Sharnelle van der Merwe

Ask The Vet – Dr. Travis Gray

I have a dog who licks the couch and our bed. If we don’t stop her (as we don’t always see it) she just carries on until it is a big wet spot. If we see her and tell her to stop, she stops immediately. Can this be obsessive behaviour or can there be more reasons as to why she does this.


Licking of objects with increased frequency and duration is referred to as Excessive Licking of Surfaces (ELS). While this may be a behavioural disorder, it’s possible that an underlying medical condition may be the trigger factor. Interestingly, a study in Canada involving 19 dogs with ELS; 14 of the dogs were found to have an underlying gastro-intestinal issue, and in just over half of the affected dogs, the ELS resolved with appropriate treatment. While this is only one study, it does highlight the importance of investigating any underlying medical cause for abnormal behaviour. Diseases that have been linked to ELS include: intestinal parasites, food sensitivities and foreign objects in the stomach.

Any dog with ELS should ideally be seen by a vet for faecal analysis to determine the presence of any parasites, and a diet trial may be warranted. There is also medication available to help treat obsessive disorders in dogs, but these should never be considered until all other potential causes of the behaviour have been eliminated.


We are planning to adopt an adult cat. What will be the best way to introduce our cat-friendly-dog to our new family member to make it as stressfree as possible so that she doesn’t scare and run off?


Before introducing your new cat to your dog, you must first ensure that she is accustomed to her new home. The easiest way to do this is to lock her in her own room, where the dog will not have access. You will know she has adapted when she begins to eat, use the litter box and clean herself normally. This could take a few days to happen. Once she is settled in, the introduction can begin.

Before the actual meeting, it’s a good idea to start “scent swapping”. This means exchanging bedding or other items that would allow the cat to familiarise herself with the smell of her soon-to-be house mate. It’s also very important that you know how to control your dog with a leash and treats.

For the actual meeting, it should be in an area where your cat can retreat back to her safe space if she is scared, so, practically, a room in the house (other than her “safe” room) would be best. During the meeting, if your dog starts to get excited, distract them with treats. If the first meeting doesn’t go well, don’t be discouraged, but try again the next day. This process may take time depending on your animals’ personalities.


We would like to adopt a puppy in December, and make the transition in to our home as easy as possible. At what age should the puppy be sterilised? Our friends adopted a puppy that was already sterilised at 12 weeks, but other friends say their vet refused to sterilise their German Shepherd before six months. Is there a reason for that? Does it depend on the breed or size of the dog?

This is actually a much more difficult question than it initially appears. Traditionally, the optimal time to sterilize a dog was thought to be at 6 months. In females; spaying before the first heat, offers a significant reduction in the chances of mammary cancer later in life. This reduction in odds is diminished with each successive heat cycle. Additionally, spays in younger animals tend to be easier surgeries, with fewer complications and faster healing, compared to spays in older animals. There has, however, been some evidence to show that earlier spays and castrations may predispose to joint problems later in life. This could be concerning, especially in working dogs or in large breeds that are already well known for joint issues.

Personally, I always recommend sterilization as a part of responsible pet ownership, as there is such a problem with overpopulation. However, the age at which you feel comfortable having the procedure done is something that you should ideally discuss with your regular vet during routine puppy vaccinations, as the correct answer will differ between cases. It is important for owners to get reliable information regarding this topic so that they can make informed decisions.

Dear Doctor, I’m trying to move my ten-year-old cat from its normal pellets to a pellet for older cats. It’s expensive and I’m sure very healthy for her, but she refuses to eat it. What can I do to help with this transition? I want her to live as long as possible, so I want her to eat the correct food.

Cats are creatures of habit, and it’s not uncommon for owners to struggle when implementing diet changes. The most important thing to remember is that the transition between diets is going to have to be slow, but with patience it can be done successfully. Start by feeding the “old” cat food with just a few pellets of the “new” food mixed in. Over the next few days you can increase the proportion of the “new” food until it makes up about 25% of the bowl of pellets. Once your cat is used to that proportion, slowly increase until the bowl is roughly 50% “new” food. This is how you should gradually transition the diet until your cat is accepting the “new” food on its own. The rate at which you can increase the proportion of the “new” food differs between cats. In some cats, the transition will be glacial, even taking several weeks for them to start eating the “new” food. However, if the new food is a better quality, the effort will all be worth it.

On a side note: never leave the “new” food down in the hopes that “when she is hungry enough she will eat it”. Prolonged periods without food can cause fatty liver disease in cats, which is a serious disease, requiring intense hospitalization to resolve.

Family Edition – by Walter Mangold

It may be a small matter in the scheme of things, but it surely mattered to the lost lamb that was found next to the road by weekenders returning from the West Coast and deposited at World of Birds just before five on Sunday. It was not the first sheep that a motherly Debbie took under her wing and into her home.

It was a struggle to get the sickly and thin creature to drink warm milk from a bottle. By late night the battle was won. “Ollie”, as named by the compassionate ladies who took mercy on the woolly bundle, eventually had enough nourishment to settle in for the night, sleeping cosily in a padded box next to the heating panel, only interrupting everybody’s sleep at four for another warmed-up bottle of milk. Our boys renamed the baby “Lambert” on account of it being a lamb, and Lambert’s Bay, a town on the West Coast.

The adopted orphan quickly adjusted to a new and pampered lifestyle, the next day guided around the park for exercise, ooh’ed and aah’ed by adults and children alike, yet with birds and monkeys protesting at seeing this unusual intruder. The Cafeteria cat, surprisingly, showed no fear or aggression and tolerated the newcomer.

It was evening and I was reading the paper. Debbie was feeding the new family addition on her lap, and then the boys, Garron and Ryan, were gambolling up and down the living room with the hilariously clumsy sheep outdoing them, still trying to figure out the things that can be done with four legs pulling in different directions.

It was a homely scene. Every now and then Lambert fell asleep, while the boys watched TV. All were delighted to have this little girl as a part of the family, even accepting the sudden pee and poo accidents.

Irrelevant now, but morbid thoughts did enter the mind when looking at the lamb, again cradled by Debbie with another feed. What would Lambert’s fate have been, if left to “nature”?  Would it have died slow or quick, before or during the night, next to the road? Would a jackal have taken the bleating  meal, or a Martial eagle, or would the crows have started to feed on the near dead animal in the morning?

This little soul was saved by compassion, and sheer luck. How it lost its mommy one doesn’t know. All we know is that it had fallen with its bum in the butter, and into love expressed. Although little was needed, we had to buy the commercial bulk quantity of special milk formula for Lambert’s optimal development and health. The cost of R500 could not be brought into question, although an unsympathetic person quipped that we could have bought 10kg of “lamb” at the butcher for that money.




Welcome To Eseltjiesrus

In 2001 two donkeys were rescued from a miserable existence, blindfolded and walking endlessly in circles to mix mud and straw in a brick-making arrangement just outside the little village of McGregor in the Western Cape. They found a home with Johan and Annemarie van Zijl who had recently retired there.

It quickly became evident that there were many more donkeys in need of help and the concept of a Donkey Sanctuary was born. The name “Eseltjiesrus” was created, meaning “resting place for little donkeys” and the sanctuary was registered as a welfare organisation in 2007. The vision of the sanctuary is to promote the welfare and status of donkeys through a Culture of Caring.

The first official sanctuary resident to arrive was Adam, from Zoar, where he had been a cart donkey for many years until deemed too old and frail to work. He was followed by local cart donkeys, Thabo and Ida, whose owner had been diagnosed with cancer. Soon up to twenty donkeys were cared for on land rented from a local farmer. An adoption programme was established whereby people could support a chosen donkey financially and get regular news about “their” donkey. Fundraising took the form of an annual Book Fair. The first was a modest affair held in a local restaurant. Eleven years later, the Book Fair is recognised as the largest book sale in the Western Cape.

In 2012 the sanctuary was financially strong enough to buy its own property, just 5km outside McGregor. Permanent structures could be erected, tailor-made to the needs of the donkeys, staff and visitors. Fields were fenced, irrigation and grazing established, and over 160 donated trees were planted. Large shelters provide protection against the elements. The old farmhouse was converted to accommodate a restaurant, information centre and administration spaces. Eseltjiesrus is open to visitors from Thursdays to Sundays and trained guides inform the public about the need for good welfare for donkeys, often the forgotten members of the animal world.

Currently the sanctuary has 21 rescued residents. The oldest is Eeyore, over 40 years old. The geriatric donkeys that have dental problems get two special soft meals daily. Individual attention is given to each donkey: grooming, hoof care, fly repellent, inspection and treatment of any little wounds, and palliative medication where necessary.

We follow the guidelines of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries which state that more animals should not be taken in if it were to impact negatively on those already in care. This prompted the very important component of our work: “improving welfare beyond our fences”.

Eseltjierus can never accommodate all needy donkeys, so a large part of its work is outreach in the form of advocacy and education for owners and animal welfare professionals, networking with other organisations and spreading the “Culture of Caring”, which is its hallmark. We present regular workshops, related to donkey welfare.

Eseltjiesrus is governed by a Board. Tight administration and financial control ensure the long-term viability of the organisation. The need to secure and expand the future of the sanctuary through sensitive implementation of succession planning, and development within the limitations of resources, is recognised.

The sanctuary is a not only a centre of excellence for donkey welfare, but also a beacon of hope in our fragmented world. Therapeutic interactions between the gentle, humble donkeys and visitors each with their own needs and challenges, remind us daily that humility is not a weakness, but strength.  Come and look deep into a wise donkey’s eyes – but you will have to kneel.

In May 2010, the sanctuary was contacted by a concerned animal-lover, who had visited a wine farm near Paarl, where there was a “petting zoo”. Here she had seen a collection of animals, including pigs, goats, sheep, ponies and five donkeys, living in a tiny space, knee-deep in filth.

The sanctuary approached the owner and persuaded him, with some difficulty, to sign the donkeys over to Eseltjiesrus. We did not have space to accommodate them at the sanctuary, and a “field of dreams” was found in Franschhoek, near expert veterinary care.

For eight months a team of volunteers cared for the little family, winning their trust and accustoming them to regular handling and care. Hooves were trimmed by a farrier, and medication was administered, where needed. The little herd grew glossy and confident. Ziggy was one of the youngest members of this family.

When the group were ready to be re-homed, they were placed in foster homes, and Ziggy came to the sanctuary.

Ziggy is now a pleasing example of how important it is to handle young donkeys from early on: she is friendly and trusting, bold, confident and inquisitive. She is an interesting example of a long-haired donkey.

Although she was never a working cart donkey, she does have work to do at the sanctuary. Her mission in life is to show humans how charming well-handled donkeys are, and how donkeys that are correctly cared for, can teach us so much.

Caring for donkeys

Donkeys are often the forgotten species in animal welfare, accorded inferior status by the public and many welfare organizations. Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in South Africa stands as a beacon of hope for better lives for these humble animals, promoting their welfare and status through a number of different avenues.


At the sanctuary, rescued donkeys live out their lives in a peaceful setting, receiving best quality daily care. They no longer work for people; they now work with people, intuitively recognising humans in need. Under the watchful eyes of our trained guides, visitors may meet the donkeys. Every visitor leaves the sanctuary as a Donkey Ambassador, sensitised and better informed. At the same time the sanctuary offers a pocket of peace for the donkeys and visitors.


We network closely with organisations with similar goals. We have established a communication platform Donkeys for Africa, for organisations throughout Africa working towards improved donkey welfare, with a quarterly newsletter carrying information about shared problems, solutions, projects and challenges. See and

All in all, Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary has established itself as a respected centre for promoting donkey welfare through a number of different avenues. This is made possible through the generous support of the public and impeccable governance by the Board of this registered charity. and  email:





Get To Know Dr. Tammy Talbot

Working with animals has always been a passion of mine. Ever since I can remember, I had wanted to be an “animal doctor”. I was lucky enough to grow up in a small coastal town in KZN and spent many a weekend on my Uncle’s farm, enjoying the outdoor activities and wildlife.

Like most vets, I qualified from Onderstepoort and ventured out into the world with great ambitions and a drive for experience- which I was very fortunate to obtain. My first job was at a mixed animal practice in the North West Province. It was here that I learned to expect everything and refuse nothing. No two days were ever the same, from arriving at work with a horse waiting in the parking lot, to a day spent out on farms doing game capture. It was also a great opportunity for me to develop my surgical skills (a passion of mine) and to gain the invaluable experience that would form the foundation of my future career.

But like all good things, they need to come to an end and so my husband and I decide to follow our dream and move back home to KZN. Off we went, with our 3 dogs and cat in tow, and we made ourselves a new home in KZN.  I took this opportunity to do some locum work at numerous practices extending from the South Coast, up to Durban North, and met some great vets and people along the way, once again broadening my knowledge and understanding of the profession.

After a few short years, I was lucky enough to be able to find a practice for sale not far from my home town. With the support of my husband and family, a dream of mine to be a practice owner, was finally accomplished.

Not long after the acquisition of the Seadoone Veterinary Clinic, I was blessed to find out that I was pregnant with our first child, a little boy (who is now known very well by all our staff and clients). A new but exciting challenge awaited us. I have been very blessed to be able to be a full time mom, vet and practice owner.

Veterinary is a very unique profession; in fact, I would go as far as saying that veterinary is a lifestyle rather than a career.  Every aspect of your daily life incorporates your clients and your patients. You may leave your patients in the hospital at the end of the day but they are still with you when you go home, the endless thoughts of, ‘how can I do more,’ or the late night research to ensure that your patient is getting the best possible treatment. I like to think of my patients as part of the Seadoone family rather than my patients, after all some of them were born right here with us and continue to be a valued part of the family for many years.

When I embarked on the journey to study veterinary science, I never imagined the significant difference that I would be able to make. And no one quite prepares you for the emotional roller-coaster that you experience on a daily basis. Your day is always very unpredictable, which is one of the reasons that I love this profession.

Meet Hank! – Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative

Late in June 2018, the Camdeboo Sterilisation Initiative (CSI) was contacted by a kind person who was taking her domestic worker back home to the township, when she noticed a dog being tied at the side of the road, with a group of children gathered around it. She stopped to investigate what was going on, upon which the children ran away.

She could see that the dog was hurt, as it was bleeding from the nose and also had minor wounds on its body. Taking action, she loaded the dog into her car and took it into the local Vet, as CSI had agreed to cover any costs involved, and to take over the care of the dog, going forward.

What met us upon arrival at the Vet, was heartbreaking; a mangy, bleeding bag of bones, yet still wagging his tail, upon hearing a kind voice, despite the ordeal that he had just suffered at the hands of man. We often just stand in awe at the amazing forgiving creatures that dogs can be. How soon so many of them just simply trust again. Yes, we do get the broken souls who sometimes take weeks, months or even years to heal, but as a rule, I have not seen a species as forgiving and not prone to grudges, as dogs.

We named him Hank. Hank spent a day at the Vet being checked out and was kept for observation. He was diagnosed with ehrlichia and possible blunt force trauma to his face and, of course, mange and starvation, which was very obvious and visible. He also had a bad case of worm infestation.

Hank was taken into foster care by CSI, given medication for his ehrlichia and weekly medicated dips and baths for his mange and, of course, loads of TLC and three high quality meals a day. We knew that Hank was a special boy right from the start. He very soon realized that he could trust us and was just so undemanding and grateful for every little bit of love, attention, food and treat that he got. Also, he was such a good boy when being dipped and bathed, as if realizing that we were trying to help him. He picked up weight from 9 to 15 kg and is now a happy and healthy boy.

With his mange being contagious, he had to be quarantined for the 1st month, while being treated. He just took everything in his stride, seemed quite happy in his enclosure with his kennel, and being covered with a warm blanket at bed time – oh, he LOVED his blankie. We introduced him to playing with a tennis ball and he almost immediately grasped what was expected of him and now loves playing fetch. He will run back to you and hold the ball very lightly in his mouth for you to retrieve and throw again. We do suspect some Border collie in the mix. We also gave him a soft doggy toy which he nuzzles and plays with very gently, and sleeps with in his kennel, but not destroying it, like many dogs have the tendency to do with soft toys. He is just such a gentle soul.

After the mange had cleared, we slowly introduced him to members of the pack, one or two at a time. He was an absolute gem, with very good social skills, and, very soon, started playing with the rest of the pack. He became a hit, especially, with the ladies, be that canine or human. Come feeding time and I was on my way to Hank’s enclosure, I had the girl dogs lined up wanting to come with me to go visit Hank and play with him. He was always very excited when I brought him some doggie company and so we soon started calling him “Hank the Hunk”.

This most special boy with a heart of gold, holds no grudges and has an awesome personality. He is up for adoption to a very special home. He is kind and loving, yet not overly demanding. He does this little “dance”, prancing around when excited, earning him the nick name of “Twinkle Toes” from his foster Mom. Yet he is never boisterous. He is not a barker, except when he has reason to tell you something. He has moved into the home among the pack of various males and females in his foster home and gets on very well with everyone. He is most content to sleep in his doggie bed in the bedroom with his foster parents. We are sure he will enjoy cuddling with you under the duvet on a cold winter’s night, if given the opportunity, but, knowing that this is not allowed in all homes, we are not encouraging this.

Hank is one of those dogs that leaves a paw print on your heart, that is never forgotten, and would easily have been adopted by his foster home, had it not been that we just want the best home in the world for him, where he can be the centre of attention, or at least part of a smaller pack, where his gentle soul is not smothered a little by the many (some hooligans) that he has to share his foster home with. We believe him to be intelligent and highly trainable – a true asset to any home and humans that will be part of his journey going forward.

6 weeks after Hank was rescued, another dog was found tied up and stoned to death at the exact same spot that Hank was rescued from. We dread to think that this might possibly have been his fate, had someone not driven past and been vigilant enough to stop, and investigate and take action. The latest case is currently under investigation and the same perpetrators are suspected in both cases.

If you think you might be that special person or family to complete Hank’s Happy Tale, and can offer him a forever loving home, please contact 072 1762 175 or . His story can also be viewed on our Face Book Page

Sparked By Fire – Garden Route Birds

During June 2017, a horrific fire ripped through the Garden Route destroying over 1000 homes, claiming 7 lives and wiping out around 18 000 hectares of forest and fynbos.


As the smoke cleared and aid began flooding in for people, pets and livestock, it occurred to me that it wasn’t only people who had lost their homes but wildlife as well. I noticed a huge influx of birds in my parent’s garden fighting over the feeders and consuming far more food than usual. I thought that we could encourage people to feed the hungry birds that had obviously moved into the unburnt areas and were now competing for food. But in the wake of such a disaster, where people had lost everything, how do you ask them to go and buy something as seemingly trivial as a birdfeeder?


I decided to email as many companies as I could and ask for assistance. The response was rather dismal, except for one lady who phoned me almost immediately wanting to help. Elaine, from Elaine’s Birding and Wildlife Products, initially said that she had 85 feeders that she would like to send me and I was absolutely delighted. As the enormity of the disaster sank in, Elaine’s generosity grew and I think she ended up sending us well over 400 feeders, 100 nectar bottles, nesting boxes and a mountain of suet! A truly incredible donation from one company! This later inspired donations from other amazing individuals which allowed us to purchase more feeders and additional food.


The next hurdle was getting everything here from Pretoria as all means of transport were flooded. Thankfully Spartan Trucks came to the party and managed to keep everything aside for us so it didn’t get lost in the masses of general donations.


We then appealed to people on Facebook to become “Feeder Guardians” and remain committed to keeping the feeders stocked and birds fed, using The Computer Shop Plett and Knysna as distribution points. The response was quite overwhelming with so many people wanting to help our littlest fire victims. People who had lost everything came to collect feeders knowing that the birds had lost their homes too.


For about 4 months we fed in unimaginable amounts, sometimes up to 15 liters of nectar a day in one garden alone! Our guardians were all inundated with hungry birds and were battling to keep up, so we also facilitated additional donations of fruit, sugar, seed, mealworms and even nesting bags of feathers to help the birds as breeding season arrived.


The most wonderful part was the amount of joy that the birds were bringing people during a dark and difficult time. They gave people a reason to get up in the morning and realize that there is in fact life after the fires. If the birds could come back and carry on amongst all the devastation, then we could too. We received messages from people saying that they’d been battling with depression after the fires and the birds had brought them back to life!


We suddenly had a whole community filled with compassion and besotted with the birds, and people had so many questions wanting to know more about them and how we could best take care of them. I had no previous knowledge of birds and thankfully Dr Mark Brown from Nature’s Valley Trust, a well-respected ornithologist (and the most patient man I know!) was willing to assist. He has been unbelievably supportive and a huge help, offering valuable knowledge and advice whenever we needed it.


“Mother Nature is the ultimate truth that the show must go on” ~ Terri Guillemets


There is a quote that says, “Mother Nature is the ultimate truth that the show must go on” and after a few months and some good rain, nature started to recover. By mid-spring we started to see some regrowth, spring flowers were in bloom and the demand for food started to decrease as the birds returned to nature! I think it was a bitter sweet moment for our guardians as they so enjoyed having the birds visiting, but at the same time it was wonderful to know that they weren’t dependent on us anymore.


Mark noticed the wonderful awareness that our Facebook page was generating and decided to join me as admin as we transitioned from Garden Route Bird Relief to a more long-term page for birds.


Since then, the page has grown with so much support and enthusiasm from our followers. We try to keep the page fun, lighthearted and interactive, offering a fresh approach to birds, but at the same time offering important advice and sound knowledge that is backed by science and research. We aim to make people more aware of the birds that share the beautiful Garden Route with us, highlight how to responsibly feed and enjoy them in our gardens, as well as raise awareness about the need to conserve and look after our birds and the environment in which they live.


“Many people ask the question “What can I do to help conserve our country’s birds?”. One of the easiest things one can do is introduce a family member, friend, colleague, or neighbour to birds.” ~ Mark Anderson CEO BirdLife South Africa.

We have lots of exciting ideas in the pipeline and really looking forward to the future of this page that the caring residents of the Garden Route have all helped to create while helping our birds when they desperately needed it!


Personally, I’d really want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to everyone who got involved in helping us, even in the smallest way! I always said that no one can help all the birds, but everyone can help some of the birds… and we did! Our Garden Route birds are so lucky to have so many caring people looking out for them.


Give us a Like and a Follow and come share the birds with us! @GardenRouteBirds

Buzz – by Pieter de Necker

Buzz arrived in our lives, very shy and very quiet. Tina Marie Mudd from “Rescue Me” had answered our request for a rescue German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) and brought Buzz around, having

found us suitable and he was left in our care, as forever parents. At first he ran around sniffing here and sniffing there, as dogs do when introduced to a new environment.

I noticed that he was very shy, and rather timid, but very obedient. He never ever looked me in the eyes. As the days became weeks Buzz became more confident in Bets and I, and very slowly settled into our daily routine.

At first, Buzz ignored our older doggies, which are 16 years old and still in very good health. Buzz would run with the pack, but kept quiet and to himself.

Bets and I were wondering if Buzz had a voice, since he never, ever barked. Then, one evening, we heard a strange dog barking… I rushed outside and saw Buzz peering into the distance.

“Buzz, did you just bark?” I asked him. He turned, and for the first time in two months looked at me, very briefly, and wagged his tail ever so slightly.

This super-super-super-super intelligent boy, in the first month, never played, never really relaxed. It was as if he had worn a mask of rigidity his whole life. The scars on his back and stomach revealed the discipline he had received from his previous masters. By now I knew every square millimeter of Buzz. (Even below his tail, I promise…) Through the past seven months, it has taken tremendous effort to coax him out from behind his mask.  NOW, YOU SEE IT IN THE EYES… Buzz has become a friendly, soft, puppy in a huge body, playful and joyful, and has caused me to burst out laughing more than ever when he starts his clown routine. CATS? In the beginning, he had a tendency to seek the cats – three months later, after some stern words, maybe three warnings, the cats and Buzz sleep next to each other.
We found out by total accident how terrified he is of any object held high. One day, Bets was swatting a fly in the kitchen, Buzz was present. When he saw the swatter he cringed, tucked in his tail, pulled in his bum and quickly, in a cringing attitude became scarce, with a terrified look in his caramel eyes. This tells me he had been beaten…
Bets and I have played with Buzz for hours at a time every day over the past eight months. Slowly he has become more relaxed and confident, by the glances we received.

As Buzz made his way into our lives with humongous joy and bags full of laughter, he would produce a glittering diamond by way of a gift to us. No due notices, no hesitating manners. All of a sardine, he would, one day, out of the blue, step forward and totally surprise us , nay, floor the both of us, leaving both Bets and I speechless and astounded!!

Now, we look at each other as good friends, buddies, and hunting mates. He does not challenge me, nor do I challenge him.
Out of his own, when I use certain intonations of my voice, he grabs his sleeping pillow and shakes it about while prancing around like a horse with a baboon shaped tail. I am so pleased he did not have his tail chopped off. His tail tells stories, his mindset, his character, instincts, everything. He understands whispered instructions to the hilt and I have found myself feeling a bit odd by his sixth sense. He does a job before I tell him – not always though, but when he does…

One Sunday we took Buzz out on a special picnic day to Vaaloewer. Buzz said I must tell you he had an excellent day… first sniffing out and seeking a pair of otters, then he sniffed out and pointed to a monitor lizard of about 1 meter. He actually chased the lizard up a tree. Standing upright, as far as he could stretch against the tree trunk, he barked in a very feminine voice at the lizard. I swam with Buzz and he swam on his own, running, playing and eating like you could not believe. Going home, Buzz had a great snooze.

Having become used to our daily routine, I now know Buzz can read time. He talks to the neighbor’s dogs at 6H30. He greets the gardener, the maid and the propeller workers every single morning by means of a stiff, trembling tail. He will eye each and every one of them, and only give the tail-up, wagging signal that all is A-OK and checked out thoroughly, after having had a deep and thoughtful sniff of each person’s, butt. Yep, I get “the look” as he trots by, highly satisfied that his own personal kingdom’s servants are all in good working order for the day ahead.


Every day I get nudged round about 4 o’clock… so, we collect a pop gun whilst he leads, excited for the “hunt”. He runs ahead, straight to our “hide” (which I chopped out amongst our overgrown Aloes). Being a gentleman, he lets me enter first and patiently sees to it that I make myself comfortable. He then settles down next to me and takes his “ Royal Highness” place. Next, we compete for the best view through the aloes. Shaking like a leaf, he peers through the Aloes pointing here, then there, unwavering. I  take the pop gun and aim while he becomes stiff and rigid instantaneously. His pupils widen to maximum and the most intent expression is etched on his face. There we shall stay for an hour until the “hunt” is over. Sometimes, Bets will hide in another place, holding his rubber chicken. As soon as the shot sounds, she chucks the chicken high into the air and Buzz will race off to fetch his “catch of the day”.

SPAR must be Buzz’s favourite grocer, no doubt about it. Why?

Coming home from SPAR, Buzz accompanied, as he would view it, the “hunting wagon”. Bets parked the car and Buzz sauntered around the wheels, sniffing here, then there. As the boot was opened he stood by, to attention, waiting for the servant (that’s Bets, by the way…) to dig out the day’s hunt – a SPAR grocery bag filled with all types of goodies. Without hesitation, he gently, but firmly, took a bag, ON HIS OWN, no prompting, not a word from us, gathered the biggest mouthful of plastic and trotted up the stairs, into the kitchen and set it down carefully.

You could have knocked us over with a feather duster…


There is a catch to this story, however… Buzz lets the side down by being as corrupt as one can get.  He will plonk his behind down, give you the dead eye stare, bag firmly clasped in doggy teeth. Every expression reads: “NO DOGGIE BISCUIT – NO BAG!!”

End of story. One may plead, beg, scold, do or say what one wants… the bag stays put!

However, produce a doggie biscuit and an amicable exchange takes place. One cookie, one released bag. Satisfied that he has been “ paid-off” one cookie right there, and he will trot back to the car, collect one more bag, to once again return to the kitchen (where his corrupt side will once again sneak out and become victorious).

I can’t express how much love, joy and laughter Buzz has brought into our lives… and we can hardly wait to find what other surprises he has in store.


He has, by now, become a relaxed and fairly obedient, very loving gentlemen, and sweetheart with the softest lips, when taking a doggy cookie from our hands. What a gift!!! A gift from God and the GSP Rescue Me people!!!!!





Fascinating Crocodile Facts

  • The first crocodiles appeared around 240 million years ago, at the same time when dinosaurs appeared. The prehistoric ancestors of crocodiles were much bigger than today’s counterparts.
  • They are members of the order Crocodilia, which also includes caimans, gharials and alligators.
  • They can be found in tropic areas of Australia, Africa, America and Asia with the exception of Europe.
  • There are 23 species of crocodiles and most of them are endangered because of poaching.
  • Crocodiles have a more longer, pointed snouts than alligators, and their top and bottom jaw are the same size
  • Crocodiles are aquatic reptiles that live in fresh water, lakes, rivers, brackish water (mix between salty and fresh water).
  • They are among the most feared carnivores on Earth, because of their size, big powerful jaws and aggressiveness.
  • Like other reptiles, crocodiles are cold-blooded and cannot generate their own heat.
  • They have a very slow metabolism, which allows them to survive long periods without food. They can survive many months on a single large meal.
  • During colder months, they hibernate or go dormant.
  • For the purpose of hibernation, crocodiles need to dig burrows in river banks. They tuck in there and go in for a long sleep (i.e. aestivation – a state similar to hibernation).
  • Despite being classified as “reptiles”, crocodiles (and all crocodilians, including alligators) are more closely related to dinosaurs and birds (which are actually avian dinosaurs) than to most animals classified as reptiles.
  • The eyes, nose and ears are high up on the top of the skull, so that the crocodile can be almost completely submerged, yet still hear, see and breathe.
  • While submerged, a protective membrane closes over a crocodile’s eyes – like swimming goggles.
  • Crocodile’s skin is highly appreciated in fashion industry and represents a status symbol for wealthy people.
  • Saltwater crocodiles are the biggest reptiles in the world. The largest one ever found was 6.17 meters long and can weigh up to 907 kg.
  • Smallest crocodile species is Dwarf Crocodile which can reach up to 1.7 meters in length and weighs 6 to 7 kilograms.
  • They are amphibious reptiles, spending part of their time in water and part on land.
  • Although the saltwater crocodile and the American crocodile are able to swim out to sea, no living species of crocodilian can be considered truly marine.
  • Crocodiles have webbed feet which allow them to make fast turns and sudden moves in the water or initiate swimming.
  • Crocodiles are very fast swimmers with the help of their powerful tail, which helps them catch their prey.
  • They can swim between 15 – 32 km/h and can hold their breath underwater for around one hour.
  • Their maximum speed is 19 km/h on land, and for a very short distance (around 20-25 meters), when they “belly run”.
  • They have 24 sharp teeth which are meant to grasp and crush, not chew.
  • When a crocodile loses a tooth, it is quickly replaced. These reptiles can go through 8,000 teeth over a lifetime.
  • Crocodiles are meat-eaters (carnivores).
  • Crocodiles are called ambush predators, because they wait until their prey comes close to them and then they rush out and attack.
  • They’re diet consists of fish, birds, rats, snakes and smaller mammals.
  • Some kinds of crocodiles are able to hunt larger types of animals such as deer, wild boar, and even buffalo.
  • They will hunt their prey, make a grab for them, and, instead of killing them outright, will drag them underwater until they are drowned. Once the prey is dead, the crocodile will bring it up to the surface of the water to consume.
  • Typically, they will only eat around 50 full meals a year. Most of the time they fast. This is especially true of nesting females who do not eat at all during this entire period.
  • Crocodiles don’t chew their food. They tear apart flesh and swallow large chunks of meat.
  • Many large crocodilians swallow stones, which may act as ballast to balance their bodies or assist in crushing food, similar to grit ingested by birds.
  • Crocodiles have an extremely acidic stomach, which helps them to easily digest bones, hooves, and horns.
  • They have one of the strongest bites in the animal world.
  • Muscles which induce closing of the jaw are much stronger than muscles which open the jaw. Because of that, people can use their bare hands to keep their mouth closed.
  • They don’t have sweat glands. The only way they cool off is by releasing heat through their mouths. That’s the reason why they keep their mouth open and sleep with their mouths open.
  • Crocodiles really do produce tears. Because, while eating, they swallow too much air, which gets in touch with lachrymal glands (glands that produce tears) and forces tears to flow.
  • Only crocodile’s belly has a gentle skin. Skin on their back contains bony structures (called osteoderms).
  • Contrary to the common myth, crocodile skin (and also alligator skin) is not bulletproof.
  • Crocodiles have the most sophisticated heart in the animal kingdom, and actively change the destination of blood that flows through it depending on requirements.
  • Crocodiles have excellent eyesight (night vision ). Their eyes can be seen as red dots while peeking from the water during the night.
  • They also have very good sense of smell, so they can smell animals from miles away.
  • Crocodiles have a valve at the back of their throat allowing them to open their jaw underwater.
  • Surprisingly, crocodiles are very social animals that prefer to live near each other.
  • Crocodiles display increased aggressiveness during the mating season, which is linked to the monsoon.
  • The males are territorial, patrolling and defending a length of shoreline that may extend up to 50 meters out into the water.
  • Female lays 20-80 eggs and take care of them 3 months.
  • A baby Crocodile is called a Hatchling.
  • The hatchlings stay in their eggs for 55 to 110 days. They are 17.8 to 25.4 centimeters long when they are born and don’t mature until they are 4 to 15 years.
  • Temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby. When temperature is 31.6 degrees Celsius – males will develop. Temperature below and above 31.6 degrees induces development of females.
  • Most of the young crocodiles (some sources gives a percent as high as 99%) are eaten in their first year of life – by other predators like lizards, other larger crocodiles, hyenas, and even fish.
  • Crocodiles carry their babies to the water in their mouth.
  • Baby crocodiles can make noises from inside their eggs before they hatch. The mother can hear their voices, then digs up the eggs from the sand, and takes the hatchlings to the water.
  • Most crocodiles live 50-60 years in the wild. Some crocodiles can live more than 80 years.
  • They have an average lifespan of at least 30–40 years and in the case of larger species an average of 60–70 years.


Meet Dr, Roselle Hartwigsen

Dr Roselle Hartwigsen BSc, BVSc, CVA

Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life. Helping animals came naturally to me from a  very early age growing up on a farm. I never had a shadow of a doubt that being a veterinarian is my calling. I was blessed with the ability and means to pursue my passion and qualified from Onderstepoort in 2011.

During  short externship at the Dubai Equine hospital I was exposed to veterinary acupuncture. A endurance horse was suffering from severe back pain and no conventional therapy was able to alleviate his pain or diagnose the problem. The senior veterinarian decided to treat the patient with acupuncture. It worked! The horse was pain free within two weeks after months of suffering.  My interest in complementary therapies was triggered and after a year of studying at the Chi Institute of Europe I became certified in Veterinary acupuncture.

It has become my mission to integrate conventional veterinary medicine with acupuncture and herbal medicine. This provides me with more treatment options for each patient and allow the treatment of patients where hope is almost lost. I am very privileged to work as part of an fantastic team of veterinary professionals at Bergbos Animal Clinic in Rustenburg.  At Bergbos the care of our patients is an absolute priority and by combining excellent conventional and complementary therapies we can offer  more treatment options than the average practice for every patient. At Bergbos Animal Clinic we treat everything from dogs, cats, reptiles, birds to horses, cattle and a variety of wildlife. The variety of patients guarantee that no day at the clinic is ever boring.

Since 2017 I have had the honour of acting as the director for the Chi Institute of TCVM (Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine) in Africa. We are a branch from the main campus situated in Florida USA.  As director I am responsible for training veterinarians in Acupuncture, herbal medicine and food therapy through the Chi Institute of TCVM.

I am also the representative for South Africa in the WATCVM (World association of TCVM). I use my position on the board of directors to create awareness on the poaching of Rhinos and the slaughtering of lions and donkeys for so called medicine among my international peers. I am passionate about stopping the exploitation of our animal kingdom.

Being a “different” kind of veterinarian that practises complementary medicine has been challenging, especially in finding respect for the field amongst some conventional veterinarians. But, with research  validating what we as complementary veterinarians have been seeing with our treatments, more and more veterinarians are turning to acupuncture and herbal medicine to help their patients when conventional medicine fail. I hope to be of some help in teaching and guiding my fellow vets as they explore these fields of study.

Often the question is asked:”Do you love what you do?”. My answer is a definite Yes. I love my patients, I love my clients. I love the satisfaction of helping animals and easing their suffering. No job is without challenges and I face mine head on. Always hoping to use my knowledge and skills  and be a small ray of healing light in every situation.






Ask The Vet – Dr. Travis Gray

My dog was diagnosed with cancer. I’ve heard very good things about people giving their dogs Cannabis Oil with wonderful results. Some people also give it to their animals with other pain related issues. Please tell me about the advantages and disadvantages of giving my dog Cannabis Oil.


Cannabis oil contains Cannabidiol (or CBD), which is an extract of the cannabis plant which does not have psychotropic effects. Research into the therapeutic benefits of CBD in human medicine has undergone an incredible surge in recent years. There is even an academic journal dedicated only to articles involving the use of clinical cannabis!

Naturally, if there is any merit to the claims of CBD helping with cancer and pain, we would want our animal companions to benefit as well. A recent article by two researchers at UC Davis School of veterinary medicine found that in a survey of 632 consumers; 93% of respondents believed that CBD infused treats worked equal to or better than conventional pain therapy. This, however, is evidence based on owner experience. There are very few controlled clinical trials which investigate the safety and efficacy of short and long-term use of CBD in dogs.

Going back to the original question; nobody knows for sure. There are many stories of miraculous returns to good quality of life after starting CBD oil. There are also reports of adverse reactions and toxicities. Unfortunately, with so many knowledge gaps and poor regulation of the product, most vets would hesitate to recommend CBD oil. This question can only be answered once further research has been done.


We are moving soon and my dogs can already sense that something is happening with all the packing going on. What can we do to make sure this is a stress-free move for them? Too often I’ve heard of behavioural change in animals when people move. What is the best way to make sure they settle in fast to our new home?


If you want to reduce this stress as much as possible, you must keep your dogs’ routine as unchanged as possible. This means: meals at around the same time as normal, preceded by a walk, if that is what your dog is accustomed to. Taking your dogs for a few walks at their new home before the move would help them familiarize themselves with their new environment.

During the move, either keep your dogs with you, or keep them enclosed in an area they are accustomed to until you are ready to be with them at the new house. Kennelling your pets at this time will only add to their stress, so avoid that option if possible. It would also be wise to make sure that your dog has a form of identification such as a collar, microchip or (ideally) both in case they are able to escape and get lost during the moving process.

Keep all of your dog’s old beds, blankets and toys for them to have in their new home. Remember your pre-move routine and continue as before. Over-the-counter calming remedies may be of some benefit. Sprays and collars containing Dog Appeasing Pheromone could also be used to reduce anxiety levels. Most importantly; be calm and patient with your dogs, spend good quality time with them through the whole process, and they will adapt smoothly.


It’s flu season and my whole family is sick. Should I be worried about any of our pets getting sick or catching a cold? Is it possible for a cat or dog to catch a cold or flu, and if so how can we avoid it?

The good news is that the chances of your dogs and cats catching a disease from one of the human family members is incredibly slim. Just like us, though, cold weather tends to weaken our pets’ immune systems and make it easier for them to pick up bugs. The best way to help your furry kids healthy this winter is by feeding them a good quality diet, keeping them warm, and spending quality time with them to boost their happiness and relieve stress.

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