A Noah’s Ark for abused animals

A COUPLE’S heart for abused, neglected and abandoned animals led them to open an animal shelter on their Southwell farm that includes dogs, horses, pigs, a goat, pony and donkey.

Johann and Lynne Wilhelm have been running the Retreat 2 Eden shelter out of their own pockets for a few years, receiving food donations from local stores who provide meat and vegetable offcuts, as well as some individuals who have bought blankets and food for the dogs.

The first thing you are greeted by as you enter the gates of “Eden” are the seeming multitude of dogs (there are 10 of them), who come bounding up behind a low voltage dog-proof fence.

Among them are strays and abandoned pets, and also a couple of “K9 heroes” – former working dogs in the police, security industry and armed forces who find it difficult to adapt to a life where they don’t have to work and just be loved.

All of the dogs have adapted to the pack, which keeps them in line, and most are very friendly to visitors, aside from one K9 hero which is still shy and skittish. Johann recently had a nasty experience with another former security dog which did not take well to being told to stay outside and bit him on the arm, leg, chest and shoulder, requiring treatment.

But Johann harbours no bad feelings for the dog which has been put in a holding facility in the Port Elizabeth area until Johann, who was ill at the time, has fully recovered.

Finding homes for all their rescues is a challenge, as even when people are keen to adopt an animal, they don’t always have the means to look after a pet.

“He’s got such potential. If he has time to become stable, he’ll be an awesome companion for somebody,” Johann said.

Finding homes for all their rescues is a challenge, as even when people are keen to adopt an animal, they don’t always have the means to look after a pet.

And parting with an animal that they have cared for is hard for the Wilhelms too.

Although their financial resources are limited, one thing the Wilhelms have been blessed with is space.

They envisage their 43ha property having a series of animal-specific enclosures, including a large aviary for injured raptors that need protection and healing before being released back into the wild.

They showed us the enclosure shared by Rocky the donkey, Nick the Shetland pony and Nataan the horse, who are companions for each other. Rocky came to the Wilhelms from a rescue organisation in Grahamstown.

“He was abused. He had scars on his back, he has emotional problems and requires a slow approach to make friends,” Johann said.

“Nick was a friend’s horse I took over. He’s amazing for little kids for therapy,” said Lynne.

In another enclosure, Rosie the goat is a companion for two other horses. Next door are some rescue pigs.

Johann thanked all the shops which give them food: Fresh Stop, The Bean and Olive, The Braai Deli, Wharf Street Fruit and Veg, C’est la Vie, Kowie Venison, Pick n Pay, Steers, Graze by the River and My Pond Hotel.

And Mr Thompson, the formerly feral pig, has his own shelter he shares with some chickens. Mr Thompson was rescued from a vegetable farm in the Bathurst area, where the farmer wanted to shoot him. Some townsfolk offered to catch him instead, and then called the Wilhelms.

Johann thanked all the shops which give them food: Fresh Stop, The Bean and Olive, The Braai Deli, Wharf Street Fruit and Veg, C’est la Vie, Kowie Venison, Pick n Pay, Steers, Graze by the River and My Pond Hotel.

“Most donate twice a week to us; and also on the odd occasion Spar and PA Butchery,” he said.

“There’s a lot of variety for the dogs – the meaty portions and the vegetables that they’ll eat. Normally, within three weeks of a bony rescue dog arriving, you don’t see the bones anymore. It’s amazing how quickly they recover.”

A big challenge on the property is water. They have a borehole but only get a couple hundred litres a day from it, and an Eskom outage puts the pump out of action. One of the next projects is to build a rainwater storage tank on a platform – donated poles have already been placed.

Anyone who would like to donate or help the work at Retreat 2 Eden can contact Johann and Lynne at info@retreat2eden.co.za

“Our goal is absolute confidentiality for those who want to bring us an animal, and absolute transparency for those who want to home a rescue. We don’t want a case where people don’t reach out,” Johann said.

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