What is YOUR Wet Nose Story?

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
A donkey foal at Wet Nose.

Do you have a rescue pet, a wet-nosed loved one with a “sketchy” past? I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below. All but one of my pets since childhood has been a rescue, a mutt, a “pavement special” as they say here in South Africa.

Disclaimer: for a writer, I have absolutely no originality when it comes to naming cats.

For cats, I had “Midnight,” my first kitten from a forlorn litter under a porch up the street, “Tinkle,” a calico who peed on me after I found her in a parking lot, “Cueball,” a white, mangy fleabag who was as smart as he was mouthy and loving, and “Shaggy,” my crazy-haired, gray mewing Maine-Coon-mashup who we adopted from a shelter in 1998 and lost to cancer just this year.

I was only mildly better at naming dogs. I’ve only had a few dogs: “Pup” was technically my dad’s dog, a hunting beagle who could catch a rabbit just on the command “Hunt ’em up, Pup!”; Pippin was my first rescue dog, picked out of a cage of almost a dozen husky-shepherd mix puppies, and with us for sixteen beautiful years; Alex was the only dog I’ve ever gotten from breeder. He was a black labrador retriever with a typical big heart and clumsy body.

Our dog now is Baxter, a rescued, black labrador retriever. He was re-homed twice before he came to live with us, and we would never send him to a shelter. Baxter enjoys an extensive family. Kurt’s parents call him the “grand-dog” and our nieces and nephews I’m pretty sure enjoy spending more time with him than with us.

Tell me about your favorite wet nose!

This weekend I volunteered at Wet Nose, a Right-to-Life animal shelter near Pretoria. (“Right to Life means that no animal is put to sleep, unless it is in severe suffering and cannot be saved.”)

As volunteering goes, they make it a very easy and convenient process. I filled out my paperwork and considered my options for the day: grooming horses or donkeys; grooming and playing with cats in one of the catteries, or walking; grooming or sitting with dogs from the kennels. And let’s not forget the other animals cared for at Wet Nose, like rabbits and goats, and many more volunteer opportunities.

Since it was my first time, I chose to walk dogs. After all, volunteering is a mutually beneficial experience: the organization gets extra hands at no charge, and I get the close contact with a dog I’ve been craving, and the knowledge that for a little bit of time, I’ve given an animal companionship, exercise and entertainment.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa
Sally is the gentlest of gentle giants. A sweetheart to walk, and pet, and cuddle.

They have an easy and smart system for keeping track of which dogs have been walked: once you’ve walked a dog, simply clip a “Thanks!” sign to the door of the kennel, letting others know they’ve already been walked. I surveyed the rows of kennels and picked, for my first walk, a large Boerboel named Sally. A Boerboel is a type of mastiff, my second favorite breed after a labrador retriever.

Sally was afraid of the collar at first, and it took me nearly 5 minutes to get it over her neck. She was a master of evading and ducking the slip chain, and I think next time I’ll try a regular collar on her, in case her fear was related to the clinking of the chain. You don’t always know the history of a dog in a shelter, and while I’m no Cesar Milan, I’m comfortable assessing whether a dog is fearful in a way that’s threatening to me, or fearful in a way that I can still work with. Sally was clearly not aggressive, and I sweet-talked that collar over her head after getting her a little more comfortable with me.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Sally is ready to go. I’ll be surprised if she’s still there after the September event. I’ll be surprised if she’s there next week. I’ve never met a gentler giant.

Once the collar was on, Sally was a dream. She walked by my side, leaning on me a bit when a smaller dog approached her. She is clearly a submissive girl, and is so eager to love and be loved that she should be on a fast-track to adoption.

“Gentle giant” is a frequent term for several mastiff breeds, and Sally certainly meets that standard.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Talk about a lot of loving! Gizmo gives Claire a happy pile of puppy love.

My friend, Claire, meanwhile, picked a cute little pup named Gizmo for her first walk. Claire is working through some problems with her back, and needed a dog that didn’t have as much weight behind its pull. He was a lively little boy, as most Jack Russells are, and at two years old, he’s not quite done with his pup-sanity. Which made him kind of awesome. He trotted along with Claire, and played with her, and wanted to play with my timid Sally, who was twice his size but half his bravado.

Along the dusty road we walked, passing a little cantina-style cafe with a welcome sign inviting dogs in for a water and treat. We planned to stop on the way back but missed closing time. Next time we’ll walk a little earlier so we can add the cantina experience.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Gizmo!! What a fun bundle he is! And almost to the end of puppyhood.

We returned with Sally and Gizmo, where they each had a nice long drink of water from the buckets that are kept full for them all day. I walked the aisles again, settling quickly on an even larger, more rambunctious-looking fellow named Rambo. I thought at first he was part Great Dane, but Rambo is also listed as a Boerboel. I could tell immediately that Rambo is a strong doggie, but with such a charming personality that you might have to watch before he steals your snacks, and your heart.

Rambo let me slip the collar and leash on easily. He turned to the door of the cage, ready to pull me out behind him, when I realized…

I was locked in.

The first advice they give you at the desk when you sign up to volunteer, is not to let the latch part of the kennel door close behind you, because it can only be opened from the outside. I’m guessing this advice is repeatedly given because until you do it, you don’t really quite listen.

There is no use hollering for help, because (a) the louder you are, the louder all the dogs in the surrounding kennels bark, making it impossible for anyone to hear; and (b) the dog in the kennel with you may become nervous at your own nervous or fearful state. I tried to send a text message to Claire, but the signal was blocked by the concrete of the kennels.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Rambo the Boerboel mastiff is 7, and would love to spend his remaining years with a loving family.

Thankfully, I already knew to stay calm, because the same thing happened to Claire on one of her first volunteer days at the kennel. Eventually someone will pass by, so it’s best to settle yourself, focus on spending quality time with your new bunkmate, and keep a watchful eye for a human. Or, in our case, volunteer with a buddy, because someone will be watching for you to come out.

Like any learning experience, I’m pretty sure you only learn the lesson of locking yourself inside a dog kennel once.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Opal and Ollie are great siblings and I hope they get adopted together. They’re smart, sweet and lively.

Sure enough, Claire re-appeared, with two dogs, a pair of kennel-mates, brother-sister Jack Russells named Opal and Ollie. Soon we were on the red dirt road again, my Rambo pulling slightly ahead of me on the lead, and her siblings determinedly investigating scrub to the side of the road, in full hunting instinct mode.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Claire walking Opal and Ollie. These two siblings are natural hunters!

Rambo, while easy to put the collar on, is not a big fan of being led by the collar. Thankfully, however, he’s as obedient as he is handsome. I would say his name, and he would turn toward me. If he felt resistance on the lead, he would turn around and come back to me, leaning hard into my frame, and looking up as if to ask, “Could I please have a scrub around my ears while we’re stopped?” I obliged, and even patted my chest, inviting him up for a good cuddle and scratch under his neck.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
I am not strangling him. Really. But he did love the big ol’ scruffing and patting under the neck. Rambo is a big baby. He was sweet and obedient, and so easy to love.

We would stop frequently, as Opal and Ollie were intent on peeing and sniffing, and standing alert when they smelled or heard something in the weeds. Rambo’s reaction, for all his boisterous bravado, was to jump and run to me and lean when he heard the rustling of weeds, or anything startling. He has some old scars and a few little growths like any dog that’s had some mileage on him, but he was another sweetheart, asking only for a little extra attention, a lot of exercise and a lot of one-on-one loving. Rambo is already 7, and he deserves a nice home for his last several years.

expat life Pretoria South Africa travel
Ollie and Opal doing some serious investigative work on the side of the road.

We reached our turn-around point and headed back, cutting past the horse and donkey fences on our way. A beautiful horse acknowledged our passing by stomping the ground a few times before turning back to his eating. A pair of donkeys were tussling like teenagers, and as if on queue, one let out the most magnificent bray.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
A very sweet donkey hoping we might have an apple or carrot in the pocket.

We stopped to admire a pair of donkeys in a stall with a foal, before saying goodbye at the desk. I inquired about the tougher dogs to walk, because while I loved Sally and Rambo, I knew that anybody could walk them with ease, and I want to return for more of a challenge, to take out a dog who not many people are comfortable walking.

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
This foal came out quickly to greet us. He was shy but hoping we might have a treat.

Treats are welcome at WetNose, and when I return I’ll be taking not only dog food and doggie snacks, but apples and carrots for the horses and donkeys.

For my South African readers, please consider making a donation, volunteering, or sponsoring a kennel:


Or join me in their September 28th fundraiser, “Homeless Animals Day 2013” Bring your own doggie or walk one of theirs. I recommend gentle giants Sally, or Rambo, or frisky cuddlers, Gizmo, or Ollie and Opal! There will be a flea market and food stalls, and guys, even a Beer Tent and Big Screen TV for Rugby!

expat life Pretoria volunteering in South Africa donkey rescue
Join me at Wet Nose for Homeless Animals Day!

For my international readers, I’ve asked Wet Nose if there might be a way that you can donate online, and am awaiting their response (not their fault…I only asked them this morning so they haven’t had much time to respond). Hopefully by my next volunteer post, I’ll have that information for you.

In the meantime, please follow them on Twitter ( @wetnoseARC ), and Like them on Facebook. And take a moment to tell me about your own experience with a rescued pet.

Love, Marla

7 thoughts on “What is YOUR Wet Nose Story?

  1. Most of my animals have been rescue, though my longest lived were generational from my first rescue cat Fancy who we think was a mixed Persian/Manx. She lived to be 27 and was truly the love of my life. I let her have one litter only because she was pregnant when I rescued her. I kept one out of the litter, a little girl kitty I named Tessa. Tessa also had one litter before I spay her. There was only two sweet kittens, Trix and Treat, I kept them both thus I had my family, I had both of them fixed young. All of Fancy’s babies lived very long lifes, well into their 20’s. I now have two kitties from Singapore, both rescues.

    Of dogs I have had many, all resuced. Most of my dogs have been on the big side, some really big like Miles my British Mastiff. He wasn’t supposed to be mine, he was only 3 weeks old when my vet asked if I could care for him. He was rescued from a puppy mill. I had a Rott and a Chow at home at the time, my Chow was ill with cancer and coming to the end of her life, I guess the vet thought caring for a puppy would be good for all of us, it was. Miles ended up as part of our family, growing to an incredible size and becoming a loving caregiver to my Chow.

  2. I really think that some day we are going to hear, in the common vernacular, the word Marla-ism, which will refer to any unusual, quirky, or strange random act of kindness. (Not that this incident is either strange or unusual) but I take into account your norm.

    1. That is kind of the most amazing thing to say, bro! As I was reading it, I was expecting the unusual, quirky or strange, but not followed by “random act of kindness.” I was sure it would have something to do with accidental bodily functions, or Darwinian mishaps or odd turns of speech. This is much, much better. 🙂

      1. Haha, Marla-isms are ” usually” odd or quirky, but ALWAYS well intentioned!!

        1. I sort of think of you like…if Mother Teresa was a “Far Side” character! Haha

  3. I’ve spent my life loving barn cats dragged into life as a house cat, puppies dropped off along the road, shelter rescues, and various other castaways, and wouldn’t have any other kind as a pet. They seem to be so grateful to you for rescuing them from whatever situation they were forced into. My current loves are a 20 pound 12 year old bobtail tuxedo cat named Frisco, and I still mourn the loss of his grey tabby brother Riley almost 3 years ago. We also have a rambunctious black lab who was almost left chained to a tree out in the boonies by a creep 9 years ago had we not brought him home “until we could find him a home”. As they both get older I tell myself no more pets after they’re gone, but I know that’s not true. My life is better with wet noses, cat hair, chew toys………………

    1. That’s beautiful, Mona. Thank you for sharing. I know what you mean about telling ourselves we won’t have anymore. I have said that every time, and it always seems to last just as long as I’m out of sight of an abandoned or homeless or mistreated animal, then I know I had to do it all over again. They really do make our lives better. <3

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