By CAITLYN HILLIARD-LOMAS
Xolani is a community beaming with friendly faces but also inhabited by hundreds of hungry dogs. Almost every house in the area is home to a dog or two. The ever-increasing population of canines is caused by the sad reality that people in this community cannot afford to sterilize their pets.
In March this year, the Makana Vet Clinic and its owner, Amy Jackson-Moss, started sterilizing the dogs in this community for free. In a recent Facebook post, Dr Amy stated, “Sterilization is, in my opinion, the most effective method of population control.” However, despite this resolution, the condition of these dogs is still rather critical. Starvation clings to the palates of these hungry hounds like leeches to human skin.
Many of these dogs roam the trash-ridden streets in search of any scraps they can find. Many of the dogs in this community have been left behind after families have moved out of their homes, turning them into unwanted strays. Those dogs who are wanted still face starvation every day, and some of them even face abuse in the form of burns, bricks, and bloodshed because their owners start to see them as a burden.
If one does not have enough food to feed themselves or their families, feeding pet dogs becomes an unreachable goal, causing stress and upheaval. Dogs are left to live on empty land or in the remnants of ruined houses, with no love, food, or family. According to the Mexican American dog behaviourist Cesar Millan, dogs are loyal regardless of whether their owner cares for their needs. In these cases, their loyalty is because they are pack animals and are inclined to their instincts of wanting to bond. Either the homeless dogs are waiting for their owners to come back, or they simply do not know where else to go.
Xolani resident Leticia Dreyer has been helping to combat the hunger crisis in the dog population for three years. Every second day she walks around the township, feeding hundreds of dogs. She estimates that there are one hundred and sixty dogs in her community. “Many of these dogs rely on me as their only source of food,” she shares solemnly. Since Leticia feeds the dogs through the donation of dog pellets, there are days where she has none and finds it in her heart to raid her own cupboards to share her hard-earned food with these dogs.
“Dogs need my help because they can’t help themselves,” she says whilst dropping a handful of pellets into the yard of a neighbour.
Leticia’s warm, friendly personality instantly wraps around a person like warm wind on a summer’s day. She has six playful and happy dogs of her own, all of which are rescues. Each dog she feeds, she forms a connection with.
Her maternal instincts soothe the pain of hunger and loneliness in these dogs. This is visible in the way the dogs sprint up to her as they see her approaching or how their paws reach for her arms and their tongues lather saliva in the form of kisses all over her face. Her eyes are aged in smile lines, and her hands know only how to give.
She started this feeding program after a rather grim experience that terrified her. She was walking around the area when she saw a scrawny mother dog eating her own puppies due to immense starvation. Since that day, she has done everything in her power to stop anything like that from ever happening again.
Leticia is a mother to a thirteen-year-old boy but seeing as he does not share a passion for animals, she has scouted three other little boys in the community to assist her with the feeding. Sputz, Kwanele and Junior are each paid R8 from Leticia’s pocket after completing a round of feeding. The Mr Dog donated pellets come in 20 kg bags, which is impossible to trot around the community with, so the children separate the pellets into four or five Shoprite packets so they can each hold their own bag of pellets. The three animal-loving children are Leticia’s right hand. She has shown them how they can make a difference with their love for animals. Leticia shares that there have been many instances where the children have reported to her about dogs in the community being abused or those who need help. They are always on the lookout for a hungry or hurt hound.
When you stroke the scrawny body of a malnourished dog and your fingers brush across his ribs like a mallet sweeps over a xylophone, hollowing out the sound of each bone in his body, you have a choice to look into his eyes and choose kindness.
How you can help
If you would like to donate pellets to help Leticia feed the dogs of the Xolani community, please contact Marius Crouse on 0834095566. Marius is the supplier of Mr Dog pellets. He also collects any other brand of pellet donations and delivers them directly to Leticia.
If you would like to donate funds to the Makana Vet Clinic to assist with the sterilization of dogs, please donate to the following account:
Account name: Makana Vet Clinic
Branch code: 210717
Account number: 62886213132
Account type: Cheque account
About the journalist
I am Caitlyn Hilliard-Lomas, a busy city girl rediscovering myself through the people and passions of Makhanda. A creative, a writer and an animal- lover. I am in the final year of my Journalism degree and have completed my undergraduate studies in Linguistics.
Should you wish to share any stories, ideas or news with me, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org