An Eastern Free State artist is heartbroken over the death of her dog after it was bitten by a puffadder but is at least grateful that her other dog survived.
The eastern regions of the Free State is a beautiful part of world, consisting of sprawling plains dotted with hills and majestic mountains soaring into the wide-open sky.
But it’s also home to some of the country’s most venomous snakes – something Collett Louw (48) from Surrender Hill, between Ficksburg and Clarens, knows only too well.
She’s come across several snakes in the 10 years she’s lived here but she and her animals have remained unharmed.
But that changed on Friday, 15 October when a puffadder attacked her dogs on her veranda, leaving one dead and the other in a critical condition.
“We’ve lived alongside snakes for years, but Friday was absolutely horrifying,” Collett says.
She was alerted that something was amiss when she heard Mollie, an eight-year-old Jack Russell-Pekinese cross, barking “strangely”.
“We have a large veranda with lots of furniture. The dogs were barking there and when I went out, I heard the snake hissing.”
Collett and her partner, Kobus (44), took Mollie and their other dogs – Luna, a Great Dane, Asterix, a pitbull-St Bernard cross, and Wors, a beagle-fox terrier cross – inside and killed the snake.
“It was bad because in all the years we’ve lived here we’ve never had a snake so near the house,” Collett says. “At first we were grateful the dogs were unharmed, but we quickly realised Mollie had been bitten because she started swelling badly.”
She treated Mollie with cortisone and penicillin but then noticed Luna was also showing symptoms.
“That’s when I realised they’d both been bitten by the puffadder,” she says.
Mollie died the next morning. Luna was still sick but had started improving.
“We’re terribly sad,” Collett says. “Your animals are like your children. We know we’re living in the snakes’ natural habitat, but we’ve never experienced anything like this.
“People have asked us [on social media] why we don’t keep antivenom but we’re in the middle of nowhere. And antivenom is incredibly expensive – especially on an artist’s income.
“Plus, it’s also not a guarantee that they’ll survive. The local vet told us a dog’s chances are still only 50/50, even with antivenom. We were just hoping and praying that Luna would survive with the help of the cortisone and penicillin – and she did.”
By Monday morning, Luna was nearly her old self again.
“The swelling has gone down a lot, apart from a patch or two. She’s barking and playing again and we believe she’ll be in tip-top shape again soon,” Collett says.
“I think we tend to forget where we live. Kobus and I both love gardening and going for walks, but this experience has taught us that we need to be a lot more careful, and think of other ways to protect our animals too.”