When a cross-breed pup with deformed toes and feet arrived at the Mdzananda Animal Clinic in Khayelitsha we had little hope for the poor creature. Being around eight weeks old at the time, his owners from our local community brought him to the clinic to hand him over. Not knowing how to look after a deformed puppy, they were worried about his future life with them and asked us to find a good home for him. We took him into our care and called him Jake.
Jake was extremely nervous when he arrived. Being a special boy that had stolen all our hearts, we allowed him free movement around the clinic but whenever we looked for him, he would be hiding under a hospital cage, tightly pushed into a corner. This small eight-week-old puppy was scared of humans and the big wide world into which he had been born.
Our journey to find a perfect home for Jake began two weeks after his arrival and a picture of him with his deformed feet was released on our Facebook page. Finding homes for healthy pets can often take months and we had little hope for Jake due to his deformity.
Not long after releasing the Facebook post Dennis Waterhouse made a comment - "We are looking for a special puppy to add to our family!" And so the adoptions procedure began.
Dennis and his wife, Morag, arrived on a Saturday morning to meet Jake. This was without a doubt the perfect family for him and at the time of writing this article, Jake has been living with them for more than seven months. They have changed his life and he theirs.
As a teenager Morag was involved in a motorbike accident - sustaining multiple injuries including a broken neck and the loss of her right arm. The accident left her needing to learn to walk, talk and breathe all over again. Slowly she recovered from her injuries and led a productive life - obtaining her matric, learning to drive a car, finding a job in the open market and getting married.
In 2014 Morag was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disorder, called Syringomyelia, which destroys the spinal cord and in March 2015 she underwent surgery to stop the progression of the disease. Unfortunately there were complications after the operation and she landed up in a wheelchair.
After the surgery Dennis suggested that they get an assistance dog for Morag to be with her during the day when he was at work. Such dogs are not easy to find.
Morag's sister, who is involved in numerous animal rescue organisations and projects, was asked to keep an eye open for a dog. She shared Mdzananda's post about Jake, tagged Dennis and the rest is history.
"Jake is my companion during the day and my shadow when I move slowly around the house. I have fallen totally in love with him. Having a physical challenged dog is probably no different from a normal dog as that is all he knows. There is a look in his eyes when he stares into my face that tells me that I mean something to him and that he is there for me," says Morag.
"The lesson we learn from Jake's deformed paws is that everyone is different yet we are all the same - that goes for animals as well as humans. Jake and I are different but the same. Society tends to look on disabled people as different not realising that we are the same as they are. Dennis says that he saw in Jake what he sees in me, that life's bounties are plentiful even if you have a disability. The answer here is attitude and Jake has this in every step he takes."
Dennis and Morag are visiting various veterinarians to get help for Jake's deformed feet. He has stiffness in his right paw joint as it does not run flush to the ground. There is also not much padding under his paw which hurts him when he walks on tar.
Jake recently had surgery on one of his paws. Two claws were removed and the two toes were fused which means that there is more padding under his paw. Jake, who is now a year old, has also passed his Senior Puppy Obedience at Cape Province Dog Club.
Morag has opened a Facebook page for Jake called Jake's Corner which reveals his daily activities and wonderful progress at puppy school.