Hellen working in the community

By Hellen White

Photograph by Emma O’Brien

I have a half-day job and spend my afternoons going around the various areas to feed, sterilise, inoculate and collect animals who are in need of veterinary care.

Having had a love for animals since I was a tiny tot, I had always seen the needs of animals in my community and assisted wherever I could. But the real rescue story began in 2008 when a lady in my neighbourhood,who had been following some skinny dogs in Turffontein (Johannesburg South),contacted me to come and have a look at the dogs and to help where I could.

These dogs lived in the back of a house that had no gate. They were incredibly thin and she had started feeding them on a weekly basis. We were then asked to assist with puppies that were living just down the road from the two malnourished dogs she had found. Taking the pups in to the local SPCA, I enquired about the programme they had in place called Project Rita, which helped underprivileged folk sterilise their dogs.  

I was told that if I could bring in ten dogs from the same neighbourhood, the SPCA would assist me. The owner of the puppies promptly found a further ten dogs for sterilisation and I was assisted by two Inspectors in helping to catch the females to have them sterilised. We soon got known by the locals and began to receive increasingly more pleas for assistance.

Word spread from one area to the other and I soon found myself running from pillar to post to assist all these needy animals. Eventually I started working in the Bellavista community, where my first aim was to sterilise as many animals as I could in order to curb the ever-growing animal population.

I also started trying to help in Naturena Ext. 19, where I observed many dogs on chains and where there was a dire need for education. I began sterilising and feeding dogs at my own expense and in 2013 set up an education programme with the assistance of SARAC. 

With the help of the State Veterinarian, we have undertaken yearly rabies and inoculation programmes in Naturena as in 2010 there was an outbreak of rabies in the nearby areas. Every dog in Naturena Ext. 19 that I work with is vaccinated and sterilised, and in area where there are mostly unemployed people battling to make ends meet, I am often called upon for help with sterilisation and vaccination. I have become well-known in the area, where they know that I am there to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves and ask for help.

Helping those who cannot speak

Recently, with the help of Linda Hanna, I established a charity shop in the south of Johannesburg to raise funds to help cover the costs of food and medical care that is so desperately required in the areas in which I work.

I have a half-day job and spend my afternoons going around the various areas to feed, sterilise, inoculate and collect animals who are in need of veterinary care.

Keith, my ever-patient husband of 37 years, supports me and helps with the fetching and delivering. He has also helped to finance the work I do, for which I am forever grateful.

Although I don’t run a shelter, I have been fortunate enough to have other shelters and rescuers come to my aid when I have had to rescue a dog. These dogs have been given much-needed shelter space and have been advertised to find them permanent, loving homes. I also have the assistance of two wonderful foster moms. At the end of the day, having dogs successfully adopted is what make me “tick”.

Giving from the heart

My most dramatic rescues and rehoming cases were the beautiful Pit Bull, Bush, who had his leg amputated and his throat slit, but who is now happy in his new home with Aly Ogston and swims like a fish; Bruno, who had a chain embedded his neck and now has a fantastic home; the Viana family pets, whose owners were murdered in Walkerville, and desperately needed new homes; Leeu, who was completely starved; and Layla, who suffered from Osteomylitis.

Loving Layla

Layla was an awesome-looking brindle-coloured Staffie cross. At only one-and-a-half years old, she possessed a gentle-natured temperament combined with tenacity, determination of note, courage and lots of love to give. She was abandoned at a veterinary practice in the South at approximately three months of age, and after a few months of struggling to find a suitable home, I decided to adopt her myself.

Layla immediately stole everyone’s heart and was a very happy dog indeed. Sadly, in April 2011 she was diagnosed with Auto-Immune Deficiency and Osteomylitis, an acute or chronic infection of the bones that results in a physical disability which can lead to amputation. The treatment involves prolonged antibiotic therapy and surgery. Needless to say, the treatment costs are high.

Initially I imported specially fitted boots for Layla to wear in order to keep her feet clean, dressed and medicated while she ran around and played. Unfortunately, the wounds in one foot degenerated to the point where it had to be amputated. Nevertheless, despite the physical disabilities that crept in, Layla was always in high spirits and ran around as if nothing had happened to her body.

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