Veterinarians are faced with difficult choices every day when it comes to euthanizing animals. However, when the owners of this dog asked that he be put to sleep, it must have raised a few eyebrows. After all, the only reason the owners gave was that the dog was “yucky.”
When a dog called Nik-Nak came through the South African veterinary doors in early 2016, the receptionist was disgusted. But it wasn’t because of the dog. No, the problem was the owners’ attitudes.
The dog, estimated to be around seven years old, was clearly ill, but his owners didn’t seem concerned for his welfare. No, the owners were there to have the dog put down. In fact, according to the animal rescue website Sidewalk Specials, the owners were angry that their dog got sick.
“He’s yucky – put him to sleep,” Nik-Nak’s humans reportedly told veterinary staff. Unfortunately, Nik-Nak was already showing obvious signs of neglect. Indeed, the poor dog had contracted both illness and injury, and the owners seemed to have done nothing to prevent it.
Nik-Nak even had a broken leg – potentially a sign of physical abuse. It was definitely neglectful of the owner not to get it fixed. Yet it wasn’t the only indication of the dog’s ill treatment. Based on his malnutrition, he was clearly underfed too.
But perhaps the most obvious sign of Nik-Nak’s suffering was his skin condition: he had a suspected case of mange. Sadly, it was this condition that led his owner to label him as too “yucky” to live. Sidewalk Specials even affectionately described the poor little dog as “crispy.”
That is to say that his face was covered in scabs. But unaware of the reason for Nik-Nak’s condition, his owners thought the dog might contaminate his furbaby siblings. So, instead of asking for medical advice or assistance, the owners wanted the dog dead. Of course, this wasn’t a reason the receptionist could accept.
In fact, the receptionist shouted at the suffering dog’s owners – but they had already made up their minds. Indeed, they left him in his cage at the clinic with no choice other than to accept his fate… Or at least, that’s how it seemed. But fate was smiling on Nik-Nak that day.
For once, being overlooked was a good thing for the crispy canine. When the secretary who stuck up for Nik-Nak was leaving work for the day, to her surprise she saw that the dog was still in his cage. It seemed that the busy vet had forgotten all about the euthanasia.
But not everyone was willing to see little Nik-Nak put to sleep; the secretary proved to be the dog’s first guardian angel. After all, she contacted Sidewalk Specials, a network of animal rescuers, to save him. The group’s founder, Rachel Sylvester, answered the call.
Sylvester was in the United Kingdom when the worried secretary contacted her. But despite not even being in the same country as the poor pooch, Sylvester was determined to help. Hence, she became Nik-Nak’s second guardian angel and appealed to the animal-loving online community.
Soon, word spread about the dog’s dreadful treatment. And so instead of having no one to care for him, Nik-Nak suddenly had several offers from people, each one happy to give him a home. Luckily, their intervention saved his life. For that reason, crispy Nik-Nak was spared the needle.
“It was an amazing relief,” an overjoyed Sylvester told News24 in January 2015. “Usually I would take the dog and oversee that it is placed in a safe forever or foster home,” she explained to the news channel.
“But even though I was out of the country, our network stepped in and people were offering to help within seconds,” Sylvester explained. Consequently, Nik-Nak met his third guardian angel: Kamilla Nurock, a Cape Town local and TV producer. She volunteered to foster Nik-Nak for a week while he healed.
Indeed, she saw the urgency of Nik-Nak’s situation and couldn’t resist stepping in to help. So, after a bath from the big-hearted receptionist who had helped save his life, Nik-Nak was picked up by his new foster human. “When I collected him, he was in such a bad way,” Nurock explained.
Nurock added, “He was very malnourished and he had been through a lot.” Considering his condition, Nik-Nak was taken to Sea Point vet Dr. Rina Cotton, who diagnosed the crispy cutie with severe malnutrition. She also identified his skin condition as a tick and flea allergy – not mange, as was first thought.
After some love and care, Nik-Nak began to recover… but by then, Nurock had already fallen in love with him. “I had been looking for a rescue [dog] for a while,” she said. “But someone told me [you don’t choose the dog]. The dog chooses you.”
In the end, Nurock couldn’t bear to let Nik-Nak go, and his foster home became his forever home. His adopted mommy also gave him a new name to represent his fresh lease on life. Hence, Nik-Nak is now called Newman, named for Jerry Seinfeld’s rival in the sitcom Seinfeld.
“But he is no one’s enemy and he is fitting in quite nicely,” Nurock told News24. “[Newman] is very chilled and relaxed. He is so cute and his personality has started coming out.” However, it wasn’t just viral fame that Newman achieved. “He has become a celebrity here,” his mommy said.
Newman has since settled down in his new home and is enjoying life in a caring environment. His story shows that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks. Even when it seems like no one cares, there is always someone out there who will love you just the way you are.