ONE CAN easily brand her Krugersdorp’s own Cesar Millan, a dog expert.
Once upon a time, as a 10-year-old girl, Marlene Hugo (now 50) of Kenmare used to look for company in the form of hairy, barking – and sometimes growling – tetrapods, whom she have rescued and provided love for.
“As a kid they were my best friends, and animals especially dogs, have since become a big part of my life. I can now honestly say it is my passion to help distressed animals,” she told DigitNews during an emotional interview.
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Last year alone, she assisted in providing several dogs a better life. These dogs was rescued in the Krugersdorp area with the help of the community where after they were rehabilitated.
“I believe this is a gift from God,” said Marlene when she spoke on how she often made a difference, not only in the lives of the dogs that she provided a loving home for, but also to that of the new owner.
The person who adopts the dog also experiences a life changer; it is as if these two souls find each other in a quirky yet unique way. There is a different type of relationship being built.
But to introduce these two souls is not always an easy task.
Red, the dog that steals the community’s hearts
It is cold, the wind rustles through the leaves, but giving up is not an option.
With her hands stretched out, she has a firm grip on the piece of a bread slice all while hoping for a miracle to happen.
When Marlene’s paths crossed with that of Red, the wild Chow-crossing of the Kloof in Rangeview last year February, she made him a promise, a promise she will stick to and carry out, no matter how long it takes.
Red quickly turned into a local internet sensation because of the regular posts that were made about him on social media networks such as Facebook.
“But everybody started giving up on him because no one could get near him. The slightest sound gave him a fright and this complicated our work as animal rescuers and community members greatly to capture him.”
“But I just said to myself there in the Kloof: “I am going to capture you and I will get you your forever home.”
Every day, just after sunset, Red would run past her house and that’s how she started making plans to capture him.
My first thought was to get him into a cage because it was the easiest way out, but unfortunately he was way too smart for that. Not even the delicious food inside the cage could deceive him.
Marlene said it gives her the idea that he might previously have been kept in a cage “and he was not prepared to go through that trauma again.”
Red, the once wild kloof-dog and his human ‘lifeguard’
The only option that was left was to try and win his confidence.
A massive improvement was only taking place in the middle of winter. It was as if Red could keep track of time and I joking said that he was homeless, but owns a watch,” she laughed.
Every day at around 18:00, Red would come to eat the food that Marlene had placed outside for him, but getting any closer to him was not at all possible.
The first real encounter up close
As the days of the calendar were ticked off, Marlene realised Red is sick.
“I realised that I need to get him to consume some medicine in a way – I would have to doctor him while he is wildly running around.”
It was through this that she realised Red’s favourite food is bread. Also at that time, she had a suspicion that his muzzle may have been hurt because a hungry dog is known to eat stones in an attempt to fill him.
“He no longer wanted to eat the dog pellets that I have placed outside, but he has eaten the bread and rice with liver or rice with chicken I specially cooked for him.”
Red started coming to her house at night-time at about 18:00, 24:00 and 03:00 where he had come looking for snacks – and when he arrived there, Marlene was waiting for him with bread in her hand.
On numerous occasions have I left him a bowl of hot food and tea outside so he could consume something warm during the cold nights. Early in the morning he was also treated to warm oats.
But one cold night, after staring at each other for around three hours, I decided, ‘Listen, we can continue looking at each other and get nowhere or you can collect your bread from me.”
She lifted her hand and held it out to him, while she kept on muttering ‘good boy’ and Red started crawling closer towards her. He slowly took the bread and disappeared into the dark night light.
A new life for red, the once wild kloof-dog
“I was taken aback. It was something I did not expect would happen. For me it was a great feeling to know I’m making progress. ”
There was later several other occasions where Red would take the bread from her hand, a moment Marlene decided she wanted to share with everyone.
“I gently moved closer with my phone to take a picture when he takes the bread, but I had to do so without having to make a sound that will make him run off. At that moment I would have wanted to leash him, but any crack of sound or sudden movements made him scatter.”
Sacrifices finally bear fruit
Following months of sacrifice, nights of sitting in the cold, she was eventually starting to get somewhere.
“I really started getting very attached to him, but during our quick encounters I could see the pain and sadness in his eyes every time. That’s when I started talking to him and even tried to explain that I wanted to help him.”
And it was as if her prayers were being answered a few days later. She received a call from a community member who said Red sometimes follows her dog.
That was the solution! I told her to let her Red follow her dog inside the complex where she lives because it will make our task as animal rescuers much easier to apprehend him.
Her words were not even cold yet when she received the call: “Come quickly! Red is inside the complex! ”
With a blanket and leash, she made her way to the complex. Members of the community, other animal rescuers and the Community Policing (CPF) were called to prevent him from leaving the complex.”
Upon my arrival I chased him, tried to get him into a corner so that I could trap him with a blanket. When I managed to do that, I could see he was even more terrified than ever, perhaps because he realised that there was now no further escape. ”
Marlene again started talking to him and muttered the now well-known words ‘good boy’.
“But it was quite a task to get the leash around his stiff neck. It took a further hour to just calm him down before we left, together.”
Now the real work starts
The Roodekruin Vet took Red in for an overnight stay where they treated him and taken him in for observation before he was taken to the 9th Day animal shelter in Oaklands where Marlene fetched him again after a few days later.
When a dog is rescued, it is my priority to always try and locate the owner. When this does not happen, the next step is to find the animal a loving home.
And at the home of Vanessa Hurt, Red’s life changed in an instant.
“I saw his story on social media and knew I was able to give him a loving home which he must be craving for,” Vanessa said when Red was taken to meet his new family and also to see if he will fit in.
She and her husband do not have any children of their own and find comfort in the dogs they adopt.
“We have a soft spot for dogs that need special attention. It is those dogs that need much more needed love and nurturing. ”
Marlene said she would never have being able accomplish what she managed to do it was not for the help and support of the community.
Vanessa Mobile Grooming Parlour, a local dog salon washed and shaved Red’s fur before he was back at his new home with a large garden.
He was scared initially, but Scarlet, another rescue dog, immediately started playing with him, it was as if she wanted to tell him: ‘it’s okay, you will be happy here’.
“This would not have been possible without the help of other animal rescuers and people who have made donations for his veterinary and shelter costs at the 9th Day.”
The non-profit organization, Dancers Loves Dogs, consisting of professional dancers covered Red’s sterilisation.
Even though Red, four months after he had found a new address and is happier than ever, there is still a long road to full recovery.
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