Rescue Stories – Jack and Tessa

We first saw Tessa in 1997. She was running wild on the campus grounds of the University of the Western Cape and was only about seven or eight months old. Part Border Collie and part German Shepherd Dog, she had long fur, was extremely feral and totally distrustful of humans...
Every time we saw her on campus we put food down for her. She wouldn't allow us to approach but would stand and watch us from a distance. Only when we had moved about a hundred metres away would she move towards the food and start eating. The first time we watched her eat we were surprised at how slowly and carefully she ate the food. We didn't see her often and she must have just managed to survive by scavenging for scraps on campus. One day when we spotted her we saw she was pregnant, but when we tried to approach her she ran away. We didn't see her again for a couple of months, but the security staff on campus found a litter of dead puppies in the bush and we had to assume they were Tessa's.

A couple of months later she appeared again, but this time she wasn't alone. Running with her was a short, stocky Jack Russell cross Corgi male who, unlike Tessa, was tame and could be approached. He was no youngster but the two were inseparable. We saw them together often lying side by side in the long grass, and when we called him, he would motor towards us on those short, muscular little legs, so pleased to see us and so eager for the tins he knew we had in the car. Once again, from a distance, Tessa would watch until Jack had eaten as many tins as we were offering and then, when he waddled off, tummy full, to take his place in the long grass, she would slowly move forward and eat whatever he had left.

One day we noticed that Jack was limping quite badly. We couldn't see a wound and could only think that a car must have hit him. We decided to take him to the vet as winter was fast approaching and we couldn't bear the thought of him being out there in the cold AND injured. It turned out that it was an old injury and that the onset of the cooler weather had caused some arthritis in his leg. We took advantage of the trip to the vet and had him neutered at the same time. Although we didn't want to release him back to a feral existence, we had experienced first hand the tight bond between Jack and Tessa, and couldn't bear the thought of splitting them up. We took him back to campus and drove around looking for Tessa so we could release him with her. We couldn't find her anywhere and, not wanting to release Jack on his own, kept him in the car while we went around feeding the feral cats. At one feeding spot, we left Jack in the car and walked around to call the cats. When we got back we found to our horror that he had chewed through one entire seatbelt rendering it useless, and had scratched and bitten huge chunks out of the upholstery on the door. Having literally eaten his way out of the car, we finally released him and he trotted off looking rather

Some time later we noticed that Tessa was pregnant again. Unable to bear the thought of another litter being born only to die in a bush somewhere, we asked the security staff to help us find the puppies when they were born. By some miracle the puppies were found a few weeks later in a pipe on an open piece of ground between the residences, and we were notified immediately. We borrowed a large travelling crate from the nearest welfare organisation and placed the six fat, healthy puppies far back inside the box. Together with the security staff we hid in some bushes nearby and waited for Tessa to return to her litter. To our relief she appeared in no time at all, and after sniffing around for a while, moved towards the hungry sounds her puppies were making and disappeared into the box. Moving like lightning we lunged for the crate and closed the door. We had her! The sense of relief
was indescribable, and all thoughts of where we were going to take her were temporarily erased from our minds. Jack was not around and we knew we had no choice but to remove her without finding him.

With a bit of phoning around we managed to arrange for Tessa and her puppies to go to The Animal Rescue Centre at Village Farm (see page 144). Here they were comfortably housed in a warm stable filled with soft hay to lie on. Tessa was still quite wild but the puppies kept her calm and soon she allowed Amanda to come close and then even touch her. The six puppies were strong and healthy and we knew we would have no trouble finding them excellent homes. It was Tessa who was our main concern, especially considering the type of dog she was.

Once again luck was on our side. We were put in touch with a wonderful woman who, after hearing the story, without hesitation said she would take not only Tessa, but the runt of the litter as well, and this without even seeing the dogs first! Unbelievably it was love at first sight for both Maureen and Tessa. The dog responded instantly to her voice and, as soon as the puppies were weaned we moved Tessa and her smallest pup, Sheba, to their new home. Initially, Tessa kept jumping the fence and running away, but each time she came back. Maureen was patient, and this continued for almost a year. Eventually things settled
down and, we are happy to say, Tessa now not only doesn't run away anymore, she goes into the house, and has even been known on the odd occasion, to enjoy a wild frolic on the bed!

Jack in the meantime had disappeared. The security staff reported seeing him a couple of times on the road leading to the campus, but it was some always quite some distance from his usual haunts. Then one day he suddenly appeared again. We grabbed him, very relieved, and immediately took him home. Surprisingly, he fitted in really well with our resident pack and the character-filled little man is now top dog!