From almost being drowned to ambassador for animal welfare

From being thrown into a river to drown to now being a valued educational tool, Spirit the Alaskan Malamute, has become an ambassador for a Hartbeespoort animal welfare organisation and his miraculous rescue is helping to create awareness of animal welfare in South Africa.

Spirit is now living his best life.

The eight-year-old Spirit is currently finally living a life of doggy luxury at the All Hearts Foundation wolf sanctuary in Broederstroom after he was cruelly tied up and dumped in a river to drown six years ago.

At the time, animal lovers all over South Africa were outraged about the cruel animal abuse story. He was tied up with wire and miraculously survived many hours in the cold river. Passers-by heard a dog whimpering and upon investigating, found the severely injured and emaciated dog in the river.

Hartbeespoort couple and founders of the wolf sanctuary, Lexi and Ronnie Austin, happened to drive by the scene when the dog was found and stopped. “When a bystander told me there was a dog in the river, I jumped out and ran to the river. And there Spirit was… badly injured, tied-up and near death. We untied him, got him into the car and raced to a veterinarian. At first, we did not think he was going to make it and then it was feared that he was going to lose one of his legs,” Lexi says. It appeared as though he had been the victim of cruel abuse for some time, and was undernourished. He was exhausted, hypothermic and, apart from his wounded legs, had inhaled water.

Lexi and Ronnie took responsibility for Spirit, named for his spirit to survive. “He was one of our first trauma case rescues and when he was well enough, we brought him home. It was a long road to recovery. He only weighed about 25 kg. He now weighs a very healthy 55 kg.

Spirit when he was found in the river.

Today Spirit is once again a proud Alaskan Malamute, living with the many rescues at the wolf sanctuary. “Over the past six years has become an indispensable part of our All Hearts Foundation family. We use him during our educational projects at schools and in communities to raise awareness of animal abuse and the importance of animal welfare organisations,” says Lexi. “He is now living his best life at the foundation alongside his companions and is the leader of his pack. He is just amazing with children and has the loveliest personality. One cannot comprehend how a person can subject such an animal to such horrendous abuse. But Spirit is now where he should be, we have an incredible bond and we love him to bits which is passionately returned.”