Steven had just arrived in Holland to be with me for the last two weeks of my pregnancy. Together we would await the arrival of little boy. We had not seen each other in a few months. While Steven was unpacking his bag we were catching up and happily chatting along, happy to be together again! I was busy with his hand luggage and found a little parcel wrapped in two ice packs.
“What is this?” I asked Steven… “Oh that needs to go in the fridge. It is my rabies vaccination.” He said casually. “Why would you need rabies vaccinations my love?” I asked him curiously. That is when he told me that a rabid dog attacked him while he was doing a Wolhuter trail with the Bundu Buddies; a group he takes out each year. They have done trails together for the last ten years and have become good friends.
On the first morning of the trail Steven wanted to explore the Newu drift and its surrounding areas. They were just about to start their walk and everyone was standing around the vehicle when Steven spotted what looked like a domestic dog. It is not uncommon for dogs from the locations surrounding Kruger to wander into the National Park. They can sometimes be seen in the areas close to the boundary. The area Steven chose to walk that morning was quite a distance away from the boundary though, which was a bit odd.
Unfortunately the parks policy dictates that when domestic dogs are seen in Kruger, they are to be euthanized. There is too big a risk of them bringing in diseases like rabies and infecting Kruger’s wild animals. It would be devastating to have a pack of endangered wild dogs succumb to rabies. So Steven explained to his guests that he sadly had to put the dog down.
To be safe, he asked everyone to stand on the other side the vehicle before he walked into the open area in front of the Cruiser. The poor dog looked very thin and a bit mangy. Steven felt sorry for the animal. It was just sitting there a little distance away looking at him, wagging its tail. The dog actually got up and came closer when Steven whistled at it. With a heavy heart he lifted his rifle and took aim…
Out of the blue the dog jumped up and in a split second it bit Steven on the wrist! Steven shook his arm and kicked the dog off. He quickly fired one shot and killed the dog. When he looked at his wrist he saw the dog’s saliva all over his arm and his legs. He broke out in a cold sweat as he realised this dog probably had rabies…!
All the Bundu Buddies came rushing to Stevens aid with water bottles, trying to wash off the dog’s saliva as quickly as possible. Steven was wearing his watch and a buff on the wrist where the dog bit him. His hands were shaking as he took them off. The dog got him right around the watch, and he did not see any blood. Maybe the dog didn’t break any skin, he silently hoped. But there it was. A small puncture wound close to his thumb. Steven stared at it in disbelief and swore under his breath.
“Sorry folks, we won’t be doing any walking today!” Steven joked to the Bundu’s, adrenaline still pumping through his veins. “But I will take you on a lekker game drive to Skukuza to go see the doctor. Looks like I need a few rabies shots”.
Everyone scrambled to get into the vehicle and on their way to Skukuza as quickly as possible. Steven and his assistant loaded the dog in the far back. Veterinary services would need to do a necropsy and determine if the dog in fact had rabies.
As fate would have it, they had stunning sightings on their way to Skukuza. A beautiful leopard up a tree that Stevens group had never seen in all their years coming to the park. It feels like those once in a lifetime sightings only come along when you are in a hurry because of an emergency. Or if you are already running late for the gate!!
Steven had radioed the doctor in Skukuza about what happened and he was waiting for Steven with the rabies vaccination. It was a painful jab, but also a relief to have had the first of the six shots needed to counter an infection. There is no cure for rabies, so better not take any chances what so ever.
Veterinary Services later confirmed that the dog was riddled with rabies. Steven had been lucky to only get away with a small puncture wound. And now that he was on a course of rabies vaccinations, he was going to be ok!
I had listened to Stevens recount of that days event in total silence. He is a good storyteller, but I could see the whole situation had rattled him. Extremely relieved he was ok, I asked him why he had waited three weeks to tell me what happened. He was worried about me being worried! And that it might be too upsetting for me so close to the end of my pregnancy. He decided to rather tell me face to face when we saw each other in Holland. I thought that was extremely sweet of him. And a bit unnecessary!;-))
Being married to a trails ranger, you know there is always a risk of your husband being attacked by an animal. It comes with the territory and I have accepted that as part of our daily lives. Although no one obviously goes looking for trouble when they walk in the bush, there is always the possibility you are at the wrong place at the wrong time. And Steven has had a few close calls with rhino and elephants. I just never expected his one real attack to be from an ordinary dog!!