A truly inspiring organisation helps not only underprivileged four-legged friends – but a whole community, writes Katrine Anker-Nilssen.
Every Sunday morning a bunch of committed animal-loving individuals head down into the Indanda Valley to feed and care for over a thousand dogs. While their main aim is improving the health of the valley dogs and educating the owners on how to take care of and manage their pets, they are also making a huge impact by supporting and motivating the community’s two-legged members.
Motorbike enthusiast Anthony Asher-Wood grew up in Hillcrest and has run his business here for 35 years. Spending a lot of time riding in the valley, he saw so many dogs that were starving and sick. “I decided to put something back into the community from where I got so much pleasure riding my bike,” he says. In 2015, together with Danielle Jorre, he started KZN Valley Dogs – today a registered NPO.
“The first time we went to feed we couldn’t seem to find any dogs and the community was very suspicious of us, but we kept at it and each time more and more dogs came to eat,” says Ant. “It was tough at first to get sponsors and volunteers, but once people saw the impact it had – we were able to get them on board.”
Carolyn Pierrot, born in Zambia but relocating to the Upper Highway area as a young child, went to school with Ant. “We have known each other for over 40 years, and I joined him and Danielle at Valley Dogs just a month after they initiated the charity.”
The NPO has since then grown in leaps and bounds. “From just feeding a few dogs from one vehicle an hour a week, we now feed over 1 000 dogs, numerous cats, chickens and goats, use three vehicles doing three separate routes – which takes around five hours to complete every Sunday,” says Carolyn. “We also offer vet care and on-site medical care, and run sterilisation clinics as well as vaccination drives whenever possible.”
Valley Dogs now has six full-time volunteers and six part-time, not including the kids from the community who assist as well. Carolyn, who works full-time for an abrasives company, says she couldn’t do it without her supportive husband Mark. “He drives for one of the routes with our longest-standing volunteer and absolute angel Salome Meyer Lourens – who also runs The Silver Paws Senior Sanctuary, which takes in elderly dogs that have nowhere else to go.”
The team prepares all week for Sunday. “We make prepacks of dog, cat and chicken food which gets handed out to the more needy homes to see them through the week. We also sort out our first aid boxes and refill supplies,” says Carolyn. “Saturday is spent cooking 20kgs rice, 100kgs bone meal and MDM, and 50 litres gravy. We use 320kgs dry dog food for the onsite feeding, and another 120kgs for the prepacks. Over and above this we use 30-40kgs cat food as well as tins and sachets, and 20kgs chicken food.”
Each route feeds around 300 to 500 dogs, and is made up of various stops ranging from a couple of dogs to 50 plus. “Mostly it’s very uplifting, but we do have sad days when we deal with sick or injured animals. We become extremely attached to the animals and their owners,” says Carolyn. The dog owners know the routine, and often walk for hours to get to a feeding point in order for their dogs to get a good weekly meal.
“We also assist the community with food parcels, when possible, and have helped a number of people with health issues,” says Carolyn. The team also receive donations of clothing, shoes and toys which they distribute where it’s most needed, and have built shelters for the animals, supplied kennels, and assisted with housing for a destitute family.
Danielle, who runs a small wood shavings business, does school talks for Valley Dogs, handles meetings with donors, and organise and run fundraising events. “I am so proud of our team and how much everyone contributes to our charity project,” she says. “Valley Dogs has grown so much more than we could have ever imagined.”
Carolyn says Valley Dogs has made her far more appreciative of what she has, and realise that the animals in the valley are very much loved by their owners. “It’s so rewarding seeing the proud looks on the kids’ faces when we compliment them on the condition of their animals, and seeing dogs that were in a bad way respond to the nutrition and the medical care. There is nothing like being greeted on a Sunday by hundreds of dogs that are so happy to see you.”
Ant adds that Valley Dogs has made him a better person. “Seeing the dogs and kids waiting and running after the van to greet us is the best thing in world,” he says. “I hope Valley Dogs can inspire others to do the same in their communities. Never give and expect in return, but give from your heart.”
FOR MORE INFO:
- Facebook: KZN Valley Dogs
- 083 330 0210
|Thank You, Sponsors:
||How Can You Help?