Hangberg Dog Rescuer
Young man living on the mountain with a refuge for dogs and cats.
Below is a video as well as a few more pictures & notes.
The week I met Shaygam Newman there was a meme of a free-range dog haven, Territorio de Zaguates - or Land of Stray Dogs - trending out of Costa Rica. There, leadership sympathetic to animal welfare has helped create a non-profit, green mountain sanctuary. Hundreds of uniquely-shaped former pavement-specials are pictured milling about. Visitors and potential adopters hike its steep slopes with free-roaming dogs, which look healthy, their coats shiny.
It got me thinking.
Could something similar happen for the distressed cats and dogs of Hangberg?
Local leadership seems less sympathetic. President Zuma once said that caring for dogs is part of white culture. The comment got people wondering. Did he really mean it was ok to treat dogs badly?
His spokesperson later contextualized: Zuma had been pushing at decolonizing the African mind; encouraging pride in local culture.
Meaning pride in treating other animals as subhuman? But that isn't an intrinsically African trait. Worldwide non-human animals are regarded as commodity. But in Costa Rica new policies are challenging the status quo. Stricter welfare laws have been introduced, and zoos have been closed. Notions of Nature's rights are taking root in the region.
However, just like in South Africa, non-human animals are still legal possessions, a slave form, but often worse, with 'welfare' under-enforced by under-resourced government departments and NGOs.
So, all that was going through my mind as I got to know Shaygam Newman in preparation to write about him.
One early evening, with an eye on darkening clouds, we set off around the hillside he lives on. He was carrying a grocery bag of dog food. We traversed from home to home, and he chatted, handed out food, and arranged for one kennel to go a dog in urgent need.
We didn't stray to far onto the quieter parts of the mountain. For the moment the mountain remains high-risk for hikers because of banditry. Shaygam said with him I'd be fine with him.
It got me thinking. Re-opening its unique walks could be part of a local Land of Stray dogs. There was already mention of creating a guiding service as community development.
But faced with complex politics, a local version of Terretorio de Zaguates may never get off the ground. This often seems The-Land-Where-Things-are-Left-to-Fester.
That chained-up tick-infested girl mentioned in the article? She was at risk of being euthanized. But now named Jamie, she's is currently being better cared for at DARG.
She took time to relax. She is affectionate. Circumstances are still tough. The shelter is run by dedicated staff and volunteers who care for the residents of this purpose built shelter. Providing rather jail like conditions, the 'cells' however, are mostly clean airy spaces, catering for about a hundred and seventy dogs, hopefully temporarily.
It's hope that's missing in many other welfare organizations.