Written by Marianne Willemse of Love Animal House in Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bongo had a bad start in life, as most Dobermans do who are bought in anticipation of becoming fierce guard dogs. They are just like all dogs, in need of affection. When he disappointed his owner because he was too nice to the neighbors, he was beaten repeatedly, in the hope that he would serve his purpose and become mean towards intruders on the owner’s property.
At first he took the beatings, but the more he cringed, the angrier the owner became and the harder he was hit. But then one day, he bit his cruel master’s hand. This infuriated the man, who then used a piece of wood to beat the dog’s hind legs till the dog collapsed.
Watched by the neighbors, the owner packed his bags and left the house, abandoning the unconscious dog tied under the house. For many days he had no nourishment, until someone took pity on his plight and started to bring him water and food. By this time, no one could get near him. They had to throw the food to him. Obviously he was also in pain and in need of medical attention and of course a new home. But who would want to take him on, this battered, snarling, angry creature, except perhaps that crazy foreign woman, ‘Mrs. Do Little’, who was known to embrace even mangy, smelly street mutts with fleas? (Mrs. Do Little is a nickname that springs from my newspaper column about talking to animals)
What to Do With This Dangerous Dog?
Say no more, the vet was called, the dog was darted, put in a cage and off he went to Love Animal Sanctuary. Mrs. Do Little had to admit she was faced with a challenge. Although she had wrestled with lions and hugged bears, she was not about to open this cage door with all those big teeth glaring at her. You couldn’t even look at the dog without it going into attack mode. What to do? We had to feed it and it couldn’t stay in that tiny cage forever.
Plan B: When all else fails, use reasoning.
“Okay, Mr. Doberman, so you don’t like people looking at you, well then, I won’t! I’ll just put on this blindfold here and slowly open the door; just enough to get this food bowl in and please don’t eat my hand! There you go….” GROWL munches GROWL munches…
Ten Days of Feeding Him Blindfolded
For about ten days I personally fed the guy blindfolded. The staff were afraid of him until one day there were no growls, just munch, munch, munch. Time for step number two, to get a collar on him, so he could go for a walk.
Talk about groping in the dark. I crawled on all four into the cage, blindfolded and lay very still. Then he started sniffing me. I got goose bumps down my spine. Slowly I started stroking his front legs, then his chest and neck, clutching the collar. Without even a snarl he let me put it on him. Then I attached the leash and started backing out the door, hanging on tight.
Well let me tell you, as soon as he knew that door was open, he tore out of there on three legs so fast I thought my arm had been pulled out of its socket. The leash wrapped around my arm, he dragged me up the dirt road. By the time I got the blindfold off, I had two scraped knees, but he was still going. Twenty minutes later he stopped and turned to look at me for the first time, a panting bloody mess, heaving for air.
Go Ahead and Eat Me…
At that point I didn’t care if he ate me. I looked him straight in the eyes. Then something wonderful happened. He nudged my hand! We were friends. Although my body was in a lot of pain, my heart couldn’t have been happier. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I sat down and he licked my face dry.
A few weeks later, his body was strong and his leg had healed. But in his mind, he was still afraid of men. Only Mrs. Do Little and two female staff could go into his compound without him attacking. Oh, and I must not forget his best friend, Som Tam the pussycat.
Bongo recently passed away after spending 10 magical years at Love Animal House Sanctuary
Photo credit: Thinkstock