“They don’t mean to bite” – a mantra that I said to myself over and over during the three days that we were in Bikita, running the fourth domestic animal sterilization program co-ordinated by the Tikki Hywood Trust. Looking into the eyes of these rural dogs, there is no malice, no intent to hurt, only a desire not to be hurt themselves. I have yet to meet animals as forgiving as these ones, often living on whatever they can scavenge, fending for themselves against other dogs and now a new threat to the area – hyenas. Yet despite the day to day hardships they face, they submit themselves to prodding and poking by complete strangers, having foul tasting dewormer squirted in their mouths, injections and finally a dunking in cold water dip. And after all this there is still a waggling tail and a tongue-lolling smile – a lesson in humility second to none.
The Bikita project certainly has a profound effect on all who take part. It is a program that allows people from all levels of life to meet on a common ground – care for their domestic animals. This year, 2011, was certainly no exception, with everyone from mine management to rural farmers to mine labourers, getting involved. These kinds of things tend to bring out the best in human nature. This year unfortunately Dr. Biko Gadaga could not partake in the program and he was sorely missed, however Dr. Blessing Mutangiri, a well-known Bikita resident did an absolutely marvelous job taking care of all the surgeries, assisted by Jo Howson who volunteered with us this year. Additionally this program could not have been as successful or smooth without the involvement of Simon Chikidaya (ZNSPCA) and Darlington Machingambi (Bikita Minerals) and the organization of Mr. Nigel McPhail and Mr. Mapeture of Bikita Minerals. Finally the additional sets of hands belonging to the Reyneke family, Susara, Chantelle and Ryan went a long way to making the program efficient and caring. A special mention must go to Chantelle for the exceptional nursing skill she displayed with some less than healthy puppies which needed to be de-flea’d.
On a personal note, for me the most nerve-wracking thought was the surgeries, as I do not have the greatest reputation for staying upright during them! However, even surprising myself, once I focused on the fact that these animals needed this assistance so desperately, I was able to take it all in and just help them. Even if it meant a stroke or a pat on the head, cleaning up a wound or simply saying “good dog” – the universal sense of well-being flowed between us all, man and beast.
Herewith follows a breakdown of the treatments performed;
|BIKITA AUGUST 2011 STATISTICS:|
|No of dogs attended to:||143|
|No of cats attended to:||2|
|No of rabbits attended to:||10|
|No of guinea pigs attended to:||10|
|No of cattle attended to:||12|
|No of donkeys attended to:||8|
|No of sheep attended to:||5|
|TOTAL NO OF ANIMALS ATTENDED TO:||190|
The subject of euthanasia is never a nice one but I must comment here that the attitude of the animal owners of the Bikita district is definitely changing. I believe the people now have a better understanding of being ‘cruel to be kind’ and allowing us to put an animal to sleep so as to end suffering. Nothing displayed this more dramatically than our last euthanasia, which took place in a village in the hills belonging to the Masvimba family. The headman has an elderly dog whom he thought had a bone stuck in its throat. Well clearly the animal had been suffering for some time, emaciated doesn’t even begin to describe this poor animals condition. If you can imagine those picture of the starving skeletal children in Ethiopia, this was a canine equivalent. His eyes were dry, deeply sunken into the sockets and he could barely lift his head. Old callouses and scabbed wounded covered his back legs, his tail a bumpy series of bones. He was so dehydrated from not being able to even hold down water, it was obvious he had been in this worsening state for some days. The headman was adamant that with our white medicine we could fix him. It took a lot of discussion and even a ‘village meeting’ for him to accept the fact that we simply could do nothing further for the old dog. It was poignant moment when he looked at us and said “Do you know my dog loves me so much?” to which Jo Howson responded so fittingly, “He will love you even more if you end his suffering”.
He did not even struggle when lifted by foreign white hands and laid on his side on the makeshift table which was the open back of the vehicle. His dignity and acceptance of what was about to happen was so apparent, he lay his head down and allowed us to find the vein in his leg and administer the euthanasia drug. The last words he heard was a strange language saying “good dog, good dog” but he knew what it meant.
The Bikita domestic animal program has been one in which we continue to see the impact with each successive visit. By changing the lives of these domestic animals and their owners, we know that there is a further reaching ripple effect. You the readers and all who support the Tikki Hywood Trust are part of that effect too, and for this we thank you. We are constantly evaluating, and adjusting our approach and methods, so if anyone has any suggestions and or comments, we welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you.
Gratitude to the sponsors;
A special thankyou to the Bridget Bardot Foundation who is the biggest sponsor of the Bikita project. Furthermore, National Foods generously put together parcels of dog food that were appreciated by both pet and owner alike. Bikita Minerals and staff for their hospitality and use of their premises and finally a thankyou to the people of Bikita who welcomed us and worked with us.