It’s Christmas morning in Wakkerstroom and delightfully it’s a little cooler than normal. We’re excited to spend the day with our friends Janet and John, who also have a house in the village. We’ve booked lunch at the Country Inn where our friends, Danny and Paula, are the accomplished chefs and owners. We’re in for a treat!🎄
‘Lunch’ begins around 11am with sherry and canapés and we mingle with the other restaurant patrons. Lunch does not disappoint and Danny and Paula treat us to the full monty – roast turkey, pork, lamb, Yorkshire pud and decadent Christmas pudding. We’re laughing and have enjoyed a couple of glasses of red wine by the time we’ve popped the last cracker. 🍷
John and Janet and some of the other diners, adjourn to the Mucky Duck for a quiet sundowner. It’s late afternoon and we are feeling guilty for having left Taffy and Taj alone at home the entire day. Our groaning bellies also remind us that another drink or two may not be the best idea. We opt to take the dogs for a run at Zaaihoek dam a few kilometers out of town. John and Jan plead with us to also rescue Tiffany, their dachshund pup, a great pal of Taj and Taffy’s. We pick her up on the way. She’s excited to see us all.
It’s a beautiful afternoon at Zaaihoek and we are the only people out and about. I swing open the big farm gate and Geoff drives through, parks and as per usual, lets the dogs out. All three of the dogs immediately begin to run down the sloping hill towards the dam below. Little Tiffany, a silky brown, long-haired sausage dog, follows the big dogs. A herd of cows that I hadn’t noticed suddenly began to dash for the gate with surprising speed. Geoff realises that they are attempting an escape and sprints up the hill to thwart their efforts.🐂
The light on the dam is gorgeous and I take out my camera and begin shooting, my eye pressed to the view-finder. I’m amused to see that the cows have turned their attention on the dogs and are chasing Taj and Taffy who easily dance out of reach. It’s then that I see that Tiffany is not faring so well. Frustrated that the big dogs are out maneuvering them, the cows have turned towards Tiffany. I’m trying to capture the shot when I suddenly realise that their intent is to harm her. I had no idea that cows could be so aggressive!
The leading cow tumbles her and she stumbles, clouds of dust flying. I yell to Geoff. Tiffany is tearing towards the water’s edge and I can see as she glances backwards that she is terrified and desperately trying to make the water ahead of the herd! 😟
Geoff and I sprint downhill. I’m relieved when Tiffany hits the water, but the cows don’t stop. With horror we see the first few lumbering in after her as she begins to head further into the dam. She looks stricken and swims away at a pace. “Oh good”, I think, “the cows have given up”. One by one the cows lose interest and begin to waddle back up the beach. Only, Tiffany keeps swimming. 🐄🐂
Geoff is panting hard after both his dash to close the gate and back down to the water. We call to Tiffany but she ignores us heading out to deep water. A light breeze has sprung up and small waves slap her in the face. When I see her falter sliding beneath the surface, I panic and strip down to my underwear. I begin swimming after her, calling her name. She glances over her shoulder and I see the whites of her eyes as she continues away from me. Again she slips below the surface. I’m horrified. The dam water is so murky. There is no way we could dive for her. 🌊
Geoff notices that I’m not making much progress. Knowing that I’m not a strong swimmer, he undresses too and strikes out after me. 🏊♂️
The thought crosses my mind that this is probably not the smartest thing to be doing. A heavy meal, a few drinks, a weak swimmer and less than ideal conditions. But the option of leaving a terrified Tiffany at this stage is incomprehensible, so I keep swimming. 🏊♀️
Tiffany is getting weaker and slipping underwater more frequently. I make a last ditch attempt to get to her. I manage to grab her but am then in serious trouble as I can’t keep her afloat and swim with one hand. I feel myself start to panic again. I will myself to stay calm. Geoff arrives in the nick of time and takes Tiffany off my hands. Now he is faced with the challenge of keeping himself and the dog afloat. Cleverly, he decides to place her on his chest while he attempts a slow backstroke. The problem is that Tiffany continues to try and swim against his chest, scratching with her claws.
I’m not doing well. The wind is whipping up the water into waves. Although Tiffany is no longer my concern, I’m struggling to keep my own head above the surface and am confused enough that I don’t know which direction to swim towards. I think of my grandmother who used to say to me: “If you get into trouble in the sea, float on your back. You can float on you back forever.”
Geoff is not doing too well either. He is horrified to see that Taffy and Taj have decided to swim out to join in the fun. The issue is that Taffy likes to swim into deep water and then rest her paws on you. All very well in a swimming pool where you can stand and keep her afloat. Exactly what he doesn’t need right now. Luckily he manages to send them away and bored, they head back to shore.🐕🐕
I continue to struggle in the cold muddy waters of the dam. I imagine that if we don’t show up at Janet and John’s, they will recall that we went to Zaaihoek. They will find our car and presumably our dogs and eventually our small piles of clothes with our watches and my camera. They won’t begin to imagine what could have happened to us and Tiffany.😱
Pushing these morbid thoughts aside, I’m encouraged to see that Geoff has reached shallower water. I aim for him. I seem to be sinking though despite my best efforts. I’m literally thinking that I can’t keep going, when my toes feel some debris and I realise that I can almost touch the ground. Before long I’m crawling ashore, collapsing in the mud and throwing up with shock. 🤢
Somehow we all get into the car and make it home. Geoff runs a warm bath and all three of us climb in until we stop shivering. 🥶
A terrifying adventure, luckily for all of us, one with a happy ending!