The Byrne adventure

2011-07-22 00:00

“DOG’S on the loose!” somebody shouts. I look up and see the nimble figure of Nancy Waddilove tailing her two mutts who are gaily galloping through the tiers of restrained dogs and owners egging her on. At some stage both dogs end up on the front seat of my pick-up. I am working off my tail-gate and I turn around to see Nancy piling through the one open door as the dogs escape out the other. Comments, some constructive, others ribald, follow her progress until the dogs are finally restrained and confined to her car, and I continue my labour with a giggle in my heart.

The event is our annual vaccination clinic in the beautiful Byrne Village, a hamlet of a couple of dozen houses nestled in a lovely valley close to Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal. Byrne is modelled on a typical English village, the brainchild of one Joseph Charles Byrne who conspired, in around 1848, to relocate hundreds of English artisans and their families, disenchanted with various aspects of their homeland and ready for an African adventure, to sunny South Africa. Most of these hardy souls eventually realised that it was difficult to eke out a living off their allocated eight hectares and took to the bright lights of the cities, but some remained in the countryside and from them Byrne Village was born. Today this colourful ancestry has been seeded with immigrants from other regions, many being retirees from the hectic hurly-burly to a lifestyle that is far more sedate, sedentary and healthy.

People like Nancy Waddilove. I glance across at her car. She and the two escapees occupy the front seat together with Jake, a grumpy nondescript. He and I have crossed swords at intervals over the years and he bares his canines as I approach. I chicken out. Pat (Nancy’s brother) is not present to restrain him. He usually smothers him with a blanket in the back of his bakkie and wrestles him into a position where I have a chance to sneak the needle in, hoping that the cry of rage I hear comes from a successful penetration of Jake and not Pat.

Some 35 dogs and two cats later, and the market square is empty. Two hours of my life renewing acquaintances and swopping anecdotes.

I now make my way from house to house, visiting the old, the infirm, the uncontrollables, the friends and good clients. Each has a history as rich as the surrounds. And it is not only the present occupants who contribute to the kaleidoscope of memories. Up Charles Street and I think about those iconic pets who have died and left indelible imprints — Baxter Hampton, Thor 1 Fraser, Sabrina and Savannah Mcleary, Patches Pellows and, recently, little Blu Calvert. And the inhabitants who have, with time, progressed from client status to one of good friend.

The Hamptons run a care centre for injured and traumatised animals. They have some 40-odd vervet monkeys in various stages of rehabilitation that they will release as a troop into a conserved area when the time is right. This they fund out of their own savings and from the generosity of the public, often running short of personal necessities to ensure their monkeys are cared for.

The Frasers have adopted seven donkeys. We have sterilised the males, but two of the females have succumbed to the wiles of a travelling salesman and are now visibly pregnant.

The Oaks Hotel, the charming, historical inn, with its plethora of animals, each with its own personality and cherished for its individuality.

I leave the valley in the evening, hydrated with a couple of litres of juice and tea, nourished with numerous cakes and savouries, and enriched with a pumpkin, a bottle of Little Kitchen Tomato and Chilli jam, and a lug box of oranges.

And fortified with the refreshment of friendship and memories.

• The writer is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.


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