Jumbo update 16 August 16, 2013
Our post today is a tribute to Sheba a brave and loving dog who gave humans a 2nd chance.
A few years ago I was contacted by Lee Stewart and Bev Trataris of the LSPCA about Sheba a beautiful mature Rhodesian ridgeback. Initially Sheba had been brought in by a young American who was about to leave Malawi. He had been out running one day when Sheba followed him home and he had spent the last week trying to find her owners with no luck and as he was leaving he could not take Sheba. Notices and enquiries in the area brought no response and it was concluded that Sheba’s original family had probably left and abandoned the dog, alone and afraid she had followed the runner hoping to find a new family. Unfortunately in the transient society of Malawi this is an all too common occurrence that I can never understand – if you take on an animal it becomes part of your family and your responsibility and if for any reason you can no longer take care of it it is your duty to make sure that you find that animal another good home and quite honestly if you are not prepared to take on that responsibility you should not get the animal in the first place. Animals give us their total trust and unconditional love when they join our families and it is just not right to break that trust.
The LSPCA had managed to find a home for Sheba but the new owners had brought her back chained and muzzled after she attacked them and their staff and they felt that she was a dangerous dog who should be put down but Lee and Bev wanted to give her a last chance and asked if I would be prepared to asses her as she was a mature, healthy dog who had not appeared to be viscious the first time that she had come in.
Of course I agreed and the next day Bev brought her round to my house. Sheba was a bit nervous but certainly did not seem vicious and so I removed the muzzle and received a lick of gratitude after a few minutes it was clear that Sheba was a highly strung dog who had been mistreated and let down by humans and had probably attacked out of fear or reaction and not aggression and so of course she had to join the family. Right from the beginning Sheba showed her loyalty and affection for those who showed her kindness and did not leave my side however she was a bit nervous and unsure about how to react with the other dogs, wanted to kill the cats and chased the horses which did cause a bit of a problem as we have so many different types of animals at different times and one who did not get on with the others was an issue and so I decided to take Sheba with me to the office. We have a big property of 5 acres ad a garden at the office so there was plenty of room for her to run around and she could come in and out of my office ay time she wanted.
This solution was perfect, Sheba spent most of the day lying at my feet in the office and she spent the nights “assisting” the night watchmen who became very fond of her I fact the entire staff came to love Sheba and she was thoroughly spoilt at lunchtime when everybody shared their lunch with her, she greeted every visitor with great enthusiasm and was convinced that they all came to the office to visit her – think she probably greeted the burglars who broke in quite a few times with equal enthusiasm – she certainly was not a guard dog but I do feel that if anybody had ever attacked me or anybody else close to her that she would have protected us.
Initially Sheba was rather nervous and small noises like the clicking of a lighter or a raised voice would result in her putting her tail between her legs, shivering and coming to rest her head on my knee but she gradually came to realise that nobody was going to hurt her and after about a year she became a normal happy dog. The only time that Sheba ever bit me was when I had to inject her ad even then immediately after the bite she would get an embarrassed look on her face and lick me as if to say “I am sorry I just reacted without thinking”
Six months ago she developed tumours on her teats and was diagnosed with cancer which had unfortunately spread throughout her body but she did not appear to be in any pain and was still a happy bouncy dog in good condition with a shiny coat and so we decided that we would just carry on as normal until such time as she was in pain or no longer had any quality of life. In July I noticed that she was getting tired easily and was becoming a bit intolerant of visitors and so decided to try and take her back home again where she would be quieter, the fact that she was now quite an old dog and not so energetic as well as being so much more secure made it worth trying to see if she would be tolerant of the other animals. She ignored the cats and horses and was a bit nervous of the other dogs for a few hours but soon settled into the pack and in fact rather adopted little Scamp ad even played with her.
Over the past week I noticed that Sheba was starting to deteriorate quite quickly and yesterday for the first time she started crying in pain every time she got up and so we decided that it was time to end her pain and put her to sleep. We buried her next to Moses and once again all the dogs came to say goodbye when we buried her. It is always such a hard decision to euthanize an animal but I can’t stand to see them suffering and given the choice I personally would rather be euthanized and end my life with dignity rather than suffering on for a few extra days or weeks.
Good bye Sheba – you were a brave and loyal dog who gave us a 2nd chance and learnt to trust again. You showed us once again that there are no bad animals just animals who react when they have been let down or mistreated by humans.