There is an attack on two dogs at 2.00 am on a Sunday morning. The dogs are female Greyhounds, mother and daughter, living in a house in the notorious Elf Street, close to Lulu’s Tavern.
The daughter, Rover, barely a year old, is deeply slashed on the side of her flank with a panga. Her mother, two-year old Chloe, is stabbed in the abdomen. The dogs are left suffering, without attention, for two days. When the call for help finally comes, we take both dogs immediately to the vet.
Dr Annelise Barker tends to the Greyhounds right away. They are sedated, their wounds cleaned and sutured under anaesthetic.
Rover, the caramel coloured daughter will likely be scarred for life. Her mother, a brindle, Chloe, has smaller stab wounds in her abdomen. She will heal more quickly. Both dogs are traumatised. They spend the night at the clinic, resting after surgery. We collect them next day, later in the afternoon, when their owners will be home to receive them.
The dogs are quiet in the car. Still numb from surgery. Their ears prick as we enter Sea Vista. Children shouting. Dogs barking. Cars revving. Women shrieking with laughter or rage. Young girls singing. This place has its own music.
Elf Street, where Rover and Chloe live is busy at this hour. Men are thronging into taverns, dressed in work clothes. Women hurry home dragging toddlers by one arm, a shopping bag in the other. Smoke rises from wood fires. Litter in the streets, lifted by the wind, flies above like ragged birds.
Drug addicts, lost in another world, sit on grassy verges conversing with ghosts. Others root in filth and rubbish.
One woman is smearing her cheeks with the remains of an empty tub of margarine, rubbing it on like face-cream. A middle-aged man weaves drunkenly across the street. He carries a thick branch. Waves it menacingly at barking dogs as they approach, stabbing it in the air. Such a man as this, carrying a sharp panga, gored Rover and Chloe.
At the house, two women are waiting. They their hold their hands over their mouths when they see Rover’s neatly sutured wound, running the length of her side. They shake their heads. They have no words.
We give them packets of medicine, antibiotics and pain tablets, syringes to feed liquids, tins of soft food. “You will need to keep them inside. These wounds can’t get dirty, they’ll become infected. Take them out for their toilet and bring them back inside again.”
The older of the women is clutching Rover awkwardly. “Be careful of that wound!”
She nods. Points to an enclosed area filled with empty paint tins, wooden poles, garden implements. A blanket has been laid on the floor.
“They can sleep here,” she says. The dogs slump on the blanket. They close their eyes, exhausted.
The sight of the dogs, in the jumbled, messy shack, is disturbing. We walk to the car. I turn back, agitated.
“These are Greyhounds,” I say. “Special dogs. Highly intelligent. Very gentle. They need space to run. A quiet, safe place to sleep. They shouldn’t be living here. It’s not safe.”
The owner is confused. “My husband’s dogs,” she says.
“Yes. But they don’t belong here. Do you understand?”
“He loves them.”
“I am sure he does. But …”
She looks enquiringly. “Ask if he will sell them to us?”
She is startled. Her eyes are wide. “He will say no. He loves these dogs too much.”
I shrug. “Ask him anyway.”
We visit next day. The husband has agreed to sell Rover to us. She is damaged. Chloe, her wounds hidden from view, remains a beautiful possession.
Money changes hands. We lift Rover gently into the car. She is still in pain but stoic, as they all are. She rests her head on her paws, trustingly.
“Thank you,” we say. “Thank you for allowing us to take Rover.”
Rover spends two weeks in private kennels, healing, eating, resting. When her eyes are clear and she’s looking and feeling better, she’s spayed at the Humansdorp Vet’s Clinic.
We’ve made contact with Sighthound Rescue in Cape Town. This will be the second Greyhound we’ve given to Cheryl Campbell, who runs this NPO and rehabilitates and rehomes abused and neglected dogs. Cheryl has an approved waiting-list of vetted homes for rescued Greyhounds, Whippets and Iggys – Italian Greyhounds, the smallest of them all.
Patricia Boshoff, who has a farm in the Magaliesbug, will be collecting Rover from the private kennels and transporting her from Humansdorp to Cape Town, along with two other rescued Sighthounds.
A few days after her spay, Rover is collected at 9.00 pm in the evening by Patricia, her husband and a best friend. Patricia stays in the back of the van with the Sighthounds, the two men take turns driving their precious cargo through the night.
Next day, Rover is delivered to Cheryl. She’s calm and quiet after sleeping through the 6-hour journey.
One day later, Rover is adopted by a couple living in Durbanville on a beautiful, large property with a magnificent grassed garden.
The couple are retired, extremely fit, in their early 60s and the owner of Smiley, a male Greyhound rescue adopted a year ago. Our Rover’s new name is Melody, which seems perfect for this tall, elegant young girl.
Smiley is a gentleman. An older, steady, trained Greyhound, keen to show his new sister the lay of the land – a hectare of wild garden where the two can play, chase Hadada Ibis and Guinea Fowl and chew twigs together, basking in the sun.
Cheryl sends Joanna, one of her team, with a new Martingale Collar (a natural, organic, cruelty-free collar made from Cactus leaves), and a harness for Melody. This is the day when our rescue girl begins the first in a series of lessons in walking on a lead and learning to sit, lie, stay and, most important, come. Melody is easy and eager to learn. Her new parents are delighted at her progress. “This is not going to take long.” they say. “She’s such a clever girl, so willing to please.”
This is where we leave our beloved rescue.
Patricia is home again in the Magaliesburg. Cheryl is focused on rescuing new, damaged Sighthounds who desperately need her love and care.
We are back in Sea Vista. Yesterday, we drove past the house where Rover lived with her mother. Chloe is stretched, full-length, outside the gate, on the sandy, stony verge. We glance at one another. I shake my head. We will not talk about Chloe. One dog at a time, one day at a time. There is only so much we can do.