AWSome news: the highs and lows of love…

AWSH general manger, Julia Evans, with the late Mr Cuddles.

For almost 70 years, the Animal Welfare Society (AWS) Helderberg has provided veterinary, educational and supportive services to underprivileged owners and their pets in Somerset West, Strand, Gordon’s Bay, Sir Lowry’s Pass, Macassar, Lwandle, Nomzama, Eerste River, Firgrove and Grabouw.

We believe animals are sentient beings entitled to a life free from hunger, thirst, discomfort, pain, injury and disease. We speak for, protect and care for all animals and believe they should be allowed to express their normal behaviour without distress, privation or fear.

But when 30.4 million South Africans (55.5% overall and 62% children) still live below the poverty line, it is very difficult for NPOs like ours to survive, as there are so many worthy causes competing for public help.

And when humans lack jobs, shelter and food, animals are generally the first to suffer but as always, our loyal friends never let us down.

We offer our sincere thanks to Aluwindor, Temperance Town Primary, Gordon’s Bay Lion’s Club, PETS, Orijen Acana, Pets at Play, Palm Tyres, Genesys Technologies, Dr Aileen Pypers, Merissa Slingerland, Liam McQueen, Pat (and Bailey) Baldwin, Cathy, Sandy, Rosemary, the “Catio”raffle-sponsors and, all who slip in unobtrusively bearing gifts not waiting to be thanked we are deeply grateful.

A special tail-wag from office dog Patches, for those who sponsored his medical costs after the unfortunate accident.

We’ve had human staff mugged, scratched, kicked, pecked, head-butted and bitten (even a collapsed lung), but as yet no canine injured in the line of duty, until Patches – in a particularly boisterous welcome – broke her ankle! Fortunately surgery wasn’t necessary and the break has healed well after six weeks in a cast, bravely borne.

Kennel update

An amount of R2 573 raised at the recent BP Links Garage donations drive, R6 700 at the Kennel Open Day, and R9 100 by Bikers against Animal Cruelty at the Nameless Pub, will enable us to complete four more roofs in the doggy camps.

These exercise areas are crucial to the dogs’ mental and physical well-being, but enclosure repairs are urgent as many fences have repeatedly pulled loose.

Luckily the rain held off on open day and the morning was enjoyed by all, not least Patches, patiently queuing for boerewors rolls, and her mate Relic standing in line for pancakes.

In the past quarter, many dogs, cats, pups and kittens in the shelter have found loving forever homes, and as always we salute our staff and “permanent” volunteers working in various capacities: puppy care, treatment wards, mobile clinic, fund-raising, adoptions, home inspections and owner counselling. Every day is Mandela Day at the kennels.

Thanks to the committee, the water purification plant is up and running (with a few niggles), and will ensure water-security even in the driest months. Another challenge is frequent tripping of electricity and general outages, which means vets having to perform surgeries without power. But work must go on.

Kitty patio

Construction will soon commence on the proposed catio adjacent to the present cattery building. This will allow resident cats recovering from treatment or awaiting adoption to exercise and socialise in a safe outdoor environment filled with cat-friendly plants, climbing frames and toys. And with direct access to the bedroom corridor, they’ll move freely between the indoor and outdoor entertainment areas.

Money has been raised by cattery staff and volunteers: to date a staggering R80 000 with at least another R20 000 needed. Plans are being drawn up and we hope, paws crossed, to open before Christmas.

We are overwhelmed by the public support received, and believe our catio may well be ground-breaking in the field of NPO kitty shelter care.

Algemene handelaar

Remember the good old general dealers we knew and loved in days gone by? Look no further than the Jumble Inn, serving a wide variety of customers with their varying shopping needs. The kennel would not survive without the money brought in from this.

Our volunteer manager Adele van Schoor and her cheerful ladies with Evie Andrews, Gussie Daniels, and the two indispensable Josephs unpack, sort, allocate, mark and sell, while committee chair Terry Cunnington runs the garage annex.

Sadly, Adele’s sister Wendy, a long-time volunteer, passed away in July, and is sorely missed.

Oh – and if you’ve broken your Charles and Diana 1981 wedding commemoration mug, Terry has a nice one in stock.

Mr Cuddles

Sadly, general manager Julia Evans’s precious boa constrictor Mr Cuddles is no more.

“Having suffered various illnesses in the care of inexperienced owners, Mr Cuddles was surrendered to us, and for 16 months I tried my best to get him back on track. But when the vet suspected organ failure I decided he’d suffered enough,” she says.

Mr Cuddles was a great animal ambassador particularly on school-visits. I’ve now adopted The Red, a rescued corn snake (pantherophis guttatus) – an inveterate escape artist that keeps me on my toes – and am fostering another two boas Grim and Reaper for a few months, says Julia.”

Mr Cuddles’ valiant and ultimately futile struggle to survive underlines the inadvisability of adopting exotic pets. Even the experts are unable to adequately meet the needs of many wild species and very few are lucky enough to end up in Julia’s loving care.

Julia adds: “Unfortunately cases of cruelty and abuse, or simple neglect, escalate. Inspector Pieter Prinsloo spends a great deal of time laying charges, with very little success, but a win, no matter how small, gives us the encouragement we need to continue in our field of work.”

As cruelty to animals is often the result of misinformation, cultural superstition, substance abuse and poverty, the AWSH believes that educating communities, especially children, in a constructive, non-judgemental way can lead to pet-owning communities themselves becoming the permanent solution.

Angels on Wheels

As you know, AWSH operates a mobile clinic five days a week in different townships, treating 7 800 animals annually (at least 30 a day).

Animals are de-wormed, vaccinated, treated for bite wounds and eye and ear infections, while stray, sick, starving, abused and injured animals are taken to the kennels for treatment. Our mobile van, sponsored in 1998, is becoming increasingly unreliable and has broken down several times with female staff or volunteers at the wheel.

But as we simply cannot discontinue this vital service to the poorest communities who without transport (and little money) cannot access veterinary care, we need to mount a huge fund-raising campaign to purchase and equip a new van.

Educational outreach

We’ve compiled a simple pictogram pamphlet outlining the do’s and don’ts of animal care with captions in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Volunteer Zonia recently attended a workshop hosted by the Humane Education Trust, which works in schools to create a sense of respect for all life.

Delegates received a set of animal hand-puppets and felt figures for story-lining, as well as a teacher’s manual.

Our assistant Clodeen Arnolds continues her reading/writing project in Sir Lowry’s Pass village, but without the requisite education budget and human resources, our reach is limited.

Nonetheless, we are heartened by the many school pupils, like Hottentots Holland High School, who regularly visit the kennels, bringing generous donations of food and accessories for our shelter pets. With such caring young people, the future looks bright.

Helen Wynne-Dyke compiles the quarterly newsletter for AWSH. For more information, visit
www.awshelderberg.co.za, or call 021 856 0597 or 021 856 5549. For after-hours emergencies call 078 246 4837.

Inspector Pieter Prinsloo tragically died over the weekend, in the line of duty. See page 2