“I think these things are linked, I was supposed to hear his call. He was supposed to have made the call and I was supposed to have responded to it”

Westville resident, Terry van der Walt, lost his closest friend and dog Mr Spot, after a decade of companionship. While mourning the loss, Van Der Walt heard the cries of a dog in a forest near his home which he had moved into in 2021.

One of the first things Terry did was to secure the cottage’s garden so Mr Spot wouldn’t disappear into the broader garden and make his way into the forest. He wanted to walk with his dog in the forest. There are wild pigs, porcupines, and buck in there. Unfortunately, he never got to realise this wish as his little dog died unexpectedly after he got canine bloat. He was chasing monkeys and turned his stomach upside down inside of his cavity and within a few hours he was dead. Mr Spot was Terry’s best friend and death was a terrible blow as they had spent every day together from when Mr Spot was a tiny puppy.

For two days in a row Terry heard a dog barking and howling in the forest below his cottage in Westville. He could hear it was in distress, but didn’t know why it was in distress. Terry knew it was not moving because the sound was coming from the same place, but he could not be sure exactly where it was. The forest is huge, undulating and tangled with undergrowth, there are also sheer cliff-faces and kopjes that need to be considered before venturing beyond. Its cries haunted Terry, who said, “all I could do was breathe, and tell the dog ‘everything will be okay’ until I fell asleep. The Kloof and Highway SPCA wanted me to get a location on the dog before they could assist, since they were already inundated with rescuing dogs that had bolted from fireworks over New Year.”

This was no easy suburban call-out. So Terry was very surprised when he received a call from field officer Eric Simamane to say he was on his way. The dog had been quiet all morning, but as Simamane drove into the yard, the barking started up again so he was able to get an idea where it was coming from. Soon, he and his colleague Sipho Mkhize and Terry were bundu-bashing and panga-slashing their way down into the forest below, listening for the dog’s howls and barks. After crossing a stream, they entered into a beautiful and dark forest, with very little light penetrating the canopy, all the while listening out for the dog’s barking, and heading in its direction. About 45 minutes later the barking stopped. Just like that. Simamane explained that this often happened when searching for lost dogs.

“Sometimes we’ve had to go back three days in a row because the dog stops barking when we get closer, and then we don’t know which direction to go. Terry answered that,” Maybe they can hear us, or even see us, and then they think they’re about to be rescued, so they stop calling for help.” The trio stood stood sweating in the forest, not knowing whether to stick to the water course, or head up the steep hillside. Simamane decided to head up the kopje, and in minutes exclaimed: “There he is!” In a clearing stood this beautiful golden labrador-cross dog. Simamane cautiously approached and collared the dog, who seemed most relieved they had come to rescue him, his tail wagging while being reassured by the men.

A crude wire and snare had caught him around his front left paw, which was slightly swollen. Eric managed to remove the wire snare, but not before binding the dog’s muzzle with the lead, just in case the dog bit him out of fear or from pain. Weak, but so willing to get away from where he’d been kept captive for days, the dog got into its stride as they worked their way back home.

Upon reaching the stream, the dog ran into the water and drank and drank and drank. Terry recalls, “I have never seen a thirst being slaked with such enthusiasm. With the sun directly above, it was not easy getting our bearings back home, but my neighbour and landlord David hollered from above, and I hollered back and shook saplings so he could see where we were below, and he could direct us back to the gate into our property. Hot, sweaty and covered in cuts, we emerged from the forest, with one helluva happy pup. Simamane said the dog would get a medical check-up and they’d find out if he was reported missing, and if not, he would be up for adoption within seven days.”

Terry believed the rescue was kismet. “I think these things are linked, I was supposed to hear his call. He was supposed to have made the call and I was supposed to have responded to it. It rained quite the night before he was rescued and I do not think he would have made it any longer. I could not have lived with myself if I didn’t respond to the call. The world is crazy right now. It is full of uncertainty, fear and bleakitude, and sometimes it all seems to be a bit too much. But then along comes an extraordinary challenge and opportunity to do what you can to make a difference in the life of another living creature…. Thanks to my neighbours who came to help, offer advice and support, but biggest thanks go to the SPCA guys for going out of their way to bring this boy back to safety.”

Adopting Kismet – in Terry’s words:
Well, this beautiful dog was never was claimed, and I can tell you that the beautiful boy now has a new dad…Me! Yes, I must confess that when I looked into his bright eyes the day we brought him to safety, I knew that there was something special about this moment, about the whole affair, and that it was meant to be. Fate had it that he was meant to call for help, and I was destined to respond to the call, and do something to help. So, Kismet is his name, and he has spent the last month settling into my home and garden. He is gentle, smiles a lot, and he eats his food lying down, which is so cute. He is very affectionate, and licks me on my forehead frequently. I think he gets it. Kismet has brought so much energy and love into my life, it is incredible. I feel so grateful that he was able to be saved. This whole episode has made me realise how important it is to have animal welfare organisations that come to the rescue, and I appeal to you peeps to give of your time and resources, where you can, and support your local SPCA. Magic happens all the time, and sometimes when you least expect it!

Photo credits:
Happy Tails Magazine View Website 
Antony Cousins Photography View Instagram

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