Dippy, brave heart

2009-01-16 00:00

Dippy yawned and stretched out lazily. Sunlight glinted on her short brown coat, making it shine like gold. The ridge on her back rippled like a snake. A dark shadow loomed over her, blotting out the sun. A large black head bent down to sniff a greeting. It was Shadow, her mate. He licked her muzzle eagerly and then trotted down the driveway, his black tail waving an invitation for her to follow. As he disappeared down the path to the hedge, Dippy stretched once more, shook herself awake and followed her mate’s retreating form. A tight squeeze under the fence and the cool, indigenous woods of Winterskloof beckoned invitingly. The scent of bush pig on the breeze carried the promise of a hunt.

A scent here, a noise there, monkeys distracting from lofty heights, zig-zagging a path further and further from home. By midmorning two thirsty dogs interrupted their trailblazing to make a beeline for the river to quench their thirst. A cruel wire caught Dippy by her foreleg, halting her happy adventure and holding her with an iron fist. She struggled in vain to follow her mate, her fight for freedom ensnaring her further. Bewildered, she lay down in the undergrowth. The forest closed in on her, no longer a friendly place, but dark, menacing and dangerous.

Claire arrived home from work to be greeted by only one dog, his long fur matted with blackjacks. “Been gallivanting, old fellow?” she asked him, ruffling his black head fondly. Shadow’s large brown eyes and lolling tongue could not tell of his mate’s misfortune, but when dusk fell and Dippy had not returned, Claire knew that the forest held her beloved pet captive.

In random desperation Claire searched. Which direction to go? “Dippy? Where are you?” The forest was silent, unyielding in its secrets. As the days rolled by the searches became more systematic. Marked-off sections of forest were meticulously searched. Snares were uncovered, formed from cable wire as thick as a man’s finger to capture the bush pig for which they were intended. Claire became convinced that Dippy was unwittingly a victim of one of these cruel devices.

The following days were ones of growing despair for Dippy as hunger and thirst became her constant companions. The wire clawed its way ever deeper into her flesh. Blowflies laid their eggs deep in her wound, the maggots subsequently eating the putrefying flesh and unwittingly saving her life. The soil beneath her filled her belly, quelling the hunger pains and providing her emaciating body with minerals. The rain which fell during a spell of cold and wet weather provided her with much-needed moisture.

Day 13 of the ordeal dawned drizzly and dreary. Claire donned her boots and left the house shortly after dawn, heading for the woods. Her grey thoughts matched the weather. Could Dippy possibly be alive after all this time? Two hours of fruitless searching brought Claire to her knees on the forest floor, wrenching a final, desperate plea to God from her lips, “Oh God, if she is alive please, please give me a sign.” One long, low, mournful cry pierced the silence, providing an answer to prayers, renewing hope and providing direction.

A mad scrambling down embankments, ducking under branches, fighting off undergrowth and Claire found herself descending the animal trail that led to the river. A ghost of a dog emerged from the mist, too weak to stand and too broken to wag her tail. Claire took Dippy in her arms, untangling her from her prison. She hoisted her on her shoulders and turned for home. The leg would have to go, but Dippy was back.

Claire Prince

Claire Prince lives in Hilton with her three daughters, two dogs and a cat. She teaches at the local pre-primary school. Prince enjoys books, especially biographies and historical novels. She is a nature enthusiast who wishes for vast tracts of indigenous bush without snares.


Dippy’s leg did indeed have to be amputated. After being stabilised at the vet’s for a few days she underwent surgery. She has since made an amazing recovery. She is mobile and lively. If anything, she is even more loyal and devoted than before her ordeal. Special thanks to Dr Justin Niland and team from Hilton Veterinary Clinic for pulling her through.

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