Pup called Hope helps priest spread the word

2011-07-22 00:00

WHEN priest Dave Thomson sets off in his bakkie to minister to those in need, he doesn’t need a radio or an anti-hijack device — his entertainment and protection is a pitbull called Hope.

Hope, now about six months old, is a loving young dog in splendid condition, a far cry from the pitiful puppy that she once was. When Thomson got her, she was a ball of misery so small she could fit in the palm of a person’s hand.

Madge Hughes, Thomson’s secretary, recalls how the puppy got her name. “Dave was terribly depressed as his last dog, also a pitbull, was poisoned by some poachers.

“They were always trying to get into the forest area behind the chapel to catch some of the wild animals.

“Tiger was a great guard dog and the poachers were always afraid of her. When Dave realised Tiger had been poisoned he was devastated. Everyone knew he was lost without her. He really wanted another pitbull to replace her.”

According to Thomson, he spread the word near and far that he was looking for a pitbull puppy.

He loves the breed because it is misunderstood. He feels that pitbulls make great dogs and they are fiercely loyal.

The news reached Ben Pillay. Pillay had been walking with his dog near a Pietermaritzburg shopping centre when the dog started pulling against the lead towards some bushes. He tried to pull her away, but she kept pulling him towards a hole in the ground.

Hughes says: “Inside the hole was a tiny puppy, her back was eaten away by flies, yellow pus was coming out of her ears, her eyes were closed and her tiny stomach was swollen like a balloon, full of worms.”

Pillay took the puppy to a nearby vet where she had a seizure and came close to death. The vet told him if the puppy had been left in the hole she would have died in minutes. Pillay remembered that his friends had mentioned a priest who had lost his dog, and he managed to find Thomson’s details and phoned him.

“Out of the blue, I received the call from Ben who told me there was a puppy that was very sick at the vet and I could probably take her, if I settled the bill,” recalls Thomson.

The vet assured him that the puppy was a pitbull and they discussed how it was very strange that she had been abandoned there as this breed of dog is popular for fighting in the area. It is possible she was discarded because she was the runt of the litter.

Thomson took one look at the tiny little puppy and he was smitten. From that day months ago, he and Hope have been inseparable.

“She is my companion,” he says. “I have no doubt it was a miracle that she came to me and that I was meant to have her. Madge and I have nursed her back to health and she is one of the finest dogs around.”

Hughes adds: “At times she does whimper and yelp in her sleep, but that is all in her dreams. She follows Dave like the most devoted disciple and whenever he is in her sight she is a most contented dog. She wags her tail so much it could fall off. She is protective too.”

Thomson firmly believes that animals are God-given companions to the sick and suffering, and they do not demand anything but love and affection. And Hughes believes Hope was given to Thomson in his time of need. She advises all people to look at stray animals as opportunities to care and share. Her philosophy is simple: D-O-G is just G-O-D spelt backwards. They are our earthly angels.

It makes perfect sense to Thomson. He was a Franciscan monk when he was a younger man and part of their religious philosophy is to respect all of nature’s creatures. Today people are attracted to the priest because of the dog at his side, and the story of how she got her name is a great icebreaker.

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