First do no harm

Mia Louw, a local model with 12 animal companions.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead’s words ring so true, long after their first utterance… and one of the great joys of my work is coming into contact with those who exemplify her observations and conclusions, through their words, aspirations and deeds.

Cultural anthropology (her line of work) remains a fascinating subject to my heart, and despite the fact that the terrain of knowledge is continually shifting, certain truisms hold fast.

And a few fervent, dedicated folk in Raithby have been exemplifying this, and it manifests through their determination to uplift the lives of animals living on farms, sometimes in dire conditions.

This group of like-minded individuals got together (at least formally) earlier this year, and set up the NGO, Farm Paws, to facilitate the extended care for dogs and cats living in the Raithby and Macassar greater area.

This involves arranging for spaying and neutering, administration of deworming, tick treatment and medications – and in some situations, helping to rehome animals who may be living in deprivation.

From long before the days of becoming Bolander’s editor, I’ve known the wonderful Attie Hofmeyr, who farms in Rathby.

I wrote a story about him in my Helderberg Sun days, and his personal family of adopted dogs and cats, and his endeavours in getting local animals to the nearest clinics so that unwanted litters, hunger and disease could be counteracted.

He is a kindred spirit, and in the decade and a half since, I’ve seen him intervene – quietly and with utter determination (and no fanfare) – extending himself and unfailingly sharing his resources for the greater good of our planet’s cohabitants.

So, years later, I now sit at his dining room table, looking at the Helderberg Dome in the distance (and with one of his five rescue cats on my lap… space depending, and his stoic and taciturn dog Scooby on the floor next to us), and Attie fills me in on the vision that is Farm Paws.

As I wrote about recently, the veterinary practise Teva became involved in supporting them, and a mass spay day was held on Mandela Day, which is an ongoing project.

Farm Paws spaying has also been done through Mdzandza Clinic, and the Animal Welfare Society in the Helderberg and Stellenbosch.

Attie provides transport and manpower in the form of Henry and Skippie, and impassioned Raithby resident Gigi is in the trenches, accompanying all rescues, interventions and aid trips.

Neighbour Rosa does all the tech work, and Ricky and Elize help to organise the donated (or reduced price) kennels, and manage financial contributions.

Attie, who has been doing this work for almost 20 years, says they are trying to restrict their focus to farm animals around Firgrove area, but want to expand to Annandale Road.

They also take on wildlife as needed, and Rosa’s son Rico deals regularly with the removal (and relocation) of venemous snakes from private properties, and saving mongoose, caracal, birds of prey and any other furred, scaled or feathered creature in need.

And then there’s Geraldine, a force of nature in Macassar, who cares for (or often collects) animals in need, and takes them under her wing while alternative homes are sought.

Occasionally in the world of animal welfare, cats and dogs have to be confiscated when they are identified as living in abusive circumstances, especially when they are being kept for nefarious reasons, like dog-fighting.

Sometimes dogs are stolen for just that purpose, or because they are valued as a status symbol (pitbuls being most notable).

Homes are found for cats and dogs as far afield as Robertson and Worcester, and judging by some before-and-after pictures I’ve been shown, they’ve gone from the pits of despair to the pinnacle of happiness.

Farm Paws has solid support through local businesses like Heldervue Spar, who recently held big food and blanket drives.

Farm Paws’ latest fundraiser is a “Virtual date” auction with a bachelor or a bachelorette, with either Mia Louw or Kobus le Roux, both locals, who volunteered their time and energies to help raise money and items of value for the NGO.

Kobus, 30, says: “This is the year of the Covid-19 pandemic; everybody is fighting for their future more than ever.

“It has created a major problem for most pets in townships, increasing the need for rescue. We especially appreciate all minor donations, for saving a pets soul isn’t costly.”

Kobus grew up and works in Somerset West, studied mechanical engineering, and works in a family-owned group of companies called AC Industries.

They manufacture components in wide range of disciplines, supplying to state-owned and private hospitals, Distell, Parmalat, Old Khaki, Truworths and Foschini.

Kobus’ border colli, Maggie, 3, accompanies him to work, and joins him when he is surfing, downhill biking, motocross, jogging and even jet skiing. Kobus believes an influence of a pure soul, no matter which animal, will keep one grounded.

Mia is a tree hugger and animal lover, who has “half a zoo” living with her (12 pets, to be exact), and her horse, Puzzle. She is modelling full time, with plans to study psychology next year.

“I am vegetarian, and I try my best to contribute as little as possible to the crisis our world is in, with regards to animal abuse, but also global warming, etc. I try to be as green as possible – even though I don’t have very ‘green fingers’,” she says.

“I believe that if everyone just contributes in any way they can to a cause, it accumulates and makes a huge difference,” Mia says.

The coffee date will be at a local wine farm… details to be announced in Bolander, so stay posted, or contact Gigi at 060 577 0277, or visit Farm Paws on Facebook.

Carolyn Frost – Ed