Women, wolves, pick axes, spades, rain, mud, fluff, fur and … Isuzus. That’s what summarises our recent Bush Babes Wolf Sanctuary Outreach – the first full scale community project, where 24 Bush Babes and four of their daughters took up tools to physically make a difference to the lives of abandoned and abused wolves, wolf hybrids, huskies and malamuts at the Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary in Reitz.
Text: Leilani Basson
Photography: Jannie Herbst
We were dotted across the pale winter grass like Smarties scattered over a waffle without ice cream. From far away one could see that something different was happening at Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary that day. Brightly dressed female folk invaded the otherwise monotone surrounds – little clusters of them stationed all across the sanctuary. The seven boldly branded Isuzu bakkies, standing guard at the entrance of the sanctuary bore more evidence that something out of the ordinary was cooking in Reitz. The Bush Babes and Isuzu Off-Road Academy were in town – the first time ever a women only volunteer group has pitched up to get down and dirty and do some hard labour to show they care.
Clad in their bright BB t-shirts in assorted colours and black Hi-Tec caps, they were working like busy ants – some digging holes for trees, some making trenches with pickaxes and spades and others assisting in pulling the fencing in a straight line or even fastening the fence to the poles with plyers. There was activity everywhere…and lots of love to be shared.
We were doggedly focussed on our goal: By the end of the weekend, a few of the 163 wolves at the sanctuary would have their own 120 m fenced in camp – complete with trees, a splash pond and a bright orange sign that reads: “with love from the Bush Babes”.
No one needed any urging or motivation. Since the very beginning the Bush Babes initiative was geared towards making a difference – in the lives of women, children and animals. Although we have visited Mamoli Children’s Home in Mozambique last year, our Husky Romi Wolf Sanctuary Outreach with Isuzu in Reitz, Freestate, was our biggest project to date. It was the first time that we’ve done something like this, but the abundance of enthusiasm made up for our lack of skills or muscle to get the job done. Many people in Reitz came on board to assist us: the camping area of the show grounds where the yearly Bielie Mielie Festival is held was made available to us by the organisers, Pienaar and Martie… who also offered to cater for our evening meals. Larry Paul, owner of Husky Romi, took it upon himself to be the morning chef and lunch provider and arranged for some entertainment at night – one of them being local astronomer and historian Attie Meintjies who wowed the Babes and Babies with his knowledge on stars. We even had the opportunity to peep through his home made telescope.
The manner in which the Bush Babes came to the party was unreal. We had personal donations amounting to thousands – many from Babes who were not even able to attend the weekend. We received enough money from Cape Town Based Babe, Corne Fourie (Cruiser Babe) to have poles and concrete bought and planted and to have a splash pond dug out two days before our departure. Karin Stewart, aka Sporty Babe’s company, Pipe Supply, sponsored us with all the fencing and wiring as well as a gate to erect our super-sized wolf run. She also donated 10 x 20 kg bags of dog food. LA Sport’s Melissa Lewis, aka Sweeper Babe, collected 200kg of dog food from various LA Sport branches and 30 stainless steel dog bowls from Animaux animal products. Delisha and Mobile Babes’ company, Deposita donated R3000. Botox Babe was equally generous with a cash donation. Alma van As, Foxy Babe, and Herma Koch, Power Babe, both donated two bakkie loads of trees. Hi-Tec kitted all the Babes and Babies out with quality Hi-Tec caps. Many Babes who couldn’t make it sent dog food with others. Jackie Austin, Ferrari Babe, who couldn’t get leave for the weekend made a generous personal donation and even came to Gerotek for a few hours that Friday to assist with the final arrangements and help transfer the bakkie loads of donated trees, plants, dog food, dog bowls, cement and blankets loaded into the Isuzus. Isuzu itself – our biggest sponsor of course – came to the party with seven Isuzu KB double cab bakkies, fuel and toll fees for the weekend as well as Isuzu Off-Road Academy instructor, Marius van Vuuren, to lead the convoy and get us safely to Reitz and back.
Meeting up at Gerotek that Friday morning, it was pouring down with rain and unexpectedly cold. The Babes all arrived on time and really came to the party. Entrance fee for the weekend was three large bags of dog food per Babe. There were tons!
Getting all these donations, as well as tents, sleeping bags and luggage from the Babe’s own cars transferred to the bakkies in the rain, demanded effort, but from the beginning of the weekend an atmosphere of Bush Babe Ubuntu was tangible in the behaviour of the Babes who volunteered to make this project a success.
Everyone got wet in helping fellow babes carry heavy bags of food, trees and what not. This was to be no glamour party: we were to camp and work our butts off. We left at about 2pm Marius van Vuuren, Isuzu Off- road Academy’s instructor had the chore of getting the Babes and bakkies there and back in one piece. Tough job for one man to lead a convoy of seven vehicles through Gauteng Traffic on the Friday the school holidays kicked off.
We reached the sanctuary by nightfall on a freezing, wet and rainy Friday evening. We couldn’t believe our luck. Good luck for the farmers of Reitz who haven’t seen a drop of rain since December and well, kind of bad luck for us, who aspired to do so much, but needed the weather to play along. A few of the Babes and their daughters who travelled ahead of the Isuzu KB convoy, and got to the Reitz show grounds when it was still light, decided to move us into one of the sheds on the property. There was no way that we would have been able to put up our tents in the pools of water and mud that has already accumulated on the show grounds.
When we arrived, they had already cleaned the shed from pigeon and bat droppings and dirt and a neat campsite was erected on the concrete slab inside the shed. It was quite a sight. Camping indoors under florescent lights. Although the roof leaked in places, it was perfect compared to what we would have had to deal with out there in the rain. We shared the space with empty pigeon cages everywhere, but somehow nothing could dampen the spirits. Everyone jumped in to get tents erected and tied to the steel pillars. Within an hour, neat sitting rooms with camping chairs and tables and cooler boxes as coffee tables were set in the ‘walkway’ between the two rows of tents. The Bush Babies had a blast – as children always do – but camping indoors like this, was something that would probably never repeat itself. So, they were getting the most out of it.
Getting the mattresses blown up was impossible. It was pouring with rain and no one could get to their cars to use their plug in pumps. Mobile Babe however got a brain wave to use her hair dryer to inflate the mattresses. Soon everyone was lining up at the electrical socket closest to Mobile’s tent. We had to run through the rain to the pavilions for dinner – the most amazing Freestate steak, with salads and all. Pienaar and Martie really went out of their way to make sure we were well fed. But after dinner, the real party started in the sitting rooms outside the tents when Ener Babe decided to give us all a wee fashion show in her panda bear pyjamas. It was hilarious!
Waking up, the rain had stopped. It was still freezing cold, but the day was beautiful – the clouds in Reitz are any photographer’s dream. Larry made very sure that we all had enough stamina for the day: bacon, eggs, toast, fried tomatoes, sausages…man, we needed that! And then it was off to work! The sanctuary was just a few kilometres from the show grounds.
As we stopped inside the sanctuary, the howling started. Camps upon camps of beautiful, fluffy and attention seeking wolves, huskies, malamuts and wolf hybrids. We just had to go say hello first. There are just so many of them and each one of them wants to be patted, stroked or give a thousand kisses to any hand or face that nears the fence.
Larry started Husky Rome in honour of his first husky, Romi, who passed away many years ago. The sanctuary is a none-profit organization providing a safe haven for abandoned and abused huskies and wolves in South Africa. They aim at providing a home to all huskies and wolves that can no longer be kept as pets, due to their complicated nature.
“Many of the animals we take in arrive here in a very bad state,” says Larry, who only lives for his furry friends. “Many have never seen grass before. But here we provide them with as happy and safe a home as we possibly can, relying on donations to buy food, sterilize the bitches, pay for vets’ bills, and make their runs or camps as nice as our funds allow.”
We were ready for action. Armed with spades and pickaxes the Babes split up in two groups to dig a trench on either sides of what was to be our wolf camp. The ground was not level, so we had to make a furrow for the fence to run in a straight line – so that the wolves would not dig themselves out of the camp. This was quite something to see (well, do go watch our videos on the Bush Babes Facebook page to get a real idea of the Bush Babe Ubuntu that was present that day). Taking turns and singing songs, everyone got a turn to dig, pick, scoop, kneel, swing and more. It was amazing to see how dedicated and focussed everyone was.
Although it rained throughout the day and we often had to run for shelter under the only canopy/awning we had, the spirits remained high. By 17:00 our camp was up! We managed to plant quite a few trees as well. The only things we didn’t manage to finish, was concrete the splash pond and put up our sign. Larry promised that he would have it done within the next week. He sms’ed us a photo of our sign board, proudly announcing that Isuzu, Leisure Wheels and the Bush Babes were there…and care.
To celebrate the end of a successful day, and the completion of our first ever outreach program, the Babes had to howl and get all the dogs and wolves to howl with them. It was a beautiful sound that filled many of us with tears, knowing how ever much we try to do here it will never be enough. Although food, shelter and care are given to them as best as humanly possible, the hunger for affection and love we experienced while interacting with these animals, is heart-breaking.
Hitting the long road home the next morning – with our Isuzu’s completely stripped from the load we arrived with, we also felt light and relieved. Achieving something like this together really created a special bond between us Babes who went on this weekend. The words on our sign board rang ever so true: “For the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.”
Special thanks to:
Isuzu and the Isuzu Off-road Academy for being our loyal partners in the fun things, but also the hard work we do
Pipe Supply in Randburg for the fencing, pipes, gate and wire
Deposita Cash Deposit systems for their generous donation that will go towards sterilisation – www.deposita.co.za, 011 729 3300,
LA Sport Head Office and LA Sport Bethlehem for 200 kg of dog food -www. lasport.co.za, 012 808 9951 / 2. Tel: +27 12 808 0346. Tel: +27 12 808 0460
Jannie Herbst, Leisure Wheels editor for designing and making our Bush Babes sign board
Hi-Tec for their great caps and for sponsoring Leilani’s Pour Off jacket, pants and waterproof shoes that kept her dry amid all the action. It was the envy of the rest of the rather wet and soggy babe-hood.
All the Babes for their donations, support, willingness and baberaderie that made this project a howling success. You have outdone yourself in every aspect! Well done!
Poelanies Guest House for offering accommodation to our special guests - firstname.lastname@example.org, 058-863 2508, 082-567 3168
Pienaar en Martie van Zyl from Pienaar van Zyl Properties for catering for us - www.propertybag.co.za email@example.com, 058 863 2580,