So you’re probably wondering how we ended up here. Let me tell you.
We often get asked about the origin of the magazine and when I’ll be on the cover. While it’s been quite the adventure and we’ve achieved so much, it took me forever to decide if I should write this article. You see, while many people would love to be a cover feature on a magazine, I usually veer away from this kind of attention. I’m an introvert at heart and enjoy standing behind the scenes, cheering, as a masterpiece comes together. I revel in the excitement of creation and being a sound board as well as mentoring, but being a cover model makes me anxious. The reason for this is that I feel like I’m failing most of the time. Something I’ve found to be a common connection with most people I meet in animal welfare. We love, we work, we encourage and we teach as much as humanly possible but somehow, we still don’t feel qualified to call ourselves activists. This cover is me, telling you, that you are more than qualified. I did, however, choose to give you a more handsome cover model. 🙂
So you’re probably wondering how we ended up here. Let me tell you.
It’s no secret that resources toward the animal welfare sector have been, and still are, very scarce. I still remember the morning I heard that the Lotto decided to cancel their contributions and donations toward animal welfare. I was driving to work and listening to the radio. A lady from the SPCA was pleading to the public for donations, because the sudden shortfall in funding would lead to devastating results. Her voice was quivering and you could hear the exhaustion.
I’ve always loved animals. They have been my companions through life’s darkest days and have brought me more joy than I can describe. Seeing posts of animals in distress brings me grief and heartache, as I’m sure it does most people. While I never shy away from donations when I have the means, I felt like there was potentially more I could do to help with raising funds for welfare. I am quite stubborn when it comes to business matters and thought that maybe this skill set could be put to good use. I started researching options for a part-time business that could generate cashflow for organisations in need.
One idea stuck out from the rest, and that was to create a free distribution flyer containing advertisements. The concept would be the same as the ones for home renovation, but this would be directly targeted at pet owners. The risk was small, and the opportunity great.
The days leading up to the first issue of Pet Prints created a bit of a challenge to myself. If I could generate enough interest and sell a certain amount of advertising space, I would go ahead with the project. The universe ruled in my favour and made sure that the numbers came in at exactly my target to get the publication off the ground. I wasn’t planning on having big fancy articles filling up the magazine. I was already trying my hand at doing the graphic designing for this project. I was nowhere near qualified to write anything.
But as luck would have it, we were short a few pages and I needed to fill them. This is where the Fascinating Facts column was born. I figured some random facts wouldn’t be too difficult to put together and one could not stuff that up too badly. I also asked a local animal behaviouralist to write a short piece for us and off we went. A publication was born.
For the first year or so, it was just me, myself and I, working to put the pages together for Pet Prints. I worked on it during evenings and weekends and basically said farewell to any kind of social life. It was a little magazine, a mere 18 pages, that we distributed to homes in Cape Town. The only goal was to raise funds for food and animal welfare items. The contents weren’t up to par with other magazines, and the design wasn’t great either. But then the letters started coming in. The most heartwarming letters from readers telling us about their own pets. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I recall a couple of occasions where we received handwritten letters from retired individuals who asked their local POSTNET to scan and email their stories to us. I think this was the tipping point which encouraged us to start adding more pages and stories to the publication. The project was no longer only about raising funds, we were reaching people who needed advice and there was a whole community of animal lovers to connect with. The only hurdle was that this was no longer a one person venture. I needed help.
BUILDING A TEAM
While I’m sure it doesn’t look that hard to put together some words and images on a few scraps of paper, the project does take its toll on me every now and again. Lucky for me, I’ve always had a brilliant support system. Between Gerhard and Nelda, I’ve always had a shoulder to cry on and a friend to confide in. Nelda, being the discerning person she is, has a wonderful way of talking sense into me when I need it the most.
About a year after starting our little adventure, we decided to adopt a dog. Enter Mia, the most amazing Labrador-mix from LEAPS.
Being the proud cat mom I am, I adore having felines in the house, but the time was right to add a bit of chaos to the clan and we decided a large dog would be just the key. I wanted a running partner, and a Labrador would be the right fit. Again, fate had a plan and the adoption process required a home-check which introduced us to Sharnelle. Sharnelle’s passion for animal welfare is inspiring. She lives for welfare and we connected almost immediately. We needed that passion in our team and Sharnelle was looking for a project that would allow her to be home a bit more.
With Sharnelle on board, we mustered the courage to take our project to a national level and also transition to a bi-monthly magazine. It was as scary as it was exciting. The work would be almost double from what it was previously, but the goal was to build our community.
Our excitement grew as we started making more connections and attracted the attention of one of my favourite pet photographers, Emma O’Brien. We had the opportunity to do a photo shoot with a rescued baby rhino who was being cared for at a game farm close to Cape Town. I gathered enough courage to email Emma and she’s been part of the team ever since!
It’s not to say that there haven’t been days where I’ve felt utterly defeated and exhausted. It’s happened more than a couple of times actually. Where advertisement reduces to almost nothing or printers leave us disappointed and I tell everyone that I’ve done what I can, but this will be our last issue.
Sure enough, something always seems to happen just as I’m about to throw in the towel. I remember this one incident in particular, where I delivered some magazines to one of our bigger distribution points. I walked out of the shop, took a deep breath and thought what a good run we had. Then, I heard a little girl shriek and tell her father in a very excited voice “It’s here! It’s here!” I turned around, watched the cashier unpack the books I just delivered and heard her say how relieved she was the magazines came in when they did, because Saturdays were always the busiest days. The father breathed a sigh of relief and explained how he wouldn’t have heard the end of it had they not gotten their Pet Prints magazine that day.
No one knew who I was or that I was there, but moments like this always revive hope when I feel defeated.
At the beginning of last year, we were fortunate to welcome Gaironesa, affectionately known as Gee, to the team. She’s now the person in charge of most of the magazine design. She also contributes a great deal to magazine administration and sales.
As you all know, we also have some very talented people writing for us. Each one of these individuals have brought so much joy to our lives. I cannot express how grateful I am to every one of them for volunteering to help educate readers. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day.
THE PEOPLE WE’VE MET
With Pet Prints growing into a proper publication, we started collaborating with individuals that shared our values and wanted to be part of the project. This included writers, product suppliers and, of course, celebrities who own pets and work with welfare.
It’s been wonderful getting to know these people. The insights they have and all the amazing stories have truly been inspiring. We all share a goal of wanting to make the world a better place and we actively work towards achieving this, whether by being a role model or working in the field, supplying medical care or gathering supplies from your own network. I’ve been mesmerised by the wonderful people out there.
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
As I’ve mentioned in the beginning, the main objective for this project, when it started, was to raise funds. The thing is, as the years went by, the goal has changed somewhat. We’ve made money, friends and connections that have contributed so much to animal welfare.
I think sometimes we get lost in the material objectives we set out for ourselves. While it’s great giving an organisation a cheque for a large sum of money, it’s also important to remember the ripple effect we as a community can have on each other. By hosting fundraisers and giving the wonderful fundraising projects and animal welfare organisations in our country a platform, we’ve been able to do so much more than just give money. We give hope. We gather support. We educate children through our example. We encourage welfare organisations to not lose hope, because they are not alone.
It takes a village, right? As Jane Goodall likes to say: “You cannot not be depressed if you look at what’s going on in the world. That’s why the message is: Don’t think globally, act locally. Act locally first, see the difference you make. Taking that first step gives you hope that your actions do make a difference and then you want to do more and as you do more, you inspire others.”
Well, this is our village and I’m proud to be part of a community that help each other. No effort is ever too small.
ROLO THE COVER STAR
Rolo came into our lives as a foster. We met Rolo while on an outreach to Fisantekraal where we delivered kennels and food to the FAW team. Rolo was a regular at the container and didn’t mind helping himself to the donations.
Everybody loved Rolo. I mean, how could you not? He is fluffy with blue eyes and is as friendly as they come. Unfortunately, Rolo managed to also scare a lot of people with those blue eyes. One weekend he got into an altercation with someone in the Fisantekraal informal settlement who attacked him with a panga. The FAW team reacted swiftly and got Rolo the medical help he needed, but there was a lot of concern about sending him home. We volunteered to foster Rolo until he could get back on his feet.
As the days went by, Rolo recovered. He lost a toe and had some bad lacerations, but he never once got aggressive when his wounds were cleaned. We were at the vet a lot!! Sharnelle looked after Rolo when we had to go to our office jobs, because he did not enjoy the cone of shame. To this day, he still knows how to put those puppy eyes to good use.
When Rolo was well enough to go back home, we got the message from FAW that his owner thought it might be in his best interests to not do so. She feared for his safety and would prefer Rolo had a safe, loving home. The rest, as they say, is history. The big goofball has been a great conversation starter to show people just how amazing rescues are and that they can be adopted as grown-ups without any issues. We couldn’t imagine our lives without him
Food donations: 3.9 tons
Animals Sterilised: 237
Kennels placed: 24