins. Her face literally lit up as she pointed out multiple dogs - knowing each one by name - that are soon leaving the kennels for their forever homes; sharing the incredible stories of how some of their charges came from terrible situations, were in shocking condition, and are now healthy, happy and loved. “We are exceptionally lucky to have a very high adoption rate,” says Clare. “People from all over come specially to us to adopt a pet”.
The resident Helderberg AWS dogs and cats also come from far and wide. “Strictly speaking, our catchment area is only the Helderberg, but we have an open door policy”, Clare explains. So many animal shelters in and around Cape Town have a no-kill policy. In concept, this seems wonderful, but it comes with a tricky complication: should such a shelter reach its maximum capacity, they have no choice but to refuse any new surrenders or strays, even if they come from their immediate catchment area. So where do these animals end up?
Many find their way to the Helderberg AWS. Here, they radiate a pro-life view. Each animal’s situation is assessed individually and objectively and with a great sense of compassion. Quality of life is deemed the highest of priorities. For example, the doggo that’s been in their care the longest is a charming young boy named Rusty. After 18 months, he is still as happy-go-lucky as the day he arrived as a stray pup. He’s adoptable and healthy, and will remain in the kennels as long as this quality of life is maintained.
We were utterly charmed by the cattery, located on the same premises. We were so warmly received, both by Caitlyn, who kindly showed us around, as well as the collection of stunning cats. Yet another wonderful woman that radiates kindness and compassion, and so clearly adored by her cats! Each one has a bigger personality than the last, but none quite as endearing as Scrumptious, an adorable ginger queen that literally clung to Juanita’s neck and wouldn’t let her leave! As with the dogs, most of the cats have access to a lovely outdoor area during the day, but sleep inside at night, tucked in, fed and warm.
Apart from taking in strays or animals surrendered to their care, the Helderberg AWS also aid the community by caring for injured or sick animals and releasing them back to their owners, sterilised and vaccinated. Most of this work is done on a shoe-string budget, and they are absolutely dependent on public donations. They often host fun raffles at just R20 per ticket (YES, buying just one ticket does make a difference!) with some fabulous prizes up for grabs. In fact, at the moment you stand a chance to win a stunning fine art wildlife watercolour print, donated by yours truly. The winner can choose their favourite from any one of my collected works, and it will be shipped to your door anywhere in South Africa. The raffle ends on 24 September, so make sure to enter soon (scroll down to find out how to enter)!
I cannot quite put into words how elated I am that the Helderberg AWS is one of our Outreach Partners this month. Apart from being an absolutely worthy cause, I was gifted a personal “starting point” when my path crossed with Maddison and this brave team that give their time, blood, sweat and tears to fight for the underdog.
SUPPORT THE HELDERBERG AWS BY PURCHASING A RAFFLE TICKET:
Animal Welfare Helderberg
Account number: 072286547
Branch code: 033012
Email proof of payment together with your name and cellphone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the Helderberg AWS on Facebook to stay up to date with more fun raffles, adoptable pets, news about pets that have found their forever homes and to learn more about how you can help.
Rusty, the handsome young doggo that has been at the kennel the longest.
The charming and lovable Spiderman, showing Juanita some affection.
Clare, showing us around. She knows each dog by name, including every single backstory!
Zulani has been part of the dedicated staff for three years. He love his dogs and clearly, the feeling is mutual!
Sven and Buddy. Sven travelled all the way from Germany to come and volunteer at the kennels.
Caitlyn and her cats having a cuddle in the fabulous open-air cattery.
Scrumptious, the ginger queen of the cattery, giving Juanita the warmest of welcomes!
The indoor cattery. Most cats have free rein to roam both in the indoor cattery and the open-air section, as long as they get along with their fellow felines.
These tiny kittens and their mom are currently in isolation under keen observation, until they are ready to be put up for adoption.
On the left you can see the little cat door that leads joins the indoor and open-air sections.
Living the life...! Just like Clare, Caitlyn clearly knows and loves each cat.
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