May 16, 2021

#47/Teachable Moments

Heading back
Heading back

A pleasure of living in northern Eswatini is the hiking just outside Vusumnotfo’s office.  These photos were taken from a two-hour turn around hike, at the point where the path runs through homesteads.

Over the course of many hikes, the children from these homesteads have grown to know Coffee (the brown dog).

On this hike for the first time I had my not so small puppy Rocky (the black one).  On this day the boys ended up walking with me back to Vusumnotfo.

Their questions focused on how I feed my dogs, in comparison with their own dogs.  People always notice the health of my dogs. Very few homestead dogs are spayed so there are many puppies yet dog food is expensive. As a result, most homestead dogs get feed only maize meal scraps. Dogs feed only maize meal are lacking protein so often go after chickens. Since many homesteads have free-range chickens, this is a source of ongoing frustration.

I showed the boys how I extend the dog food by mixing it with Holsum (a cheap type of lard available in rural shops) and “saw dust” (the shavings off the saw blades at the local butchery shops).  Just as importantly, I explained that my dogs are spayed so they cannot have or make puppies. 

Direct exposure to a spayed dog that is also well feed generates so many questions.  Staff and I use these ‘teachable moments” to highlight our Spay Day, and to encourage people to get dogs from Swaziland Animal Welfare Society (SAWS), as these dogs are already spayed and fully vaccinated.

We are still waiting on the COVID-19 situation for the go ahead to carry out our annual Spay Day in 2021; to date 35,227 people have received their first vaccination out of 1.3 million, the challenge being securing additional supplies of vaccines.

In the meantime we continue with forward planning for our next veterinary clinic, while making use of teachable moments to promote the use of animal care as a positive demonstration of responsibility and empathy to children.

We appreciate your support and your interest, as this is what makes our positive outcomes possible.

Amazing landscape
Amazing landscape
Enjoying the walk
Enjoying the walk

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Jan 16, 2021

What a difference a little Holsum can make

Before and After
Before and After

This mother dog belongs to the Malambe family who is enrolled in our pilot activity "to provide structured technical, material and training support to children with special needs at family level”.

At first glance, this is a very skinny dog.  But after observing, two other things were even more striking:

1.  The mother dog is so very patient with letting her 5 puppies feed, even though they can already eat solids, and

2   The family is very caring to all the animals at the homestead.  Their positive interaction seems to carry through, as the mother dog and family cat even like to sit in the sun together!

As a short-term intervention, we gave the family some Holsum to add to the dog’s food. Holsum is an inexpensive type of lard readily available in rural Eswatini. 

Over the course of a week, shave a 125-gram packet into the dog’s food, which tends to be left over food scraps. This increases the energy content of the food scraps just enough to help the dog gain weight and improve their fur (if you use too much, the dog will get diarrhea).  

Just one month later the result is striking!

Vusumnotfo uses animal care to demonstrate responsibility and empathy to children.  The Malambe homestead was already a positive example of both, so our short-term intervention was just information, the noticeable results of which are now influencing their neighbors.

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Sep 18, 2020

#45 - Empathy in action

Sweet cards
Sweet cards

When I moved to the Vusumnotfo grounds back in March, I quickly became attached to the three dogs that lived here; Coffee, DJ and Rhino. Rhino and Coffee always wanted love, but DJ took lots of effort, I had to be very intentional with her. As a puppy she had been stolen from her mother and stuffed up a drainpipe; 15 years later the physical scar was still visible.

Over the last 6 months I grew to love DJ, as did my little sisi (sister) who comes to visit me often on the weekends. Khosi - through spending time with Coffee, DJ, and Rhino - learnt how to treat dogs, how to love them and how dogs give back love in return.

Sadly, back in June, DJ passed away peacefully in her sleep. She had lived a wonderful 15 years filled with love, walks, great food and all the humans she could ever ask for.  Losing DJ was difficult, but something I didn’t expect from the experience was the visual proof of how a companionship with dogs can motivate empathy in children!

After DJ died, we had Khosi and her friend Siyamthanda come over to spend some time with Coffee and Rhino. When they came, they brought these amazing cards for my boss Kathy, which said “RIP DJ I will miss you. Sorry Kathy and Alliancen”.  After they gave the cards to us, they then went out to the grave to pay their respects, and say their goodbyes to DJ.

If you had told me this would be their reaction a year ago, I would not have believed you. However, these two little girls have been able to grow as young ladies and expand their emotional abilities as a direct result of spending time with these dogs!  It truly is an amazing transformation to witness!

One of our main programme activities is our annual spay day. Spay day is part of Vusumnotfo's early childhood training programme "to increase knowledge of early childhood development and learning, including factors that influence this".  Specifically we use the spay day as an example to show how animal care can demonstrate responsibility and empathy to children.

Having these amazing experience with Khosi and Siyamthanda remind me daily of how much a family pet can in fact change the lives of their humans. By supporting our project, you help make what we do possible! Please note that all donations made up to $50 on September 14 to 18 will be matched by GlobalGiving at 50%.

For updates on our related activities, go to our Instagram handle Vusumnotfo.Eswatini and our Facebook page Vusumnotfo.Eswatini.

Khosi, DJ and Coffee
Khosi, DJ and Coffee

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