A Dog Owner’s Nightmare

A New Year story of a terrified dog and a community that cares…

Below a recount of events after Cliff Hatt lost his dog.


After four days of terrified running and escaping her legs are not operating the way they should and she’s only able to manage about a metre and a half and then has to lie down. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. She doesn’t appear traumatised although reluctant to leave me – but that should soon be back to normal within the next week.
I of course will take a little longer to recover 😊.

The saga ended on Saturday after lunch when I received a phone call whilst in the township of Zamani village alongside Darnall, informing me that Jessie had been found on the southern bank of the Tugela River mouth. The photo that was sent to me allowed me to positively identify her. Barely able to walk she stumbled across to me at the sound of my whistle and we licked each other 😊

I have thought long and hard about the events over the last five days and have felt that the best way to thank the community would be in the form of a summary of the events as follows:

A New Year story of a terrified dog and a community that cares

So where does one start
Well one starts at 8pm with Fireworks on New Year’s Eve being exploded when the law says they shouldn’t be.
It starts with ignorant or stupid or worthless people who just don’t care.
And so a petrified traumatised dog runs for its life and doesn’t stop running until it just can’t run anymore.

And an old guy with just one companion loses the dearest thing to him – he loses the very lifeblood that courses through the veins of anyone who lives alone.

And the nightmarish thoughts of snares in forests set by evil or desperate people and beasts of prey and snakes and bush pigs and stones being thrown and the deafening roar and threat of vehicles on roads. And thoughts of captivity and chains and beatings and dog-fights.

And the heartbreaking visions of a wide-eyed disoriented terror-stricken innocent companion coping with evils that mostly humans inflict.

But then you suddenly have a community that empathises and hurts with you and they care and love and drive on gravel roads and take chances searching in dark places. They perhaps spend money on petrol they can’t afford or time they don’t really have or would prefer to share with family, or time they can’t really spare because their businesses only succeed with takings over holidays.
And people who come down for a deserved relaxing holiday yet still give of their time and people from overseas who don’t even know the community and complete strangers who don’t know you, yet participate. And a search party with 12 vehicles and 26 persons at the end of a hot day is easily and quickly organised.
And the farmers and Security companies who inform their staff to be on the lookout on farms and roads.

And the lady on the bus which brings various employees into the village each day who is only too happy to make sure that everyone on that bus knows ‘that little Jessie is missing and everyone must look out for her’ – and you know that everyone will because they care.

And people who spend hours searching in uncomfortable heat wave weather and people who bring you sandwiches and something to drink and people who phone you and send their wishes when they can’t do anything themselves and people who do things on your behalf, sometimes without your even knowing, such as getting notices out or contacting the SPCA and other welfare groups and then those who spread the word and hand out leaflets and talk to people on the road or in houses as they scour the countryside calling and whistling for this ‘companion’ which some might not even have seen before.

And then people who offer you advice that you hadn’t thought of or a drone to help search, or do something for you without being asked or increase the reward because they care so much. And even offer to pay for a future microchip in case you haven’t been able to afford it.

And then the fearful and daunting realisation that you are surrounded by thousands of hectares of sugar cane and forest and beaches and National roads and uncaring speeding idiotic drivers and the chances of ever seeing or holding her again are despairingly slim.

And the Security Guard who stands at the entrance to the village and knows your dog and knows your fear and gives you a thumbs up every time you head out and has a question every time you return but always reassuringly and sincerely says ‘Don’t worry – you will find her Sir’.

And the same willingness and Ubuntu is found in the next little village you start searching in.

And finally those people who pray the most earnest and sincere prayers because they’re not in a position to do anything else – and they perhaps don’t even realise that that is more important than everything else.

Thank you God for all of these people and your answer to prayers.

So where does one end
Well the desperation and heartache ends when your companion, this lifeblood of yours, is found without injury albeit exhausted and hungry and thirsty by a family holidaying on the south bank of the Tugela River who just happened to have noticed a lost pet notice in a club the night before and went to the trouble of loving an exhausted dog and following through to find the owner.

And the fears are gone and the nightmares stop and joy and love is restored and for the first time after four exhausting desperate days it becomes a happy new year.

And the security guard at the entrance to your village who is the first one to see your found companion, comes running to the car to say ‘I told you Sir’ and he’s wearing a grin which is larger than yours if that is even possible.

So one ends with the realisation that the community you live in and the communities around are incredibly special and a cut above other communities you’ve known.

And new bonds are forged and trusts established and first impressions altered and even lessons learned and just maybe this new year of 2020 is seen through different eyes by everyone.

But it really should end with all fireworks being banned and persons severely punished because it’s not so much about this story – which has a happy ending – it’s really about those who never find their companions again and live with those nightmares forever – and hearts that never stop aching because of that horrible unknown ending, if not death
. . . all because some ignorant or stupid or worthless or selfish people just didn’t care.

A heartfelt thank you to all who went that extra mile for the love of a small lost dog – my little Jess whose legs can’t quite support her yet but who will soon start expending her boundless energy and wear a grin that’s wider than all of our grins – if that’s possible.

Cliff Hatt

Source : Facebook, Zinkwazi Beach Community Forum

15 thoughts on “A Dog Owner’s Nightmare

  1. What a happy ending. So happy the community came to your side. I can’t imagine how horrible it was for you. If I was separated from my Aussie I would be devastated to say the least. I would be a basket case. It seems you managed to keep a cool head which paid off. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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