The street dogs of Makhanda scavenge, scrounge and scamper through our town. This week CAITLYN HILLIARD-LOMAS started responding to the strays with a simple idea. Collect ice cream containers. Ask restaurants to fill them with leftovers headed for the bin. Feed the hungry dogs. She plans to continue this programme until the end of this year. This is the start of her journey.
It is 4 pm on a Saturday. The first sunny day of the week. Overly excited and underdressed, I set out for my first donation of scraps from Gino’s, the family restaurant. I arrived with a quirky smile and seven red and white ice cream containers toppling over my arms. My smile soon disappeared after being met with the reality of not having any scraps because most orders were takeaway that day. The friendly Don took down my name and number, and I was off to knock on the doors of other restaurants.
I arrived at Spur and met with one of the managers. He listened to my proposal and happily took two containers from my hands to fill up in the kitchen. He came back with a messy but beautiful assortment of rib bones, mash, strawberries, bread, chips, lettuce, coleslaw, and some other leftovers mashed up together. A meal not fit for human consumption but perfect for some hungry hounds. We happily exchanged smiles, and I was on my way to find the local strays.
The first dog scurries down Allan Street. She’s small, frail, and frightened. A closer look at her reveals the dreadful intricacies of her fragile body. Black fur wraps around her stomach, with light shades of brown splattered over her legs, ears, and snout. I can see each muscle in her legs as their imprints push against her thin skin. Her backbones are visible, long, and slender—seven thick ribs pressing against each side of her spine. Six round, full breasts dangling off her chest.
I want to tell you that she was excited when she saw the tub of food in my hands, but she approached me carefully, and her tail remained tucked between her two back legs. She was timid, and every sudden sound pushed her three steps back. She looked me in the eye for about 30 seconds before she decided that the risk was worth it to end her hunger pangs. She started by picking at all the leftovers. The remnants of what looked like white mash and cabbage dripped off the tip of her snout.
She then discovered the rib bones, which she devoured in the blink of an eye. She backed away for some minutes to allow the unfamiliar bulge of food to settle. She ate until more than three-quarters of the contents inside the two-litre tub were finished. It was hard to say goodbye, and after trotting up and down the street to look for her puppies, I decided to empty the rest of the scraps onto the soil where she was lying. I picked up the tub, gave her a wave goodbye and set out to find the next hungry hound.
The second dog I found happened to be a mother too. She greeted me in slow strides of worn-out stomach growls as audible as sentences from a toddler. She was much smaller than the first, and her breasts were not as voluptuous. I assumed her pups were in the process of weaning off her milk.
For this reason, I spent more time walking up and down the streets, searching for them. Muddy shoes trailed all along an aisle of old trash and murky waters. To no avail, I turned back and headed for the mother dog. She herself looked like a puppy, perhaps 5 or 6 months old. She had eaten half a tub of food when a much bigger male dog approached us.
He was painted in a beautiful straw-coloured coat. His eyes were murky, perhaps housing old cataracts. He was not as shy or skittish as the other two and had a much healthier build. His bones were not so visible. He gladly accepted the offer of food and soon too devoured one litre of contents from the tub.
After seeing three gorgeous dogs eat some sort of meal, my day quickly turned into an accomplishment. When I started to think of the day as over, Don from Gino’s messaged me to tell me that he had collected some scraps.
When I arrived, I met the lovely Anastasia, who led me to the scraps. I filled one tub of what looks like spaghetti and other pasta with a meaty sauce. This will be the first meal I use to feed the next strays I see. A big thank you to Spur and Ginos for happily donating scraps.