A homeless man and his dog Shadey

Today I saw the most beautiful moment between a homeless man and his pet.

Every morning I take my two rescue dogs Baloo and Maddie around the block for a morning stroll and a breath of fresh air outside my home office in Sea Point. This morning it was particularly cold. Maddie and Baloo had their warm jackets on and we faced the Cape Town wind and rain together.

Most mornings we stop off at the corner café to buy airtime, milk, coffee or whatever we need for the day. The café staff know Baloo and Maddie by now and always greet them with a smile. Most of the time there are some homeless people gathering around the entrance hoping to receive a few coins. Some also gather inside the store to get a loaf of bread or to read the newspaper.

Today a new friend was waiting for us at the corner café. Her name was Shadey. While waiting in the queue to pay I noticed a man and a dog enter the café. Along with them came a sense of extreme love. I watched them every moment until I was finished paying. This is when I met Shadey and her owner. Her owner, a poor, hungry, homeless man was putting a blue doggy raincoat on Shadey. He lovingly put the hood on her head and buttoned it up along her tummy. Shadey loved every moment. She just stood there and let her owner dress her.

Baloo, Maddie and I approached them and I told the owner how beautiful Shadey was and that she looked healthy and very happy. He told me that he loved her so much and that he bought a rain jacket for her to keep her warm. I did not ask him how he could afford such a fancy rain jacket for Shadey but my feeling was that he had saved every coin he got to buy it for her. I kept complimenting Shadey while Baloo and Maddie gave her kisses. Shadey’s owner was very proud of her and had a big smile on his face every time I called her beautiful. His entire body language was one of joy and pride.

This is exactly why I have committed my life to helping and protecting animals. At the Mdzananda Animal Clinic Khayelitsha we see this love between human and pet so often. Many people believe that township members should not have pets. We have a different opinion. We see the joy that pets bring to the lives of humans. We see the lessons that pets teach humans including responsibility, respect for life, compassion, non-violence and what it feels like to have a best friend who loves you unconditionally. These qualities spill out into their everyday lives and relationships with other humans.

The Mdzananda Animal Clinic is the only permanent, veterinary registered animal clinic in Khayelitsha township which is home to over a million people. It is estimated that there is one dog or cat for every 6 people – a staggering 167 000 companion animals.

Working at Mdzananda I see thousands of community members bring their beloved pets to receive help through our consultations, hospital, surgery theatre and mobile clinics. What we give to the community members is a bit of a miracle – we take their sick, hurt pets and cure them. We also educate the owners about better ways of looking after their pets and becoming responsible pet owners. At Mdzananda we treat up to 1000 dogs and cats per month! That is a lot of little miracles!

- Marcelle van Zyl is a staff member of the Mdzananda Animal Clinic.