Pictures by Chris Marais
Paddy Orpen, former owner of Heritage House B+B, is an animal lover. Everyone in Cradock knows it.
So at the end of 2013, when the local SPCA was threatened with closure because it had no qualified inspector and therefore no funding, Paddy was concerned. In fact everyone was.
Rumours flew around the town in early January 2014 that the SPCA was closing and that all the animals would be put down.
Cradock to the Rescue
“I live on a farm outside Cradock, and passed the SPCA nearly every day. In fact, I often popped in and would help every now and then.
“But one day in January there were just dozens of cars all over, and the gates had been forced open. I stopped to have a look and found that the people of Cradock had come to rescue the animals. They opened the doors and took them, dogs and cats.
“Poor Pepi Hildebrand, the manager, was in a complete state. She didn’t know what to do.
“Later on it turned out that the rumours weren’t true. They weren’t going to put down all the animals, but actually I’m really quite proud of Cradock people.
“They heard the animals needed help and they came to their rescue.”
What was true was that the SPCA was closing down.
Paddy drove over that weekend to feed the few dogs being boarded there, and started wondering what could be done.
People of the Shelter
“I just thought the town needs kennels here. We need something for the animals.”
So she founded the Cradock Animal Shelter (CAS), which received its Non-Profit Organisation number in June.
“The Cradock people have been so impressive. They are just amazing. We cannot thank them enough. We’ve received so much support and good will and donations. They’ve given blankets, pet food, carpets, meaty bones for the dogs. There’s a birthday group that asks for donations for us instead of presents. We’ve even got a local paving company fixing up the driveway for free.”
Even so, Cradock Animal Shelter still doesn’t have its own vehicles, and Paddy is still paying the staff out of her own pocket.
They’ve applied for Lotto money, but so far there’s no news on that front.
When we arrived, Lya Bartman, Christopher Pokpas and Julian Volmink were hard at work adapting pallets so the animals could sleep higher off the cold concrete. All had worked at the SPCA.
“They are just so kind and such committed people. I didn’t want to fire them and just hire people who would work for less. Pepi also agreed to carry on managing the place.”
A Zorse and a Springbok
Meanwhile, the Shelter has taken in lost and homeless dogs and cats, as well as one zorse (a cross between a zebra and a horse) and a tiny baby springbok.
The springbok, only a few days old, with its umbilical cord still attached, was found running down the N10 between Middelburg and Cradock, terrified. Paddy (who had raised an orphaned springbok before) immediately took it home to her farmhouse where it is happily growing up in the company of assorted rescue dogs.
The zorse (a young mare named Flossie by the staff) was spotted with a bad bite in a trailer full of horses from the Transkei and was confiscated.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the worst injury. We only found out later that the fetlock tendons in her hind foot were so badly infected that she couldn’t walk with it. Vet Dr Frans Erasmus treated her, and said he wasn’t sure she’d ever recover.
“But look now! She’s actually walking on it, but still holds it up when she’s standing, or when she knows people are watching. I called Frans this morning, and he says it really is a miracle.
“Some of the local lucerne farmers have been really kind and have donated feed. Now that she’s healthy, we’re looking for a home for her.”
Except for the most recent arrivals, all the animals are well-fed and lively, thanks in part to donations from Montego pet food, based in Graaff-Reinet.
So much so that it is hard to believe the condition of one particular dog, christened Sweetie for her gentle nature.
“When she arrived she had mange all over, she was starved and her whole body would shake if anyone came near her. Have a look at this picture,” said Paddy, hauling out her cell phone.
It’s hard to believe the pictures are of the same dog.
Sweetie’s senior dog status means her chances of being adopted are small. Paddy says she’ll probably take her home to the farm one of these days.
“There is something so special about rescue dogs. They are so grateful to you, so loyal, so overjoyed to be chosen.”
There are a few long-term residents. One is a particularly traumatised dog that cannot bring itself to trust humans again.
In the cat section, a pretty grey and white female dozes in the winter sun, kittens playing around her. She doesn’t look it, but is almost totally blind.
“She’s one of our permanent residents. Now that she knows her way around her area, she’s quite happy to be a surrogate mom to kittens.”
Bulldogs, Labradors and Brakkies
Paddy showed us the rest of the animals. There was a lovely bulldog, a bitch that had been discarded by a breeder. And two adorable Labrador crosses.
“Aren’t Labradors so delightfully conscientious? They always take their duties of companionship or guard-dog quite seriously.”
There was a lively brown collie and all kinds of enthusiastic brakkies of uncertain origin, including one that excitedly leapt up and down like a circus dog on a trampoline. Most dogs were here because of neglect or abuse by humans. Yet here they were, overjoyed to be visited and talked to and touched through the wire.
In the covered area at the back of one of the cages was a sad story, a pedigreed ridgeback that had seldom been given fresh water. It only had access to the saltwater swimming pool, and its kidneys and liver had collapsed.
Apart from thick blankets to lie on, Paddy had fixed up an infrared light to warm the dog, which was pitifully thin and weak.
Around the dog were arrayed a bowl of fresh chicken soup, little chicken pieces along with kibbles and fresh water.
Paddy and the Cradock vets tried their best, but the dog’s organs couldn’t recover from the salt poisoning. He was later put down.
Animals and Love
“Those are the sad stories. But there are also lots of good stories, of lovely animals from the Shelter finding great homes.
“Like this other dog – his picture is up on the board here – nicknamed Ribbes because he was just skin and bones when he came in. We nursed him back to back to health and now he’s found a happy home.”
Paddy has great plans for the Shelter. The animals have so much love to give, and there are so many people who need love.
“I want to set up a kind of touch farm, and a place where anyone can come and have tea and interact with the animals. And we’re building lovely new kennels and a cattery for boarders. Lots of plans.”
- Contact the Cradock Animal Shelter on 048 881 4745. The emergency number is 078 631 9183.