Hope for dog’s return gets a boost

Shakirah, the six-year-old Great Dane sought after going missing from her Gordon’s Bay home in July.

Shakirah, the six-year-old Great Dane sought after going missing from her Gordon’s Bay home in July.

The reuniting of a beloved furry friend with its family on Thursday 8 September after being missing for several years has renewed hope for the safe return of a Gordon’s Bay Great Dane, Shakirah, which has been missing since July.

It was a happy and emotional occasion when Iza, an 11-year-old Jack Russel cross-breed, was reunited with her Somerset West owners after a relentless seven-year search, a reunion seen as nothing short of miraculous, and one that underscores the potential for a similar outcome for the six-year-old Shakirah and her owners. (“Reward offered for lost canine,” Netwerk24/DistriksPos, 16 August).

“It was the strangest familiar, unfamiliar emotional feeling,” Iza’s owner, Catherine van Wezel-Naude, said. “We were all sobbing and laughing at the same time.”

She went missing around 16:00 on Wednesday 21 October 2015, and her owners speculated their friendly four-legged family member was taken by someone either walking or driving by.

Following their beloved pet’s devastating disappearance, Van Wezel-Naude and husband Francois immediately took action. They posted a missing pet alert on social media platforms, put posters up at local vets and animal rescue organisations and all along Somerset West streets as well as offering a reward.

The couple even got the police involved at the time, as there seemed to be a syndicate of small dog snatchers operating in the area.

They always believed their precious Iza was alive somewhere, even if this was tinged with despair of ever finding her again. “We sensed she was still out there,” Van Wezel-Naude said, “but a part of us wished to find her dead on the side of the road, for closure, and to know she wasn’t being abused somewhere.”

As for life without Iza: “There was always this void. I think the worst thing is that you start to realise what age they must be and then you stalk other families with a similarly-aged dog.

“You ask them tons of questions and then realise you are that person now. One can just imagine having a child snatched and trying to recognise them after so many years just walking past your house? Imagine.”

As time passed the couple opened their hearts and home to another Jack Russel pup during the pandemic-induced lockdown in 2020. Regarding Iza, their saving grace was having her microchipped, and she was eventually tracked down by a local animal-rescue organisation in Tafelsig, Mitchell’s Plain after apparently being stoned by children.

“Around 07:00 on Tuesday 6 September a representative of Rescue for Life messaged me via WhatsApp to say the group had found Iza,” Van Wezel-Naude said. “I was driving at the time and had to park at the side of the road. I couldn’t stop crying. I knew she was out there.

“My husband collected her from the foster parent who had looked after her for two weeks. She recognised his voice and was so excited to see him. When Francois brought her home she was very anxious meeting the other dogs, but quickly bounced back to her friendly self, and owning the home and snuggling into any armpit to keep warm. She even smelled so familiar.”

The triumphant owner said she and her husband were “overwhelmingly gratified” to have their little “love pig” back home. They also aimed to make the next seven years the best yet, with tons of cuddles, catch-ups and special attention. “To any family that has ever lost a pet I feel your pain,” she said. “It’s not easy, for the void remains. You constantly wonder what happened. It is crucial to have your pet microchipped.” She urges locals to put their hearts in the pockets and donate to the angels dedicated to rescuing and fostering animals.

Beloved Iza enjoying quality time with her owner, Catherine van Wezel-Naude who is elated by the Jack Russel cross-breed’s return after being missing for seven years.