Tag Archives: CLAWS

The furry magic of CLAWS

Volunteering for CLAWS

I found out about the Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society – CLAWS – through my visits to Oudrif. Last year, I volunteered for the first time to assist during one of their pet sterilisation/vaccination projects. I found the experience so rewarding that I travelled to Clanwilliam for Tuesday and Wednesday this week to help however I could again.

We had a much better venue – the Aquatic Club at the Clanwilliam Dam Resort – with electricity (apart from loadshedding) / generator, toilets, running water and a stunning view. Two vets and two veterinary nurses joined forces with Jeanine, who is a qualified veterinary paramedic, in helping the animals of Clanwilliam and area in attaining a better quality of life wherever they came from and whatever the challenges their humans were facing in their everyday life. No one was turned away.

Whereas last time I mainly helped Jeanine collect the animals and bring them home after their operations/treatments, this time I only briefly accompanied her on one of her trips.

For the most part, I assisted the volunteers who were watching over the animals in recovery: this involves monitoring their breathing and general well-being, cleaning up when they cannot control their body functions after anesthetics, turning and massaging their unconscious bodies as they gradually wake up, and making sure that they are safely back in their cages before they become fully conscious of what’s happening (particularly crucial with feral animals who freak out the moment they are back among the living).

Around a hundred animals were treated during those two days. We lost one – I watched the attending vet try to resuscitate the cat for about twenty minutes, but nothing could be done. Her efforts were herculean. We all felt the loss. One other cat had an epileptic fit, but made it through. One dog and his human arrived from a nearby farm after the dog had an unlucky encounter with a porcupine. (For the moment, the area does not have a permanent vet, so the two were fortunate that the fight happened during the project, and they did not have to travel to Piketberg to find help.) Everyone was taken care of with love – no matter the vomit, ticks, fleas and all. Those in need were assisted with food and whatever else was available.

Natalie from The Hoghouse (where you can buy Jeanine’s handmade beauty products which she makes at Oudrif to raise funding and awareness for CLAWS) was also there with her bakkie, fortitude and compassion – I watched her catch a feral feline runaway with her bare hands and still cannot believe what I saw. She has been assisting CLAWS in all kinds of ways for many years. (She took the photo of me with the recovering animals.)

We spent the night at Oudrif, where after a full day of work with other animals, Jeanine still attended to her Furry Family and two rescue pigeons. Bill cooked a wonderful veg lasagna and even had a glass of bubbly ready for us. I walked to my cottage exhausted, but the Milky Way was smiling above me, the hot shower was blissful, and the few hours of sleep deeper than ever despite the five o’clock wake-up for the second day of work.

If you want to experience Oudrif, they have a fantastic special on at the moment:


(I will be there for the flowers again. After this autumn’s rains, they will be fabulous!)

The most efficient way to support CLAWS is a direct donation:

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society, FNB account 629 2008 5504, branch 250655.

They are a registered NPO. Everyone is struggling at the moment, and they are no exception. It will take months for the organisation to pay off their project debts, but they soldier on regardless.

At Oudrif, you can also buy Karavan Press books. All proceeds go directly to CLAWS.

These two will fly again. And the rescue kitten who travelled with me back to Cape Town yesterday has found a wonderful forever home.

Guess who has already volunteered to help with the next CLAWS project … :)

Oudrif: The blessings of rain

You could hear the earth sighing with relief and the river bursting with longing. It’s not often that you get to experience rain at Oudrif, even when you are regulars like us. Last weekend, we had a whole rainy day, but also sunshine and warmth and the glory of the flower season all around.

A different kind of light, of being.

We rested, read, went for walks, ate like royalty and returned home with a little bit of calm in our hearts and heads.

And then, there was Jack, one of the rescues from the last CLAWS project I had the privilege to assist with. When he was found, he was barely alive: skeleton and skin, sores all over, starving to death. Seeing him, I did not believe that he would make it. Yet … this weekend, not even a month later, we went for a walk together. His muscles are still learning how to do that – walk, run, play. He is three years old, but all he knew before Jeanine rescued him was a short rope around his neck and a small, merciless enclosure. Despite everything he has suffered through, Jack is full of love and trust, and when he is ready to be adopted after his convalescence in Oudrif, the humans of his forever home will be very lucky to have his beautiful presence in their lives.

If you would like to support Jeanine and CLAWS and at the same time stand a chance to experience the restorative magic of Oudrif for yourself, among other fabulous prizes, you can enter the CLAWS Raffle. Every R50 donated to CLAWS is an entry – it is also the potential to save an animal’s life.

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society 

FNB ACCOUNT 629 2008 5504 | Branch 250655

Reference: raffle & email address or send POP to clanclaws AT gmail DOT com | WhatsApp: 083 381 0030

CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society

Love me!

The little boy did not know what was wrong with his listless puppy. But he knew who Jeanine Mitchell was and that she would help.


I met Jeanine at Oudrif. She and her husband Bill own and run the place I always return to. I think part of my soul never really leaves Oudrif, so I have to go there to feel whole. Each time I visit, I meet other fascinating guests, and animals. Jeanine fosters cats and dogs who can no longer be taken care of for whatever reason by their original families and she finds new homes for them. She is the project manager at CLAWS: Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society. Between 12 and 14 July, CLAWS, together with the remarkable Cape Town vet Dr Annelize Roos, organised another Pet Sterilisation Project in the greater Clanwilliam area.

The Pet Sterilisation Projects focus on the vaccination and sterilisation of disadvantaged dogs and cats to prevent more unwanted pets and feral colonies occurring in this sensitive environment. (The greatest threat to African Wild Cat is hybridisation with pet and feral cats.)

Jeanine and her team of volunteers pick up the animals from their homes or trap them if they are feral and take them to a building (neglected and grotesquely looted, but beggars can’t be choosers – that is the only place on offer to the Pet Sterilisation Projects at the moment) on the outskirts of Clanwilliam near the sports stadium. There, they are vaccinated or/and sterilised by Dr Roos and her team, and those who need to recover after an op are taken care of by more volunteers at the venue. Anyone who wants to have their pet(s) vaccinated or/and sterilised and can transport their animal(s) themselves, will also be assisted at the venue. People from the entire area arrive throughout the three days. Only those who can afford to are asked to pay the full fees for the services. Others make small donations, if they can. Everyone is assisted.

No electricity, no running water, no toilets, but everyone makes it all work no matter what the challenges (including the generator blowing up and damaging operating equipment, and threats of break-ins at night from the tik-addicts in the area). It’s brutal, but the community rallies around the Pet Sterilisation Projects and all you encounter are smiling faces wherever you look, even after everything goes wrong. Because in the end, nothing really does. Dedication and passion save the day every single time.

The Three Volunteers :)

In my small capacity, I have been supporting these Projects through all avenues of donation – and with books, Karavan Press’s and my own, which you can buy at Oudrif and all the money from the sales goes towards CLAWS – for as long as I have been visiting Oudrif. But, this year I decided to volunteer as well and went up to Clanwilliam for the three days to assist in whichever way I could.

For Jeanine, these three days mean 14 to 18 hours of work daily. It’s relentless. She has assistance only for part of the time. But she never loses her energy or her cool. Her patience and care – for the animals, their humans and the people she guides and works with – are astounding. She knows how to make a plan. I felt out of my depth most of the time and made many mistakes, but she gently taught me and all the others to step up and help to the best of our abilities. There is a gigantic responsibility involved, and life and death situations occur where the wrong decision or action can have dire consequences. Around 200 patients were attended to during the Project. Only one animal arrived too late to be saved. All others were helped, returned home or adopted. The listless puppy abandoned into Jeanine’s care by the helpless little boy could no longer stand properly on his little paws when we found the two, but with a little bit of food, the proper medication, a bath, and all the love around, within a day, the puppy was already going for a walk with me, barking to demand attention and wagging his tail with excitement. Jeanine will foster him at Oudrif where I am sure he will charm the pants off all the current visitors until he is fully recovered and ready to be adopted. He will have one more adult doggy companion getting treatment and healing at Oudrif after this Project.

All other abandoned animals who arrived at CLAWS’s doorstep this time found new homes already during the three days we were there.

Successful adoptions.

In the years that the Pet Sterilisation Projects have been up and running, the team has been able to vaccinate and sterilise thousands of animals. Singlehandedly, Jeanine has also saved many lives of animals who were sick and dying because of abandonment or lack of appropriate care. CLAWS is active throughout the year, helping people to deworm, vaccinate, sterilise and heal their animals. They use the opportunity to educate the general population about animal care issue. During a recent canine distemper virus outbreak, Jeanine and CLAWS were on the frontlines trying to assist (you can read the Daily Maverick article about the outbreak: “Virus has swept through Western Cape town of Clanwilliam, causing death and suffering to dozens of dogs”). She raises the funds to make this all happen from donations or out of her own pocket. At Oudrif, she makes compassion bracelets and handmade beauty products that are sold to raise funding and awareness, while Oudrif supplies logistical and financial support. In Cape Town, you can buy the beauty products at The Hoghouse. I love the liquid and solid soaps and the lotions, and my home is never without them, but there is so much more to choose from.

The most efficient way to support CLAWS is a direct donation:

Clanwilliam Animal Welfare Society, FNB account 629 2008 5504, branch 250655.

They are a registered NPO.

I will be going to Oudrif again in August and will be taking cat/dog food, blankets, sheets, towels, cushions and hot water bottles (all needed during recovery) with me. If you can donate any of these things, please get in touch with me and I will pick them up from you (in Cape Town) and take it all with me. Everything helps! The next Pet Sterilisation Project will take place later this year. It makes a huge difference, to the animals and the communities they live in.

Please hug your Furry Family from me. The Cats send their purrs.