It is 6:00 am and I feel like staying in bed. The weather outside is cold, wet and windy – a typical Cape Town winter’s day. But the thought of meeting new dogs, conversing with new people, challenging them with questions about their animals and most of all saving another animal’s life always excites me, and so I hop out and get moving.
At eight, I arrive at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic, a partner of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, to be welcomed by the sound of barking dogs. AJ, one of our resident pack gallops over eager for her morning hug. She rolls onto her back asking for tummy tickles to start her day. She is always pleased to see me.
As I pass reception area to the consultation room I see a long line of dogs and their guardians. Some are hurt and wait anxiously to be treated for pain relief, while others are cheerful and just here for vaccinations. I greet all of them one by one making silly remarks just to make their owners feel comfortable and welcome.
Snoopy does not look good. He is a six-month-old cross breed with a skin infection. I stroke his head, showing him my love and assuring him that he will go home feeling much better. I know exactly what to give him. He receives medication for his skin infection which he needs to be given daily for the next week.
Many more dogs and cats come for vaccinations, dewormers and minor injuries that can be treated with a single injection or pill.
Max, a big, chubby, tan colored Pit Bull walks in with his caretaker as I am cleaning my table. I greet them and ask the history while making a small joke about the dog’s weight. Max starts barking uncontrollably. He clearly did not like my remark. I ask the guardian to put him on top of the table. She is a very young lady, half my size dressed as though she’s on her way to work. She looks at me then looks at the dog and shakes her head indicating that he is way too heavy. We both have a laugh. With the help of a volunteer we lift Max onto the table – the heaviest dog I have ever had to lift up in my life.
I ask his pet-parent about the type of food Max eats and how many times he eats. It turns out that she is over feeding him and I give her some training on the type and amount of food Max needs.
The whole consultation turns into an animal education lesson. The thing about me is that I am passionate and well-informed about what I am doing. Once I start talking to people about their animals I don’t stop. I love sharing the information that I have with the owners of the animals. I tell her about nutrition, what animals should eat and when they should eat.
Twelve noon and it’s time for lunch. I’ve only been here for four hours and my clothes smell and are dirty. Lunch time means play time with the dogs that are waiting to be adopted.
Thirty minutes later, lunch is over and while I am busy with my next patient, Roxy, a man runs into our reception room. He is extremely distressed. Our receptionist tries to calm him down. With his dog in his arms, he is shouting for help. His dog has been run over by a motor vehicle and has a broken left front leg.
It’s an emergency and we rush the dog into consult. I quickly check him and give the dog pain killers before carrying him through to our veterinarian Brian for surgery. I have been at Mdzananda for 20 years but it still breaks my heart to see animals in such pain.
My last client for the day is a little two-week-old puppy. A young gentleman has her wrapped in a beautiful pink blanket. She has not eaten for two days. I also notice that her leg is also broken probably because her mother or a human accidentally stepped on her. My heart sinks, as I have little hope for her recovery. I call our veterinarian for a second opinion and he confirms that her condition is poor and deteriorating. Puppies are not supposed to be without food for more than six hours and this little girl has not eaten for two full days.
As she is so young, surgery will also not be an option for this little girl. The situation is helpless and we need to make the decision to put her to sleep.
I take a deep breath as I am trying to stop my tears from falling. I know it’s the kindest thing for her but I am also angry at the owner for waiting so long to bring her to the clinic.
I go play with AJ outside in an attempt to lift my mood. It works as he climbs on top of me and licks my face.