Two brown eyes met mine.
They held and something seemed to spark between us. Then she turned her attention back to her puppies again.
“Once the puppies are weaned, we will sterilise her and then she is all yours.”
That was how Perdita, my wire haired dachshund, entered my life.
When I think of the joy, laughter and happiness that changed my entire being that day, my heart softens towards any animal shelter or animal rescue operation.

Recently I received a Facebook message from Susan Rae Fox. She is a volunteer for an organisation called, St Francis Animal Rescue. She asked me to speak at a fundraiser for the charity being held at The Links in St Francis. I agreed to significantly lower my fee and because my best friend, B, was going home to England shortly, we had to organise everything quickly. She would drive me through to the Eastern Cape on Easter Sunday. Easter Monday was Speech Day! 

We arrived at this beautiful Guest House, Sandals. We went downstairs for a much needed cup of tea and then Sue and a sparkling eyed woman, Bernice Katakuzinos, arrived to welcome us. I liked Sue instantly. She is buoyant and simultaneously a no nonsense type of person. The next day, before my speech, she gave a wonderful introduction stating just why I was there – to raise funds for St Francis Animal Rescue. 

My speech was well received. As Sue later wrote to me:
“Your talk received a standing ovation from our audience – our first! There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience at the end – but we also enjoyed a lot of belly laughs. You are, indeed, one of this country’s best motivational speakers – and a courageous, vibrant, fascinating and inspirational woman.”
High praise indeed from a woman who is doing such incredible work amongst our four legged population.

Behind the breathtaking scenery of St Francis Bay, lies a whole other reality. Sea Vista, is the local township and it is an impoverished community that is battling to stay alive. Struggling to put food on their own tables, it is not surprising that the dogs and cats are left to fend for themselves. Hundreds of dogs and cats are battling to stay alive.
A Rescue Group of willing volunteers was formed!

The aim is to sterilise as many cats and dogs as possible in Sea Vista. This helps put a stop to the birth of unwanted pups and kittens. Hopefully reducing the neglect and abuse that stems from this. It is unbelievable how many homeless animals there are. Orphaned and ownerless dogs scavenge their way to survival. Abused and neglected dogs are removed from their owners and re-homed. In St Francis Bay itself, there are pet owners that emigrate. What do they do with their ‘family’ of dogs and cats? Leave them behind! There are dogs and cats whose owners no longer want them because they are considered a nuisance. Those who have become too aggressive. Those that are too sick, too old or too costly to care for. Or owners who find their pet requires too much attention or training they can’t be bothered to give. There are also instances when owners die and leave their animals behind without instructions for their care.

I find anger, immense distress and sadness battling inside of me. How dare people treat their ‘pets’ in this way? But those are the wrong emotions to tackle situations like these. St Francis Animal Rescue deal with the dogs and cats in a marvellous, practical way.

I asked Sue how big the animal shelter of St Francis Bay Animal Rescue was? She laughed.
“We don’t have an animal shelter. Every Thursday a group of us work out of our cars. We put up tables and there are various stations. 

At our ‘Kitten and Puppy’ station, deworming and flea and tick protection takes place. We also confiscate very sick puppies and kittens and put them into foster care if we believe they have a chance at surviving in a more controlled and caring environment.

At our ‘medical station’, we offer de-worming for adult dogs and cats. We also treat bites, stab-wounds or burns. We provide eye and ear treatment. In instances where we are presented with very sick or badly injured dogs and cats, we take them immediately to one of the two vets who work with us on a regular basis – Dr Nerine Botha of Aloe Vet in Humansdorp, and Dr Annelise Barker of the Humansdorp Veterinary Practice. These are also the vets involved with our sterilisation program. They charge welfare rates for this work. We certainly keep our vets busy! 

Before & After!

Our ‘bathing station’ is mainly for very dirty puppies who need a shampoo and a good dry, before they can be sprayed with medication for fleas and ticks. We have trained a number of very enthusiastic young children to help us bath and dry these puppies. It’s truly wonderful to see what a good job they are doing, and how carefully they handle these little pups.

We have guttering laid out on the field where we work which we fill with dog pellets so that the mass of visiting dogs are able to eat to their heart’s content.

We have a wonderful group of willing volunteers who act as foster parents. They give love and attention to animals until they can be put up for permanent adoption.”

I have a friend who worked for the SPCA and she has five dogs. Her husband breathed a sigh of relief when she stopped working there.
“Wendy couldn’t resist bringing home the dogs that nobody wanted. Going to bed with a wife and five dogs was a feat that requires no movement and often a balancing act of great dexterity!”
Sue goes one better. She has recently adopted their sixth dog!

After a fire in Sea Vista, St Francis Animal Rescue went into this community to check on the dogs and cats. They came into contact with Ruby. Ruby is a Pit Bull and was a year old. She was pregnant with her second litter of puppies. That totally horrifies me. One equates one year of our time as equivalent to seven years of a dog’s life. That meant that ‘seven year old’ Ruby was pregnant for the second time. As far as I’m concerned, Ruby was raped! The owner said that he intended selling the puppies in Humansdorp, an area renowned for it’s dog fighting. Ruby was so thin that you could easily count her ribs. She was starving. St Francis Animal Rescue began feeding and visiting her regularly. Ruby’s eyes lit up and her tail smiled when she saw them. Once she had her puppies, they made their move. Together with an SPCA inspector, they swooped in and confiscated Ruby and the pups. She weaned her them and they were duly adopted.
Sue kept Ruby. How could she let her go?
They were soulmates!

“But how does St Francis Animal Rescue manage to afford everything?”
“Ah, there’s the question!” Sue answered with a sigh. “We are battling. Our expenses amount to about R40 000 a month, sometimes more. We survive on donations and, quite frankly, I can see the incredible work we are accomplishing, simply drying up for lack of money.”
I am including this post which Susan Rae Fox recently published on Facebook. She makes her plea with an insider’s knowledge:

“St Francis Animal Rescue organisation is entirely funded by donations. We’re fortunate to have a small team of fundraisers who work consistently to raise money to enable our charity to perform our vital work. We are, without doubt, the most active charity in St Francis, and use walks, talks, bake sales, golf days, concerts, dog shows, fashion shows, art exhibitions, wellness expos – you name it! – to create awareness of what we do and encourage support from local animal lovers.
Our monthly expenses are in the region of R40,000 – sometimes more – and include vet expenditure (sterilisations and medical cases); outreach medicines, including vaccines, de-wormers and spray for fleas and ticks; food purchases and incidentals, including kennels, cat traps, collars and leads and printing costs for fundraiser promotions.
We’re currently promoting our Have a Heart Fund, whereby animal lovers donate R100 per month into our bank account, to help our charity become more sustainable.
We have about 70 members so far – but we’re a long way from our desired membership of 400.

For those who wish to support our cause, please make your donation to:
St Francis Animal Rescue
Standard Bank Branch no: 050015
Business Savings Account
Account no: 186532814
We’re most grateful – as are the cats and dogs in Sea Vista – for any help you may be able to offer.”

I give so much thanks for animal rescue teams, like the one at St Francis and for the nationwide SPCA. Due to them I have had Perdita in my life for the past thirteen years. Many people spend their nights in bed with their spouse or partner. I look across at the head lying on the pillow next to mine. Perdita, my rescue dog, who doesn’t even snore.
Or if she does, I can’t hear it!!!