Formerly neglected Zim diamond dog gets another chance to shine

2015-07-08 11:25
Big Boy, the bull mastiff soon after he was found. (SPCA Mutare, Facebook)

Big Boy, the bull mastiff soon after he was found. (SPCA Mutare, Facebook)

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Harare - A terribly neglected dog who once guarded diamond mines in eastern Zimbabwe has been given a second chance at life.

"Big Boy", a brindle bull mastiff, was rescued in mid June in a deplorable state by inspectors from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in the city of Mutare.

The dog, believed to be around 8-years-old, was skin and bones and could hardly stand because he was so starved.

He'd been tethered to a scrap car in a backyard in a middle-income suburb of the city - for quite how long, the SPCA wasn't told.

Staff at the animal welfare group's kennels in the industrial areas of Mutare had to support the emaciated dog as he walked.

"He just didn't have the strength to do it on his own," a member of the SPCA committee told News24.

15 former guard dogs from mines

A little probing revealed that he'd worked as a guard dog for one of the controversial diamond mines in the Chiadzwa fields, about an hour's drive from Mutare.

Diamonds were first discovered in Chiadzwa in 2006. Soldiers and police mounted a clampdown at the fields in late 2008.

The mines "have a habit of rotating their dogs frequently", the SPCA official said.

The SPCA in Mutare has previously handled 15 former guard dogs from the mines.

When Big Boy was sent on retirement, he and a German Shepherd ex-colleague were handed to a family who, it now appears, did not have the means to feed a pair of such large dogs.

Concerned locals raised the alarm.

"We went to investigate but never expected to find two dogs in such terrible condition. We confiscated them immediately," the SPCA official said. "It wasn't the worst case of neglect we've ever seen, but it was up there among them."

Starting slowly

Big Boy was in such a weak state that too much food in too short a time could have worsened his already fragile state of health.

"There is no quickly coming back from a state like this," she said.

In the first few days, Big Boy was fed four smallish meals a day on a mixture of commercial dog feed and donated meat. Lacto (Zimbabwe's version of sour milk) was added to help Big Boy put on some fat.

Staff at the kennels fell in love with the dog's gentle ways, watching him as he hung back to let other younger dogs feed first at supper time. Once it became clear that Big Boy was recovering, the SPCA dared hope that he might have a second chance. They put out a heartfelt appeal on Facebook.

"He has more skeleton than muscle, more gentleness than gruffness," the appeal read.

"We are hoping that someone who loves a big soppy dog [of a certain stately age] will read this and come to meet our Big Boy or even perhaps his Odd-Couple-Friend, who he retired from the mines with."

Forever home

The response was immediate.

Food and vitamins was sent from the capital Harare to Mutare just for Big Boy.

Calls began to flood in. The animal welfare group found itself in the happy position of having to screen several potential owners to work out where Big Boy would be happiest.

Finally, on Sunday, Big Boy was driven three and a half hours to his "forever home", with a family in Harare.
"He seems to have settled in nicely and spends all his time following them around happily wagging his tail," the SPCA official said.

Big Boy's former colleague is still looking for a home.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper ran a piece on Tuesday by well-known author Ignatius Mabasa, urging some Zimbabweans to rethink their attitude to dogs and dog-keeping.

"Keeping a dog is like looking after a child," Mabasa wrote, remembering that as a young boy the only time he had ever fought an adult was when a man kicked his Rhodesian Ridgeback, Jet, in the leg.

"My eyes became blind with tears of pain and rage....I still have a soft spot for dogs," he said.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  good news  |  animals

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