In 2002 we had the very special privilege of bringing home the first two Huskies that Charnell had decided to buy from a pet shop. These were the early days when we were still very naïve. The cruelty of this world was unknown to us.

We were told by the pet shop assistant not to give the puppies milk as they had diarrhea. We very quickly realized that our male puppy, Reuben, had in fact come home with severe diarrhea, and more problems than we would have cared for. His sister, Cleo, fortunately recovered quickly after the initial veterinary intervention. However, Reuben’s illness persisted to the point that we were given the choice of putting him to sleep. Charnell refused, and started doing lots of research, true to form, and because she is a professional nurse.

In the meantime, while Charnell had to go to her nightshift job of 1 week on and 1 week off, I took up in her absence and cared for this very sick little pup. Charnell’s instruction was that I had to keep him hydrated by syringing 5mls of water into his little mouth and making sure that it went down without him chocking. This was done every hour, on the hour in order to keep track of how much he took in. This saved Reuben’s life. But we still had a long way to go before he recovered and became the beautiful, playful boy that he was meant to be.

We had them for 6 wonderful years. Reuben and Cleo were inseparable, and in their mischief, were often a great cause for stress to us when they managed to escape the yard. However, his good health was short-lived because for the last 4 years of his life, Reuben was on chronic medication, but still able to enjoy life, and be the truly inimitable clown that he turned into. In their 6thyear however, we were devastated by the news that the chronic medication that sustained Reuben, was taken off the market, and his health started spiraling downward, and out of control.

In the meantime Charnell saw an advertisement wherein a home was sought for a Husky. We went to fetch Skye, and started the walk of rehabilitation and vet visits again as she was in a poor state of health and a bundle of nerves. Shortly after, Charnell saw another advertisement requesting a home for a Husky. And again we took in a dog that was abused and a nervous wreck as a result. However, with a lot of attention, love and good food over the next few months, these two dogs turned into absolute prize Huskies.

Cleo suddenly collapsed and died of a heart attack one afternoon in July 2009 for no apparent reason. One week later, already in a weakened state, Reuben decided to follow his sister as he could not cope with her loss. We were reeling under the shock of the double blow, it was a huge loss.

At this precise time while still processing the loss of Cleo, Charnell unexpectedly become involved with Husky Rescue SA, who had requested that she be the base for KZN. And on the very weekend that we lost Reuben, our first official rescue came home, a beautiful chocolate called Coco. Two weeks later, our second rescue came in – what an exceptionally beautiful boy he was. Both of these precious dogs were lost to us 2 years ago due to ill health.

This was the start of what was to become the official NPO known as Husky Rescue KZN about 18 months later, and managed by Charnell.

And in amongst all those poor dogs, both Huskies and some other breeds, we were given the choice of having a badly neglected dog put down “for its own sake, and because of its suffering”. And most times, Charnell would refuse and come home with a dog, whose life was absolutely hanging in the balance.

Then would start the nightly vigil, and keeping the dog hydrated just to get to the next sunrise. And slowly we would see the improvement until eventually the dog would get up and go looking for its food. On many occasions, we have experienced this victory of helping to restore life to a dog that should have died on the road, or in a yard, or at the merciful hand of a vet.

To elaborate on the history of each of these dogs would extend into a voluminous book; suffice it to just mention some of their names, and in some cases, also to thank the human angels who stood in to support their recovery financially:

Enya; Callie; Shadow; Ariel; Nala; Kayla; Akira; Beauty

These beautiful dogs are still with us, or in their forever homes, and doing so well.

And these are but a handful of the 200+ dogs that we have helped to rehabilitate and rehome over the past 6 years, with lots of tears, huge emotional strain and energy invested in every dog that passed through, or still is, in the care of our hands. Some amongst this number were less fortunate, the decision to let go and put them to sleep was agonizing – causing us heartache and many tears – decisions that never came easily, but ultimately always with the best professional guidance that Charnell could find. And in the final moments, we were there to hold them as they passed over the Rainbow Bridge.

I also salute those generous and precious people who have supported us financially over the past years. Without their dedication we would not have been able to sustain our desire to give these special animals the chance to be safe and loved again as they deserve.

This also is a tribute to all these throw-away dogs that have come to us. Many broken in spirit, damaged in health, yet once they realized that there was love, care and safety in the new environment that they were in, they allowed themselves to show their happiness again – the tail wags returned, the bright eyes returned, that special husky smile returned. And then the inimitable, playful husky finds the new lease that life has offered.

This is what has sustained us through some very difficult and dark times – when we see how these dogs bounce back and once again readily offer their unreserved love to us. This is our reward.

Elza Ruth
Proud mother and happy assistant to Charnell Ruth