When animal rescuers responded to a call from a school, the last thing they expected was to assist a dog buried up to her neck in sand. Close to death and unable to free herself due to her disability, the canine victim was saved from the jaws of death moments before they snapped shut.
South Africa has hundreds of thousands of stray dogs. Warrior, as she came to be known, was just one of the homeless, overlooked and unloved pooches. But despite being partially paralyzed she managed to scavenge enough food to survive.
Warrior dragged herself around Cape Town’s streets and schools in a bid to get fed, but even though she was harmless and friendly some people found her presence offensive. One of them was a man called Manono Makhaphela.
Makhaphela was the principal of Luhlaza Secondary School, where Warrior regularly visited in search of food. When her barking and scavenging proved a “nuisance” he ordered two janitors to “get rid” of her by burying her in a ditch. While she was alive.
The janitors dug a hole five feet deep before carrying out the rest of their orders. Unable to escape from the heavy sand, all Warrior – whose head remained above the surface – could do was yelp and bark for help. Thankfully her predicament was witnessed by the school’s shocked kitchen staff.
One of the kitchen’s cleaners phoned Mdzananda Animal Clinic and explained, in a panic, what had happened to the dog. By this point Warrior had been suffering for 20 long minutes. She wouldn’t be able to survive for much longer.
Fortunately the rescuers arrived just in time. An alive Warrior was exhumed and taken to the clinic by her rescuers, where she received a thorough checkup. Vets discovered that the dog’s partial paralysis was caused by a fractured spine that had been sustained when she was young.
It was at the clinic that the tenacious dog was named Warrior. She received a number of treatments during her time there, including acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Vets also helped her improve her mobility.
Warrior spent a few months at the clinic, where her fractured spine was seen to. While she was there her story was picked up by Helen Walne, one of its board members and, as it happened, a local news reporter.
Walne was so moved by the terrible episode Warrior had suffered that she decided to pay the dog’s medical bills. She also offered the dog a permanent home once she had fully recovered.
Walne made good on her promise. Warrior didn’t just get a new home, she received a new name, too – Lily. This dog, which had been through so much, was finally getting a real shot at life.
The support from the Mdzananda Animal Clinic didn’t end there. It sent patches of fabric to its donors, asking each to be returned with a message of support for Lily. If enough came back the rescued pooch would have a personalized winter blanket to snuggle up to.
Amazingly the clinic received 3,000 patches from all over the world – each lovingly signed with a heartfelt message of love and support. Once Lily’s blanket was made there were enough leftover patches to make additional blankets for other animals in need.
Lily’s harrowing tale brought the plight of homeless dogs and their mistreatment into the public realm. Her story is one of survival, and even though her name has changed she retains the soul of a warrior.
Today Lily is safe and enjoying life with her new owner, but what of the people who buried her alive? Poto Mfengu and Mkhumbuzi Ncedana, the two janitors, were fired from their positions and convicted of animal cruelty.
Both were also required to serve 150 hours’ community service at Mdzananda Animal Clinic. “I’m so glad to see she is fine,” Mfengu told South African news site IOL after once again laying eyes on the dog. “I never wanted to do what I did… I was desperate to keep my job.”
Another employee at Luhlaza Secondary School also lost their job – Bukelwa Mbulawa, the cleaner whose call saved Lily’s life. Principal Makhaphela claimed her firing had nothing to do with her going against his wishes that day.
Makhaphela, for his part, was arrested and temporarily imprisoned after being reported by Mdzananda Animal Clinic. He was later ordered to complete a humane education scheme or risk having a permanent criminal record.
On finishing the program the principal told News24 that he now understands that every animal “deserves life.” He admitted that, because of his upbringing, he hadn’t thought animals were for companionship; rather, that they were to eat or to help protect territory.
Lily’s story, then, is one with a happy ending. Not only has this once-stray dog been given a new life after her harrowing ordeal, she’s also helped educate those who orchestrated it – and change them for the better.